Spotify USA Review
Well, after years of quiet anticipation, it’s finally here. Spotify, the famous streaming music service which Brittons and Frenchmen have been loudly bragging about since 2008 just landed in pre-release status here in the United States, and I was lucky enough to have one of the first accounts. Unfortunately, though, the features of Spotify appear to have lost their sheen over time, and products that have the same features seem to have beaten Spotify to the punch.
The major distinguishing feature of Spotify is its attractive price point: zero dollars. That’s right: on Spotify, you can listen to all the music you want FOR FREE, and it’s legal! However, there is a huge catch: advertisements. They aren’t little advertisements either. Though they only last 15-45 seconds, these advertisements have to be the most annoying, poorly targeted ads I have seen in any of these services, including Spotify’s notoriously annoying rival, Pandora. All of the ads I received in the last week have been significantly louder than the audio which I was listening to before, meaning that they totally blew my ears off. There is also no policy preventing ads from appearing in between tracks on gapless albums. Personally, the reason I like gapless albums is that they’re NOT chopped into little pieces, so having the tracks surgically separated by a third party doesn’t sound so great.
Unlike rivals Pandora, MOG, and Rdio, Spotify requires that you install an application on your computer in order to listen to music. Though this is a huge drawback if you’re on a public computer, the advantage is immediately clear: the UI on Spotify is ten times better than anything you can expect to get out of the web based services. An iTunes-like interface provides you access to the cloud music library and local MP3 files on your computer, while a Ping-esque sidebar connects to Facebook and shows your friends who are fellow users of Spotify. You can then explore their playlists and tastes. Unfortunately, I was unable to get the Facebook features working, no matter how hard I tried.
I wish I could say the Spotify experience on Mobile Devices was as elegant. Spotify has an app that looks exactly the same over both iOS and Android, but neither of them work with the free service. That’s right: you need to pay 5-10 dollars a month so that you aren’t tethered down to your home computer.
The true success of Spotify, though, is in the depth of its catalog. Almost every artist or album I could think of, no matter how obscure, had a presence on Spotify, with two notable exceptions: Sons of Kirk (a friend’s independent band) and The Beatles (whose Apple Record Corp. has an exclusivity deal with iTunes).
Spotify may be a fun distraction from my current cloud music solution, Google Music, but the fact of the matter is that it provides nothing which the other music on demand services do not offer. Spotify was special only because we couldn’t have it.
UPDATE: I now disagree with many of the things I initially wrote in this review. For an update, see Why I Switched to Spotify.