My Spot Spotify Review

I got myself an invite to Spotify via Klout a week or so ago (maybe two weeks ago, I can’t remember, it’s all a haze of drugs and sex now), and have been fiddling about with it since then and am now prepared to give you my official thoughts on it.

Briefly: It’s okay but I’m not getting rid of my Rhapsody subscription.

Less briefly: The big deal with Spotify is that it’s a legal and approved way to listen to just about anything you want online, all in one place, with all sorts of sharing options, and I think that’s all to the good, and I suspect that this is how most people will use it (it’s how most people use it Europe, where it’s been chugging along for a couple of years now), with a relatively few springing for the $5 or $10 a month options, which get you portability and better sound quality, and no ads.

I’m all for people listening to music legally — musicians should be compensated for their work — so to this respect I have nothing bad to say about the service. I also like the Spotify player, which strikes me as a less obnoxious way to organize music than iTunes, which it superficially resembles. I went ahead and sprung for a paid subscription; the music sound quality is good, at least through my underwhelming desk speakers. So all that’s good.

What I find less good:

1. Lack of an obvious radio function, in which you pick a genre or artist and an on-the-fly playlist is created;

2. Spotify’s annoying tendency to fill up your play queue with autoplaying music, even if you didn’t ask it to. But wait, John, you say. Didn’t you just say you wanted a radio function? I do, but I want it in its own place, not in a place where I want to be able to manage my own musical destiny without Spotify’s software trying to “help” me by playing music I didn’t intend to be played.

3. Spotify’s apparently arbitrary musical permissions. I pulled up Sarah Harmer’s You Were Here album on Spotify the other day and it told me the first two songs weren’t cleared for playback in the US. Well, that would be news to Rhapsody, which pulled up the entire album without any problems at all.

Towards one and two, I might be missing something that will fix those problems, but then again, they should be obvious, and they’re not; I mean, I did go looking. Toward the third, hopefully those are beta glitches which will get resolved in time.

As a paid service it’s not as full-featured as Rhapsody, which is the subscription service I’ve used for years because (excepting the standalone player with a design straight from 2003) it does everything I want it to: radio, playlist management and access to a massive library of music. Other people will make cases for Napster or Mog or Rdio or whatever, I’m sure; my point is that if you’re going to pay for your online streaming music, there are currently better options than Spotify.

But, hey, as a free service? Groovy.

30 thoughts on “My Spot Spotify Review

  1. If you want a music service that creates on-the-fly radio stations based on a genre, artist, or even a song, check out pandora.com — it’s been my favorite music service for a few years now.

  2. Rick:

    Yes, but it doesn’t do those other things which I like, particularly letting me pick specific tracks I would like to hear. I like Pandora and use it from time to time, but it’s not a complete paid solution.

    Also, to cut off this particular type of comment, I’m not actually soliciting ideas for streaming music services for myself at the moment. I like what I’ve got. Thanks, though.

  3. I read somewhere that artists actually get a pittance from Spotify. This doesn’t really surprise me – not much money in this if people don’t pay to subscribe. I wouldn’t expect the ad-supported model to be around for terribly long; think of it as a teaser to get people interested.

  4. I tried Rhapsody a few years ago. It didn’t have much of a library I wanted then, nor any options to play from your off-line music library, and the web-only player was just nasty. I got myself a (paid) Spotify membership a few days ago, and am loving it. They’ve fixed all of those, and added some surprisingly nice sharing functionality as well. The mobile player is very good (missing the sharing features, sadly). No, you weren’t missing a genius or radio-like capability. It doesn’t exist, and is clearly the biggest gap. I use Pandora when I want that.

  5. I’m poking at Spotify too – I do like that it works more or less like i tunes (which, since I’ve been looking at a variety of different music players, works better than anything else I’ve fiddled with this past year) without actually being i tunes. I also note the lack of a Pandora style radio feature, and like the Napsteresque ability to choose all manner of music. I suspect that, if Spotify doesn’t suddenly start crashing my computer with needless software updates, it will replace my i tunes quite easily. If it does at some point include a Pandora style radio feature, well. That’s a whole new ball game.

  6. I got that same invite, and I just don’t think I’m the right kind of user for it. Like Rick@1, I use Pandora (and have the yearly subscription). I actually *like* not choosing which song to play next. My iTunes library is HUGE and I think I just get paralyzed by my options. I also don’t have need of their mobile options, since I don’t have a smart phone of any stripe or other web-enabled mobile devices that can play music. The only place I’d need access to music OTHER than my desk at home is my desk at work, where a large percentage of my iTunes library also isn’t appropriate. *grin* So, yeah, I think aside from some of the beta issues, there is also a segment of users for whom this might just not be the right tool.

  7. In Europe you can now only use the free version of Spotify for a maximum ten hours streaming a month, and you’re limited to a maximum of five listens to any one streamed track, so it’s no longer “Any track, any time, anywhere” for the free service. You used to be able to listen to it permanently, with the ads. Presumably this change will come to the US in time, to encourage people into the paying options (£4.99 and £9.99 here).

    Although the Compare Products chart shows that this restricted Open (kind of an oxymoron) service does not offer “Spotify radio mode”, there is still some kind of basic radio (listed just beneath What’s New), where you can select various decades from the 50s on – before that all the decades are a generalised “older” – and 1, 2, 3 or all 18 genres from Alternative to Techno (but no Classical).

  8. For those of you who tried Rhapsody in the past but haven’t recently, they have done a lot of work to update their web interface in the last year. It’s much better than it used to be. Faster, easier to use, and still widely supported.

  9. I’ve been a Rhapsody users for eons (it seems) and it does everything I need it to. The best part is I can combine the Rhapsody app on my Droid X with the Ford Sync bluetooth capability in my car so that I have access to all of Rhapsody pretty much where ever I am.

  10. Have you ever tried Grooveshark? That’s my default for listening to music online. Allows you to play pretty much any song on demand, will add suggestions if you enable it’s “radio” function, and has genre stations too.

    All and all, my favorite online player. Alas, I think they are still working on their mobile apps.

    http://grooveshark.com/

  11. I don’t see it ever replacing my own collection, but I’ve been messing around with the free service and I could definitely see its attraction as a supplemental or emergency back-up music source. For those infrequent occasions when I do want to go back and listen to Rush or Yes again.

  12. Thanks for the thoughts John. I’ve got MOG and like you with Rhapsody I’m not switching. Spotify had/has huge hype, but in the end sounds like just another streaming service. Given that I have can get MOG on my Roku, Android phone, iPad and via the web, that is has great quality and selection… Spotify seems like the same thing, fewer features, too late.

    For the folks saying “but I have a huge collection iiTunes” – I was once like you. But one thing a streaming service does is enable the easy discovery of new music. Someone says “you should check out the new Fleet Foxes” and you can… the entire album. Similarly you can check out that older Stones, Dylan, whatever album that you didn’t buy or that you lost.

  13. I used to be a Yahoo! Music for a few years until they were purchased by Rhapsody. I was then a Rhapsody user but I still preferred Yahoo! Music (even thought it no longer existed). The day that Spotify came out I cancelled my Rhapsody subscription and signed up for Spotify sight unseen. I haven’t regretted the decision.

    My favorite thing about Yahoo! Music was the ability to create a custom radio channel and use a slider to specify what percentage of the channel playtime you wanted to be songs that you had tagged as Liking and what portion would be songs they would play based on what you liked, giving you a mix of known and unknown (but possibly compatible) songs.

    The current Rhapsody and Spotify catalogs are pretty much identical and I wouldn’t be suprised if they using the same data sets and music files provided by the record companies.

    John’s complaint about auto-playing music is my favorite thing about Spotify. If I select a song instead of just playing that song and that song only it just keeps on playing “something” from your queue. Maybe something you heard earlier, maybe something from the same album that the song you just played was from, maybe something else. I haven’t quite figured out how it decides what to auto-populate the play queue with outside of what you choose.

    I also like the fact that it will merge your own mp3 library with the existing Spotify library and will also make songs that they don’t have available for streaming on Spotify available for you to listen on your remote device. The integration between the Windows desktop app and Android phone app are almost seamless.

    All that being said I can understand why someone who likes Rhapsody wouldn’t want to move from one service to the other. For me I was exasperated with Rhapsody about a number of different things. But for someone with Rhapsody and no issues it’s not really worth the jump

  14. I was actually incorrect in the previous comment. Spotify does have a radio-like feature, but it’s somewhat hidden. Select an artist page, and a “related artists” and “artist radio” tab are available. After that, it does just what it says on the tin. Annoyingly, this functionality isn’t available on mobile.

  15. I was just about to mention “Artist Radio,” which I’ve been loving, but based on comments from other people it seems like this is a fairly recent development. Somebody who started up on Spotify a week before me, for example, doesn’t have it.

  16. I second Oye above as far as Grooveshark is concerned. Far and away my favorite, though it doesn’t have the same social support as some of the others. Not that I care, I want to listen to music. $3 a month sub fee for mobile/adless. Not at all bad.

  17. I’d like to second the Grooveshark — any song/album you want, has a radio function that seems pretty good to me so far and a cheap model app. No audio ads either.

    I think it is legal — it has been around for five years without challenge, anyway. (I kind of wonder where this spotify crazy comes from, given that it has been around for ages)

  18. That Artist Radio tab is very new. In fact I’ve never seen seen it before tonight. And I was just on Spotify last night.

  19. While everyone is having a party with their Spotifies, Rhapsodies and Pandoras, I would like to point out that none of the above is available in countries like Australia. Which, given that I happen to live there, pisses me off greatly.
    I would love – as in LOVE – to be able to use Spotify or Rhapsody properly. At the moment I can get away with the free version of Spotify (cough VPN cough), but they wouldn’t let me pay for the service because I don’t have an American credit card.
    I find this situation incredibly silly: there’s a good product out there; I would love to pay for it; due to coincidental matters along the lines of accidents of birth, I can’t.

  20. Ooo, thanks all for pointing out the “Artist Radio” tab – that’s fantastic, and, I think, more or less what I was missing. It’s not for every artist, alas, and it’s not quite as good as Pandora, but it’s pretty spiffy.

  21. You can also create playlists based on one or many artists through one of the many 3rd-party websites:
    - Share My Playlist
    - Digster

    I’ve tried services like Rhapsody, but never liked how they resemble traditional radio: you subscribe to a “station” and never know what music will appear. I like Spotify’s method where you can always see the entire playlist, and even drag songs into your own. (This is how I took several 80s playlists and started to create my own mega-80s list.)

    Spotify won’t replace my iTunes collection or stop me from buying my own music. But for $5 a month, I have a nice eclectic mix of music to turn to, which I can play from any computer or mobile device. Nice.

  22. I’ve been using Spotify since December of 2008, and I pretty much haven’t downloaded (legally or otherwise) music or bought a CD since. Now, granted, I don’t use the Artist Radio feature a whole lot, and maybe Europeans and Americans get different versions of the program, but that feature has been there for about as long as I can remember. I’ve never encountered the issue of Spotify playing music I didn’t ask it to play – maybe that’s just about getting familiar with the interface. I don’t know. As for Mr. Scalzi’s third point, that is certainly the biggest flaw in my opinion. Jason Webley used to be available for example, now he’s not. Same with Evelyn Evelyn and a whole bunch of other artists. A shame. But if the rest of the music I’m interested in is available for SEK 49 a month, the expense of buying a CD or download isn’t all that bad.

  23. I received my Spotify invite a week ago, only to find there’s no Linux support. So much for Spotify.

  24. I don’t think I’ll try it (iTunes is adequate for my simple needs), but it’s good that Spotify compensates artists for their work. Music labels should know that people will obtain music through legal means if said legal means are available to them. Take that!

  25. I’m not going to call Spotify the new greatest thing since sliced bread, but it might be the best new thing to spread on your sliced bread.

    What impresses me so far is the Spotify seems to have a much better catalogue than Zune; not that I was buying any music from Zune.

    There is also the small matter that a lot of current music you really can’t comprehend in 30-second bites. This gives me more options in that regard.

    A problem more peculiar to me is that I have a lot of files from digitizing from my old vinyl and a fair number of those don’t play well with Spotify.

    I think I’ll be keeping my Zune for the foreseeable future but when that dies I’ll have to examine my options.

  26. Hmm, maybe the American version is different from the European one.

    In Europe, we do have a radio function, and I’m not quite sure I understand the problem you’ve listed under point number 2…

  27. I got into Rhapsody because my Sonos system would stream it throughout the house. I have used it for years and I love it. I gave Spotify a try because of the media hype… I recently bought my first mac and rhapsody is not available for apple products. So it has now become obvious why Spotify is getting such rave reviews. iZombies have not had the benefit of Rhaspody to compare Spotify to.

    The non-editable passive queue is beyond frustrating. This has been around for a few years, so I don’t think they will change it soon. If there was an ability to disable passive tracks in the queue I would probably keep using this app/service.

    Searching for a track and playing it, only to find I have to listen to every other search result that is listed AFTER the selected track, is torturous. And it is laughable, yet sad, that people have to come up with special work-arounds to make this application work as expected. For example, having to create a “now” playlist to queue only the songs you want to hear now.

    And getting back to the search tab is painful. You either have to click search again, or back arrow to the page you wanted to look at.

    The social media features are a little clunky, but cool. However, my musical taste is very broad (even my wife hates half the music I listen to) so sharing my playlist with others is not a positive.

    Spotify’s core functionality is a turd. Even though they iced this turd with some cool features, it is still a turd. For those that do not comprehend what that means, I suggest you go find a dog log; put your favorite icing all over it; take a bite and tell me what you think about it.

    I guess running rhapsody on my macbookpro via parallel windows7 is what I will have to do.

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