Pete Davison: Spot the Music

Posted on July 18, 2011 by


Hi, Americans. I hope you’re enjoying Spotify. As you may be aware, we lucky Brits have had it for some time and have been enjoying its considerable charms. It’s great to see you lot get the chance now, too.

Of course, you’ve had plenty of services like that already available, such as Grooveshark and RDIO. You also get to play with while we don’t, which is a bit of a shame. As such, though, this means that Spotify is having to work a bit harder to impress you — it’s working in some cases, others not.

I have a Spotify Premium account — £10 a month for ad-free unlimited playback plus the ability to use the mobile app to stream over 3G (risky given the patchy coverage in most of the UK) and/or download playlists directly to the app for offline listening (much better). Since signing up for it, I don’t think I’ve bought a single thing from iTunes. I haven’t needed to. Most of the stuff I’d want to listen to — and plenty I don’t — is freely available for me to grab, stick in playlists and listen to at my leisure. There’s plenty of music to keep a continuous soundtrack spinning while I do my day’s work, and more than enough to set up some decent driving playlists for long journeys.

The service and its software isn’t without one or two flaws, of course — you can’t search playlists on the mobile apps and the interface is inexplicably the opposite way around to the native iPod app on iOS, meaning you’ll find yourself bringing up track information a lot when you actually mean to just close the player screen and get back to the menus. The desktop client’s habit of just disappearing and updating itself without telling you it’s updating is a little unnerving, too, but at least it keeps itself up to date. (I say that — it’s currently attempting to download the latest updater manually and claims that a 5MB file is going to take 16 hours to download.)

But all that aside, what Spotify provides for me has many benefits. Firstly, it’s a means of listening to music that I know and love without having to root through iTunes libraries or — in many cases — stacks of CDs that are buried in a cardboard box somewhere. Secondly, it’s a means of discovering new music — having listened to an album I like, taking a journey through the “Similar Artists” links is often quite eye-opening. Thirdly, and I can’t emphasise how nice this is, it makes having to manually sync an iOS device almost unnecessary, software updates notwithstanding. iOS syncs have a habit of taking at least three times as long as you think they will, particularly if you really need to be somewhere and you suddenly realise you don’t have any music on your iPod/have the “wrong” music on your iPod. Spotify’s offline sync system isn’t the quickest in the world, admittedly, but at least you can do it wirelessly without having to faff around with cables and USB ports and computers. Which is nice.

Spotify, then, is very much a Good Thing. And I’m delighted that I can now share links to tracks and albums with my friends in the US, as well as allow people to subscribe to my playlists. I already noticed that my “dungeon crawling” playlist where I just dumped a whole bunch of metal without really paying much attention to what it is has picked up a subscriber in the form of the fine Chris Whittington — guess I better be careful about what I publish from now on if people are watching! (Damn, no more Lazy Town?)

Posted in: Pete Davison