Believe it or not, it’s been a whole year since music streaming service Spotify opened its service up to the public. In 12 short months it’s become a media darling and has been described by some as the ideal way to wean pirates back into paying for music.
Here at The Next Web we were hugely impressed by the Spotify mobile app, launched last month. With the service now available both online and offline on the desktop and mobile, is Spotify ready to become the only music service you use? Is it possible to get by without CDs, media management software and download stores? I decided to find out.
For the past month I’ve been using Spotify as the only source of my music. At home I’ve listened using the desktop app while on the move I’ve used the iPhone app. Would I recommend it? Read on and find out…
Livin’ La Vida Spotify – what you need:
To live the Spotify life you’ll need the desktop app (available for Windows and Mac), the mobile app (available for iPhone and Android at present with more to come).
You’ll also need a monthly subscription. While it’s possible to use the desktop app for free with an audio ad played every few songs, to go mobile you need a subscription costing£9.99 per month.
- A fixed fee: If you’re a big music fan, chances are you buy a lot of music. With Spotify I make a saving. I used to spend more than £9.99 a month on a combination of CDs of my favourite bands and iTunes downloads of everything else. Now I know I’ll spend no more than the cost of my subscription every month.
- Removing the Piracy temptation: Although I’ve never been a prolific illegal downloader, I know people who are. One such person sent me an SMS three weeks ago announcing that he was ditching BitTorrent in favour of Spotify. He’s not alone; Spotify claims that 80% of users have abandoned illegal filesharing. The choice of music available with no effort at all makes BitTorrent’s risk of prosecution and virus infection seem like a chore.
- Saving space: Before I installed the Spotify mobile app, my 16GB iPhone had just 50MB of free space left thanks to all the music squeezed onto it. Now I’ve deleted most of that music as I can just get it from Spotify whenever I choose. Then there’s physical space – all those CDs I have taking up shelf space can be safely packed away, I barely touch them these days anyway.
- Trying new things: Not having to buy everything individually means I’ve become a lot more bold about trying new things and exploring music I’ve never got around to in the past. If I read a glowing review of an obscure new band I can be listening to the album on the go within minutes. Meanwhile I have a newly intimate knowledge of the back catalogue of bands like XTC and Public Enemy.
- What? You don’t have it?!: While Spotify’s library is now pretty comprehensive when it comes to the past 50 years of popular music, there are still holes. Want to listen to De La Soul’s classic 1989 album Three Feet High And Rising? For the time being you’re stuck. Big names like The Beatles are also missing. You can’t quite throw away your MP3s and CDs yet.
- That syncing feeling: Away from home and get the urge to listen to something? Get ready for your phone to become a hand warmer. Yes, streaming music makes your handset incredibly warm and runs down the battery in no time. To get around this, you can sync music to your phone as offline playlists in advance via wifi. This works brilliantly but it does mean you can’t be quite as spontaneous as you might like to be.
- Organisation: While Spotify is a great way to listen to music, once you start building up a substantial collection of playlists (all my favourite albums have a playlist each, for example) you start you wish there was a way of organising them. Playlist folders would be a good start but how about a ‘virtual music collection’? You could browse albums and artists that you’re a fan of as if you were browsing a physical collection. Think of iTunes coverflow for Spotify. For now though, you have an ugly and unwieldy bunch of playlists to scroll through.
- The little things: As much as “The Spotify Life” may suit you, there is bound to be something that bugs you. For me it’s the lack of Last.fm scrobbling for music you listen to on the mobile app. The desktop app has Last.fm integration and as someone who is obsessive about his scrobbling it would be nice to see that extended to the mobile experience.
Depending on the kind of music fan you are, The Spotify Life is either tantalisingly close to perfection or completely not for you.
If you consume a lot of new music or want to save space on storing music on your computer and phone you may well find a Spotify-only existence is for you. Just don’t delete all your MP3s yet – those occasional holes in the catalogue can be frustrating.