I’ve been playing with Spotify this week during its U.S. release, and so far I really like it. My British friends have been raving about it, so I was keen to check it out.
For music playing it combines some of the best features of iTunes and Pandora and Rhapsody — I can make playlists comprising my own music, music my friends have/have identified, or any music out there in the Spotify cloud catalog (which is large, broad, and deep). There are lots of resources on the web for finding new music, or creating automated playlists based on seeding with an artist’s name. For example, I love medieval-Renaissance-Tudor-pre-Enlightenment music, and it can be hard to sample such a large and diverse genre to find new music (although I recommend anything recorded by Stile Antico). I went to Spotiseek and entered “Thomas Tallis” as the artist, and generated a really lovely playlist that helps me identify some other music I really enjoy, and — here’s the economics hook — at least one CD that I will purchase, based on what I heard in the playlist. One thing I have yet to figure out that I want to do, though, is to seed multiple artists to generate a playlist — Interpol + Franz Ferdinand + Follow the People, for example, or Tallis + Byrd + Dowland. That’s one feature I really like about Pandora that I’d like to capture in Spotify.
The social/sharing aspects are also nice. I usually don’t sync much across social networks, being a bit of a privacy weenie, but I linked Spotify to my Facebook account, and I can see their shared playlists and share my playlists with them. Good conversation starters as well as ways to share experiences with friends and identify new music.
I’ve also played around a bit with the Android app on my phone, and have synced up a few of my local playlists, although I don’t listen to music on my phone that often. It’s a clean interface and works well, with no latency in my experience thus far.
The Spotify desktop application doesn’t do a great job of maintaining the video and podcast file organizational structure, so if I want to organize my podcasts in Spotify it looks like I have to go in and build the file structure. That means I will continue using iTunes for podcasts and videos, and will likely duplicate music management — so, for example, if I buy an MP3 album on Amazon I’ll import it into my iTunes library, which syncs with the Spotify desktop, and I’ll keep my iPod synced with iTunes and not Spotify. That may change if I make more Spotify playlists that don’t rely on music in my local library.
The business background of Spotify is interesting, in the context of copyright, file sharing, RIAA, and the reactionary positions of the recording industry as technology changes the world around them. This Bloomberg article, constructed as a profile of Spotify founder Daniel Ek, gives a good discussion of those issues and how Spotify’s business model is a way to embrace and profit from such innovation. Interestingly, the major record labels are part owners of Spotify, similar in certain respects to what Hulu is doing for TV.