Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Bloggy Goes Corporate?

Ok, so I'm not REALLY going corporate BUT I did want to talk about Spotify. As you, probably, know by now Spotify is a music service that has been active in Europe for quite sometime but has finally become available to us yanks. It's a legal, label-sanctioned way for you to listen to music using, the previously unpopular, subscription model. You can choose to use the service for free if you don't mind visual and aural ads. As of right now, there is no time-limit on the free Spotify accounts in the U.S. but in Europe you can only listen for 10 hours/month, I expect that will be the case in the United States once the service has been available for a few months. You can also choose to *gasp* PAY for your music with 2 options. The $5/month "Unlimited" plan offers pretty much the same as the current version of the free service minus the obtrusive ads. It's called "Unlimited" because there is no time-limit but as I mentioned this isn't an issue in our market YET. The other option is the $10/month "Premium" model. At this price-point you get higher quality song streaming, no ads, unlimited time, access on your mobile device(s) and offline playlist mode. Offline mode allows you to choose playlists that you want to sync and make those songs available even when you don't have an internet connection.

Spotify - Spotify Has Landed In the U.S video via YouTube

I know you're thinking, who cares? First of all, at this point most have you have already heard about and/or use Spotify so why am I pimping it? Well, there are a couple of things that set it apart from our other options. My favorite part of the service is the creation and sharing of playlists. As a music-nerd, like most of you, I used to spend hours making mix tapes to give to friends, family, co-workers and acquaintances. Spotify brings that concept into the 21st century. Remember iMixes on iTunes? Do they still do that? Well, now you can create a 200 song playlist and it won't cost your friends $200 to download it. I used this feature to make playlists for ACL Fest as well as FunFunFun Fest. You can browse your friend's playlists and choose to listen to them, or subscribe to them if they are playlists that you want easier access to and/or you think they will be updated frequently.

The other major thing that sets Spotify apart from its competitors past and present is the selection. I'm not saying that you can listen to everything you can think of but it's closer to that reality than any service I have used in the past. There are some hold-outs and weird choices. For instance you can't listen to anything from Arcade Fire but you can listen to most of their Merge Records label-mates. Also, you can listen to Adele but not her HUGE breakout album 21. There are also instances of selective absences when an artist's catalog is missing key tracks. There are also some blind-spots in the interface, the service doesn't do the "Related Artists" thing as well as some of its competitors. However, since Spotify integrates with you can still use that to find similar artists. Another interface issue I have is, since Spotify integrates with the music library on your computer, it can be hard to tell what's in your library as opposed to the theirs when making playlists. There may be a setting for this that I'm unaware of though.

As of this moment I have not forked over money to use Spotify but the ads are getting me closer to the point of wanting to spend at least $5/month. I can deal with visual banner ads. Spotify is its own program, you don't use it within the website so I just choose a playlist or album and hide the program. However, the aural ads can be really problematic. For instance, I was listening to a group of chill-out dub-step songs from Jamie Woon when suddenly I was hearing a sampling from Eminem's latest effort with Royce da 5'9". Needless to say it sort of ruined the mood.

Jamie Woon - Lady Luck video via YouTube

When the U.S. version of Spotify sets a time-limit I will be HIGHLY encouraged to fork out the dough for the service. Mr. S. just bought the premium service immediately and he uses the iPhone app in the car. He is constantly making really great, themed mixes as well. One of my personal favs is his ULTIMATE MARY J. mix of Mary J. Blige tracks.

I guess the long and short of it comes down to a few key questions. How do you access your music? How much are you willing to pay for music? If you prefer to purchase vinyl and listen only at your record player maybe this isn't for you. I will tell you, it's a good way to listen to an album and decided whether or not you want to spend $20 on the record. If you do choose to jump on the bandwagon, find me, make some playlists, let's do this thing.