And now a few thoughts about Spotify

I’ve been hearing about Spotify, one of the seemingly endless number of music listening applications and sites out there, for months. But as it was not available in the U.S. I didn’t pay it much mind.

But that all changed today, as Spotify is now available to us here in the good ol’ U.S. of A. And like every other service I’ve ever used, Spotify promises to change the way we listen to music. Just like their nifty little promo video says:

Sounds good huh? I decided to take the plunge and download Spotify, so I could see just how much my world would be rocked. For reference, I already use the following services to one degree or another:

All of those services have their good and bad points, and between the three of them I pretty much get what I need as far as music. Based off my limited experience with Spotify, here is how it measures up…

Size of catalog

This is the most important aspect, right? I mean, if you want to listen to a certain song and it’s not available, what’s the point? Spotify boasts that you can listen to any song from any artists, but that’s not the case. The third artists I searched for — Iron Maiden — is well represented but there are tracks that I can’t play. I tried to play “The Wicker Man” from their 2000 reunion album Brave New World and was met with this message — “The artist/label has chosen to make this track unavailable. If you have the file on your computer you can import it.”

Bummer.

Still, just in browsing around a bit, Spotify’s catalog seems to be no worse than Rhapsody. And like Rhapsody, you can add add and play your own music. Just don’t expect the same level of customization you get with an application like MediaMonkey.

Ease of use

Spotify looks like a stripped-down version of iTunes, but not nearly as bloated or annoying. Once you’re signed in you can search for and play music in less than a minute, which is cool. It’s also really easy to create and add to custom playlists.

Sound quality

I don’t know what bit rate Spotify streams at, but all the songs I played sounded good to me. High quality streaming (whatever that means) is available only to Premium subscribers.

Social features

This is one area where Last.fm showed great promise but has fallen flat. Spotify allows you to connect to your friends (Facebook) and see what they’re listening. Accessing your friends seems to be easy and quick, and sharing a song is simple. For people who complain that technology has robbed the communal aspect of music listening, Spotify might just go a little way toward rectifying that. If that happens, that could be enough to win me over.

Oh yeah, and Spotify has built-in support for scrobbling to Last.fm, which is huge for me.

Overall

It’s still way too early in the game to tell if Spotify will be the game-changer they claim to be, but they have more buzz surrounding their launch than any service I can think of in recent memory. I can already see a lot of promise with the service, but I’m going to wait and see whether record labels will continue to play nice before investing any money or significant time in Spotify.

Disclaimer: I have not had a chance to try Spotify on a mobile device, so I can’t comment on that aspect of the service.

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