Spot(ify) The Difference

Take a quick look at this picture:


Has iTunes had a gothic makeover?


No, iTunes has just met it’s worst nightmare. This month Spotify has arrived in the UK and will change the way we listen to music online forever.

For those not familiar with this free and legal service, I will briefly explain. Spotify is a free-to-download program which allows you to stream music live. A lot of music in fact. Its database currently comprises four million tracks and it is growing by 10,000 a day. Not everything is on there, but I’ve been trawling around for a while and it is yet to disappoint.

The whole thing is not only legal, but is endorsed by several major record labels who see this as less of a threat to their interests than pirated music, because Spotify pay them a small premium to host their entire back catalogue. It’s sort of like America siding with the Russians in WWII because, despite their differences, they were more worried about Germany. In this tenuous analogy, America is the music industry, pirated music is Germany and Spotify is Russia. Revolutionary, power to the people etc. etc.

Yesterday, I downloaded Spotify and listened to the new Morrissey album, Years of Refusal. Hot off the press, came out that day. I listened to the whole thing without any loading time and although it’s quite good I probably won’t buy it.

That sort of decision making could be crucial for the music industry. Now listeners worldwide have the right to listen to (almost) any album in its entirety and then decide if they want to buy it or not. If people still decide they want to own a physical CD to show their loyalty and support to the band, then they will surely head to HMV or Amazon and order a physical copy, complete with artwork, lyrics and other such bonuses.

I cannot see how iTunes fits into this new landscape, though. Ditto, MySpace Music. If you just want to listen to music on your computer, then fire up Spotify and listen to full albums as many times as you want.

At this point, I should pay lip service to the few small drawbacks. Every half hour you are forced to listen to a 15-second advert, thus securing Spotify’s revenue which they use to placate the record labels. Alternatively you can pay a tenner a month to cut this out, but that hardly seems worth it.

Secondly, you don’t actually own the tracks and so can’t upload them to an MP3 player. It hardly takes a genius to record streaming tracks, but of course no-one would be that immoral…

Since downloading Spotify, I have been catching up with bands who I have been too busy or too stingy to follow over the past few years and it is simply brilliant. Some I will buy, most I wont, but one thing’s for sure: I’m never spending money on downloading MP3s again.

11 thoughts on “Spot(ify) The Difference

  1. Hi there! I agree with almost everything you have written. Just a correction though. Right now there are a bit more than 2 million tracks in the program, but they have the rights to more than 6 million tracks. (To check the number of tracks, just make a search for year:0-9999.) However, this means there are lots and lots of content to be added during the coming months.

  2. I do love Spotify, but it’s not quite as shiny and amazing as it was. Not too long ago they removed a load of tracks and albums from the service as well as introducing international restrictions. Probably inevitable what with the Spotify guys needing to keep the record labels happy but it was a major drawback. Sort of feel Spotify could have made a bit of a stand, surely these days international borders should be invisible when it comes to music releases. If anything they should be embracing services like Spotify seeing as it’s one of the few ways they’re going to make money from online streaming.

    Apologies for the waffle, I wish I understood the way the industry worked enough to properly criticize it…

  3. Thanks for the update, JoeBuck.
    I got my figures from The Times’ article, but I suppose I shouldn’t always trust big news organisations. Next time I’ll go straight to the source!

  4. Nice post Chris, yeah – i dunno how they managed to get it so iTunes-like! (or so instantaneous. it’s faster to load music than most programs manage straight off my hdd) Shame some of those record labels are still holding onto their rights.

    Good stuff is the ol’ Spotify – but ‘fraid i feel i must be pedantic and point out a couple of typos here…
    I do believe it’s £10 per month, with most of those ads being 60 seconds after every 4th song. But that still beats radio, and as you say, it’s a great way to try catch up on bands.

  5. Yeah… so… i think ill be trying out this Spotify asap, however i can still see where iTunes or (insert other media distribution system here) fits in.

    You talk about supporting the bands and whatnot, thats all good, but personally i hold little affection for physical media these days… iTunes is still one of the easiest to use, most well established and fullest online stores for download music (esp now its / DRM free)

    As the lazy face of the internet today I dont want to have to wait for my Amazon parcel, or walk all the way into town (its a long way you know) so download media is the way forward.

  6. Right you are Will – £10 per month is it.
    Although, I counted one of the adverts yesterday and it was only 15 seconds – maybe they vary in length? Either way, they are a small price to pay.
    Interesting point, Josh. I am quite old school in my love of physical discs/artwork/lyrics etc. My 200+ CD collection is very dear to me. Haven’t added to it in a while though…

  7. Spotify is a genius creation. I have now abadoned my Itunes in favour of the great new program. The only fear I have is that with U2’s new album being promoted to death the neccessity may lead to increased marketing in order to make more cash. That said, in its current state, the adds are not imposing at all. Access to free music is now as easy to get as running water, however what happends when everyone is using it and the need to buy or download the latest releases becomes a distant memory.

  8. Yeah, I saw that.
    I’m just glad I wasn’t signed up before December 19. I spose that’s the cost of being cutting edge…

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