There are plenty of ways to keep your speakers pumping — you could rely on iTunes, Rdio, Slacker Radio, Pandora, Napster, Rhapsody, Amazon Cloud Player, Google Music, CDs, old-school cassettes, or any number of other music delivery methods. So what makes Spotify, the music-streaming service which launched today, so darn special and exciting?
It's simply everything most of us could ever need when it comes to music — it's legal, affordable, supported on most major platforms, well-designed, and filled with more songs than we have time to listen to.
I've had the opportunity to give the service a trial run over the course of the last few days and I must admit that I've become addicted to it. Ordinarily my listening selection consists of songs purchased from iTunes, ripped CDs and mp3 files forwarded along by friends. But right now? It's all Spotify, all the time.
Playlists created on my Mac sync seamlessly and nearly instantly with those on my iPhone. I can search through a massive library of music in seconds and find nearly any song that pops into my head. Friends can send me song links or collaborate on playlists in order to improve on my rather dull music choices. Songs from my own computer are recognized and added to my Spotify library if I want them there. And everything is simply smooth, hiccup-free, and fast!
I constantly forget that all the music I'm listening to is not actually on my computer or mobile device, but instead being consistently streamed at a reasonable quality — no matter how slow my Internet connection occasionally can be. (Mind you, songs can be stored for offline play so that you're never music-less even if stuck without an internet connection or decent mobile data service.)
I wager that someone's thinking "But, wait! This is all free? How is that possible?" right now, and the answer is simple: It's not possible.
The features I'm describing are part of Spotify's "Premium" plan — a $9.99/month service.
If you don't want to pay that much, you can opt for the $4.99/month "Unlimited" plan which comes with everything but mobile and offline access or the free plan which also lacks those two features and comes with a few ads and a 10 hours/month listening limit thrown in. (It's worth noting that the folks who gain access to the free service while it's an invitation-only option won't have that monthly limit for the first six months.)
Ah, there's the rub, right? You have to pay to get some of the better features. In my personal opinion, it's a worthwhile expense. You'll have access to over 15 million quality tracks and one of the cleanest desktop and mobile music players available in recent times.
What about other options though? There are music services other than Spotify out there.
- Apple's got a $25/year iTunes Music match service coming out soon which will give you high quality copies streamable from the cloud — but only of songs you already have in your music library.
- Amazon's Cloud Player and Google's Music Beta similarly offer streaming access to tracks you already own — though without matching your music up with higher quality versions.
- Rdio is a service very much like Spotify and offers a similar selection of features, but there's no free version available for those unwilling to pay for a monthly plan.
- Slacker Radio offers on-demand access to tracks for $9.99/month, but — despite having solid mobile apps — requires you to stick to a clunky web-interface when listening to music on your desktop.
You probably get the idea by now. Spotify essentially combines the best features of other music services in one neat package.
Ken Parks, Chief Content Officer and Managing Director of Spotify America, went as far as remarking that it's "simply a better experience overall." He described the service as a way to get "all the music you want on demand" and pointed out that you'll experience "lightning-fast access to the thing you want to listen to at the moment you want to listen to it."
And as you may have been able to tell by now, I don't disagree with that assessment after using Spotify for about a week.
Ready to give Spotify a shot as well? You can sign up to get an invitation to the free ad-supported service by heading to the Spotify website. Or alternatively — if you don't want to wait for an invitation and are willing to pay $4.99 or $9.99 for the ad-free versions of the service — you can get instant access.
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