I’ve just discovered Spotify (via Tim Anderson) and so far I’m thoroughly impressed. Previous implementations of this kind of thing (last.fm, Pandora) have restricted your choices of what you can listen to, making them feel more like listening to a radio station than listening to your own music collection. But Spotify lets you choose exactly what you want to listen to from its database. It doesn’t have every song by every artist, like most online music sources there’s no Beatles (obviously Jacko doesn’t need the extra cash, which doesn’t quite match with what I’d heard), some of my obscure musical preferences are missing (no Godspeed You Black Emperor) and even the artists they do have aren’t generally complete. But that’s a minor quibble, there’s a still a huge range of music available.
Streaming is super quick and the ads are currently pretty infrequent and unobtrusive. The bandwidth requirements seem pretty minimal too, I could happily work in a Remote Desktop session whilst listening and I didn’t notice any dropouts.
So is this the future of music listening? I certainly hope so. The big question is whether their business model works. Will the ads cover costs? Will the music companies suddenly get cold feet like they did with Pandora in the UK? Will their servers continue to be so snappy when they become super popular? If the ads become too frequent or in your face, listening might become painful. OK, you can get rid of the ads by paying $9.99 a month but if I was to pay for any online music service I’d want to have the physical bits (with no DRM) so I’d be sure I can still listen to them if the company folded.
The only thing I’d really like to see is the integration of the online stuff with my own music library. So if I want to listen to my own ripped music I can from the same player, rather than having to jump out to iTunes. But in the mean time, I’ve got a lot of new (to me) music to listen to.