Music Diary Notes: Spotify Hands-On … Yeah, It IS That Good!

Last week I got an invite to Spotify, allowing me to join the service that so many across Europe are so excited about using. Of course, getting from ‘invite’ to ‘account’ required doing stuff that while not illegal, was nonetheless not something I would regularly choose to do. Basically I acquired a British ‘accent’ for a little bit in order to get my account created.

My initial impression was completely positive. The desktop client installed quickly, launched instantly and quickly logged in my account and pulled in my local iTunes info. From there I was encouraged to search for stuff – and when I searched, I almost always found *something*.

We had recently watched ‘Little Shop of Horrors’ on DVD, so the kids wanted to listen to the soundtrack. Quick search showed several possibilities, and then finding one song with the right artist listing I clicked on the album title and it brought up the full recording, and we could simply queue it up. My wife had recently lost her old Wham ‘Make It Big’ tape, so I found that similarly and added it to the queue.

Playback is perfect – the player never stuttered or stopped or otherwise gave me any of the hassles I have seen with other streaming players.

For myself, I checked Derek Bailey, and found some things but mostly stuff that was recently released or reissued … or what I had on my own hard drive. That is a great thing – when searching for music Spotify will include your own music. So when I searched for Henry Threadgill I came up with a huge assortment … but then realized nearly all of it was local. That is simply the reality – Spotify can’t magically make out of print music appear, nor do they have deals with all companies.

But one morning when I was alone due to wife and kids all having activities, I added some Miles and Threadgill and Coltrane and Monk and even some 80’s pop someone mentioned on the Gear Diary Yammer channel … queued it all up and had great background for the day.

I wasn’t able to do much checking out of the social aspects – I grabbed a few friends from across Europe from a RPG fan forum, and that was nice to listen … but that forum has a ‘now listening’ thread so we regularly exchange music. However, the integration is so well done and easy to use that I can certainly see it becoming an extremely useful musical discovery tool.

Some EU friends have called Spotify ‘better than piracy’, and based on my couple weeks of use I certainly agree – with this tool, there is simply no excuse for someone to pirate. You can listen to most anything you want at any time, and then buy it if you like it.

As for the struggles with Spotify coming to the US, I can certainly understand why there would be reluctance on the parts of artists and labels. Users think something like ‘Gerry Rafferty died last month, I vaguely remember Baker Street from the 70’s, wonder what else he did’? And they would love to hear it and then get on with their lives, never to bother again. The label wants you to search Amazon / iTunes, hear your 30 or 90 seconds, not be satisfied, and buy the track. Other streaming sites make you sift through several songs before landing on the one you want.

Of course, given the artist makes ~0.000001 for each play on Spotify, they would like a little more than ‘I heard it and never care to hear it again’ … since it only makes sense if they grab a ton of listens.

But I really hope they sort out the monetization deals, because for the consumer Spotify is just an amazing source of great listening. As for me … for the free version Spotify checks every two weeks that your location matches your account, and you must have an account in the same location as your payment source to switch to the premium level. So while I could have redone my account easily enough, I decided to let it go until Spotify officially comes to the US … and believe me, that wasn’t easy.

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