The do it all online music service Spotify launched in the US today. Since I first checked out Spotify courtesy of a friend from London a few months back, I’ve been keeping tabs on when it would finally make it to North America. There’s no shortage of choices if you’re looking to listen to music online. Why is Spotify so exciting? In the simplest terms , Spotify just does everything right.
Doing everything right starts with setting the service up. You’re asked to sign in, which you can do via your Twitter or Facebook account, or you can create a new username and account right on the spot. Next you’re prompted to download the Spotify app. I grabbed the OSX version. There is also a Windows version, and several different mobile versions available. The time it took me to go from creating my account to listening to my first song was just about two minutes. It was a speedy, hassle free process with no unnecessary bloat. That is signup done right.
When you fire up the Spotify app for the first time you’re thrown into a slick, grayscale interface with a massive number of choices to start playing music. You can check out ‘Top Lists’, a selection of massively long playlists that are all over the place musically. Some of it is the standard stuff you’ll here on any radio station, but I was happy to see some more obscure tracks from Thievery Corporation and Lupe Fiasco popping up right off the bat. The ‘What’s New’ tab has selection of just released albums, as well as a blog type newsfeed that has Spotify news and playlists created by various users. The ‘Feed’ section expands on this feature, and this looks like a useful way to see new features as well as discover new music that is highlighted here.
The best feature of Spotify is the search. It’s just a simple search box, similar to what appears in a million other apps,but the results are just off the chain. It’s the amount of quality music that you can find here that really separates Spotify from the other music apps out there. For instance I did a search for Jeru the Damaja, an amazing but slept on MC who made his mark in the 90’s NYC hip hop scene. I found most of his albums ready to be listened to. Similarly, I ran a query for Jawbreaker, one of the all time greatest punk bands you’ve never heard of, and got a whole mess of their tunes to listen too. Jeru and Jawbreaker aren’t completely unknown, but are far from popular. The fact that I can dig this stuff up and listen to it hassle free is the promise of the web delivered in full. There is a full equipped Library feature that allows you to combine songs you find on Spotify,along with your own tunes into one very easy to organize mass of songs. There’s no hopping around, copying songs from one spot to another. You can hear it all in one place. That’s slick.
Another feature that separates Spotify from the pack of other streaming music apps is the fact that it plays nice with your music. At some point during the installation, the music stored locally on my drive was cataloged, and is available for play under the ‘Library’ and ‘Local Files’ tabs. If I’m in the mood to listen to something I already own, I don’t have to switch apps. I just pop into the Library tab and play it. This is extremely convenient. This compatibility extends over to any music devices you might have, like your iPod and Android phone. It eliminates the need to use iTunes for the most part, which is great, because I have a pretty cold relationship with that app due to the horrific UX, nausea inducing DRM and constant massive updates.
An app isn’t an app these days without social features, right? Thankfully, music is one area where being social and connecting with your friends is a big positive. Spotify integrates with Facebook, and once you connect the two, you’re able to see your friends that are also Spotify users, through this connection you can send songs to friends, which will pop up in their inbox. Does a track remind you a certain friend? Passing it along to them is as simple as clicking on their profile and selecting the music you want to share. In many cases, the social features of music apps feel like a tacked on throwaway, but the Facebook integration and inbox feature are well integrated here and actually useful. I can see myself sharing tunes here, where I tend to ignore the social aspects of the other music sites I’ve tried.
Spotify is ad supported, and there are banner ads in the main interface and occasionally an audio ad in your music stream. I barely noticed their existence, and they don’t diminish the experience at all. There’s also a premium, paid version of the app available. The paid version lets you listen to music on the move via your mobile phone or offline if you’re without an internet connection. I haven’t tried the premium version yet, so I can’t say how it works, but I’m planning to give it a shot at some point in the future when I have a need for those specific features.
Spotify is the music app that we’ve all been waiting for. It does one thing perfectly: it lets you listen to the music you want to hear with no hassles. It’s a simple concept but Spotify executes it with perfection. Well done Spotify, you’ve got a true believer in this music nerd.