My Favorite Things: Spotify, the Social Music Streaming Service

I’ve been thinking about a new series for awhile.  The idea is I get to share my favorite applications, gadgets, and services that I use on a regular basis.  Each one I am either already paying for or I would have paid for in a minute if they had not already sent me a free copy (and some I even pay for anyway just because I want to support the company since I like it so much).  This is your peak into my life and the things I use on a day-to-day basis.  These are the things that were so good they got me to spend time out of my busy schedule to share with you.  Listen carefully to these, as these are truly the technologies I really, really enjoy and I think you will too.  The first of these, which I’ve been trying to write about for awhile now, is an iTunes competitor called Spotify.

As I write this, I’m sitting here, listening to Dave Morin, a Facebook friend’s playlist of 90s music and none of it is hosted on either of our computers.  I’m listening to Sugar Ray’s “Every Morning”, and the cool thing is I haven’t even downloaded the song yet!  Spotify is a 100% cloud-based subscription service based in the UK where you pay a monthly fee, and get to stream as much high quality as you like to your computer.

Spotify’s database is amazing!  While there are some rarer songs that are harder to find, Spotify has been able to satisfy just about every search query I’ve given it, providing me with music all over the world in just a few clicks.  New releases come out on the service almost as quick as they come out on iTunes, and some like Mika’s new album even get exclusive release on the service earlier than they release in stores (Mika’s had an overlay for the pre-release time asking you to purchase the album).

Every song on the service can be added to a playlist, which, as I’ll show in a minute, all your friends can then subscribe to and also listen.  You can easily access any of your playlists, and it also keeps track of your searches so you can go back and access those as well.

Each song can be added to a playlist, or you can view your friends’ playlists

Social Integration

Spotify has the most amazing social integration of any music service I’ve used so far.  I think of it as “Twitter lists, for music”.  If you link your Facebook account it will immediately show you the playlists of all your friends, and you can “subscribe” to the playlists you like and have them appear in your sidebar for listening later.

In addition to subscription to friends’ lists, sharing is quite simple as well.  Just right-click on any song, click “Send to”, and you’re given the option to immediately share that song to Twitter, Facebook, or even friends on the Spotify service.  Your friends can then listen to the song on Spotify and add it to their lists as well.  I’ve found myself listening more to my friends’ music than my own playlists, discovering all kinds of new music, and music that I have not heard in ages via this means.  Remember listening to music with your high school buddies?  Now you can do so again through Spotify’s social integration.

Clicking on the “What’s New” tab not only gives me a customized view based on my listening habits of new music tailored for me, but I also get a feed of my friends’ listening activities.  I can see, in real-time what all my friends are listening to and check out what they are interested in right then and there.

Clicking “What’s New” gives me a feed of what all my friends are listening to

Downloads

With a near $20/month subscription, any user of Spotify can also download any of the music streamed on the service.  This way if you don’t have an internet connection later you can still listen to the music with no problem.  You can even take it further though – in any friend’s list, if you swipe a box next to “Available Offline”, all of that friend’s list will download to your computer for listening later.  This makes it easy to bring the entire musical experience with you no matter where you go.

Mobile App

I actually loved the service so much that I proxied the service so I could pay them the monthly fee (I had a free blogger copy) just so I could try out the iPhone app.  The iPhone app provides most of the same functionality as the desktop application, and also gives you full ability to download music for listening when you don’t have a connection in the car.  I’ve found the music quality on the iPhone is not quite as clear as the iPhone’s native iPod player, but it is still good, and worth using.  The service is also available on Android and Symbian devices.

Spotify’s iPhone version

US Release?

Spotify currently is only available outside the United States, and to select bloggers in a limited US trial.  I originally got access to the service for free, but I liked it so much I am now paying the monthly fee just to support the service.  Rumors abound about a US release, but it is still unclear on when this will happen.

So, if you’re in the UK or any of the areas Spotify is available, be sure to check it out and give it a try.  For those of us in the US, we’ll be stuck waiting until the US music industry gets its gear in order, contracts are signed, and we too will have the opportunity to try out the goodness that is Spotify.  Spotify is the most amazing music service I’ve ever used, and I quickly find it replacing my usage of iTunes and even social streaming services like Last.fm and Pandora Radio.  Spotify has revolutionized the way I listen to music.  If you can, I highly recommend you check it out.

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