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Spotify: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

Posted by on July 15, 2011 at 11:41 pm

Spotify finally released in North America today, marking their latest and greatest expansion ever. For those unawares, with Spotify, you can access virtually any music ever made (well, of a 13 million-strong library) and sync it anywhere. If you have the Premium service, you can even sync all that content to and fro your mobile. So how is it? We at FleshEatingZipper are more than willing to give you our fierce opinions about it!

Nick – using the $10 Spotify Premium service

Well, after a little bit of this:

[blackbirdpie url="http://twitter.com/#!/TerranCEO/status/91578373020717056"]

…I finally got the stupid thing working. As you already know, I’m a Zune guy, and have been using their Pass for over four years now at $14.99 a month after blowing hundreds of dollars buying songs piecemeal on iTunes. This has given me a la carte access to virtually any songs that I’ve ever wanted, provided I’ve been using the Zune software and a Zune player. New album comes out, boom, I just download it. My British friends had been taunting me with Spotify for a while because the thing is stupid popular over in Europe. Now that it’s available State-side, I’ve been able to give it a peek and after messing with a variety of new music services, I’m about to say, gulp, that I might just give up my Zune Pass for it.

Home software

Spotify comes in three tiers: Free (which you can stream any music you want to your home software), Unlimited (which is the same as Free, but with no ads), and Premium (which gives you the great mobile experience, which I’ll go over in a second). With the lower tiers, you can stream content everywhere, but with Premium, you also get to download the music onto your PC and on your mobile. You can even scrobble to Last.FM, which is a service I had used during my iTunes/early Zune years. You can even share your playlists with Facebook friends, but only two of my friends have their Spotify accounts linked up and none are sharing music. Jerks.

Spotify immediately identified my iTunes purchases and offered to redownload the songs in their own format, which I thought was a great gestures. There are some missing tracks and albums, but whatever. Adding new music couldn’t be easier: you search for what you want, find those tracks, then drag them to your library/playlists, and think no more. That’s all. The software works well enough, but I do have a few quips:

  • Being stylistically ripped from iTunes, it features the same stupid ultra-dense track listings and, for whatever reason, a dark theme (seen above). I guess I’ll get used to it.
  • No podcast section.
  • Not much in the way of music discovery if your Facebook friends aren’t on. Or sharing. Jerks.
  • No storefront, and a too-simple New Release/Top Songs section. Meh.
  • No auto-playlists. NO AUTO-PLAYLISTS! Which means if you want to create a list that automatically tabulates your most-listened songs or only include songs from a particular time or genre, you’re SOL.
  • I can’t find a way to turn off the slight amount of crossfading that happens between songs.

Being able to find and add music to playlists without hardly any trouble is amazing, though. The best part of the service for me has to be…

Mobile app

Let me just start off by saying that I hate the way that Zune handles syncing with portable devices, it’s like we’re still in 2005. The easiest way to move music from your PC to your MP3 player, even if it’s a Windows Phone, is to physically plug it into your computer and transfer it over old school-style. Even the once-super-neat-o wireless syncing can only be done via a local wi-fi network and only at a time of its choosing after you’ve plugged it into a wall-based power source. It’s a step shy of alchemy. Playlists don’t sync unless you do it from your computer and there’s no cloud aspect to the Zune service at all. It’s frustrating. Spotify, however, is different.

(Left: The various music services on my phone. From top to bottom: Pandora, Amazon MP3, Spotify, and Google Music)

First off, I gotta say Spotify has the best Android widget and probably the best music app I’ve ever used. It replicates the home software almost to a T (that is, if you’re using the Premium version of the service) allowing for all the functionality you’d normally get at home while you’re on the go. For example, let’s say you’re on the go and want to find a song. You can, right there in the moment, search for the song and if you find the right one, just long-hold on the song and you can add it to your playlist. Not only does it add it to your playlist on your mobile, it automatically syncs it to your home service in real time. This is what Zune should’ve been doing a long time ago and it’s amazing that they still won’t be doing it in time for their new Mango update.

The app is available for all major platforms with Windows Phone soon to come. Yummy.

Conclusion

This is the best ‘warehouse-free’ music service I’ve used. You’re uploading music, sure, but it happens behind the scenes. iTunes Music Match would probably be the best comparison, but the service only works on iOS devices. Google Music and Zune essentially cart your music around like it’s moving from one storage unit to the other, but Spotify allows you to grab your music everywhere and sync with everything. As someone who enjoys acquiring music as it comes down, this is a great service.

Rob – using the $10 Spotify Premium service

Yep, here comes that cynical prick, Rob to wreck the show for everyone.

Nick has pretty much covered all the bases as far as operation and functionality of the software, which is good. I’ve been busy trying to score with this hot little blonde number and him going all Encyclopedia Britannica up in this bitch frees up some time for me to lay the mack down.

So here’s what I think of Spotify. Broken down in to some nice unordered lists with pros and cons.

Pros

  • Searching for music is pretty easy. Pop in a name and hit enter!
  • Search results can be broken down further, just by clicking links.
  • Related searches are conveniently displayed for you.
  • Adding songs to your playlist is an effortless drag-n-drop.
  • If you select an artist, all of their (available) work is broken down by album/year.
  • The Android widget is smooth like warm butter.
  • Harry…Motherfucking…Connick!
Cons
  • No AC/DC? Really, Spotify?
  • 1 (one, un, uno, ichi, I) Metallica song. Really, Spotify?
  • 1 Pink Floyd Album. Really, Spotify?
  • But, somehow, everything Roger Waters has ever done. Really, Spotify?
  • If you haven’t synched for offline play and your internets goes down, you’re boned.
  • I do a search for Chopin’s Etudes and they have them by Tatiana Shebanova but, somehow, NOT Valentina Lisitsa, whose playing is FAR superior. WTF?! Who finds this music for them?
  • Did they really HAVE to make it look like iTunes?

Ok, so some of that stuff may sound kind of nit-picky but…That’s what this is about. Here’s what I really think of this Spotify business:

I already have about 12 metric butt-tonnes of music. Between ripping CD’s, grabbing music off the Zune Marketplace and robbing old ladies for their iPods, I have all the music I need. I don’t really need another music service in my life. Now, I’ll grant you that as time goes on, new music is going to come out and I’m going to want some of that. I’ll grant you that having an instant streaming service like Spotify may be a good thing because I can listen to new music on the spot and get my funk on any time I want to. I’ll also grant that being able to bust a move to jams on my Thunderbolt, at will, is pretty cool.

But…

I already HAVE a music service. I’ve been using it for a long, long time and I have a lot of music. Hell, I have a couple thousand songs on my phone right now and it has TONS of space for more. Also, I don’t know what’s supposed to happen if I’m in an area that doesn’t have good cell coverage and I need to rock out to some tunes I don’t have on my phone. Like, what if I’m in a hostage situation and the only way to save 100 lives is to play “Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner” for the captors, but we’re in a dead spot? We’re screwed. (Ok, I was just really being a dong, there. The point is that the bonus of being able to wirelessly synch is mitigated if you think about cell coverage areas, etc…)

I guess the thing that makes me very blase about this whole thing is that this is just another music service. There’s really nothing special about it that I can see and so it just seems like another $10 a month that I could be spending on hookers and blow being handed out to yet another music service.

If you don’t have one already then, by all means, jump right on the Spotify bandwagon and hold on. I’m sure it’s going to be quite a ride. As for me, I’m just not convinced it’s worth another Hamilton every month.

Kelly – using the $5 Spotify Unlimited service (I’m a cheap bastard)

I’m one of those people that would rather have the radio side of things, I buy music, but I like to hear new things. I subscribed to Slacker for two years because I loved the unlimited skipping feature, my genre was 80′s, 90′s and today. Songs would repeat, I would get pissed and I started listening to Pandora more. I did the same setup, searched for the genres; 80′s, 90′s, today, 70′s, R&B and hip-hop. I was loving it so I cancelled my Slacker subscription and started paying for Pandora.

Spotify got on my radar because I heard that it was like the Zune pass mixed with Pandora. Even Wikipedia says that it has the radio feature and the was the first thing that I looked for after I connected my Facebook account. I couldn’t find that shit though! WTF, is that something that is not in the US version? Spotify give me my damn radio feature!

I tried getting over it. The app looks a lot like iTunes but lacks the greatest feature of iTunes, the new/top albums and being able to pick a specific genre and only see those albums (Nick mentioned this also). So what did I do? I went to Amazon’s music section to find some stuff to listen to. First album that I wanted was Hell: The Sequel – I typed it exactly like it is, nothing found. What? I thought let me try without the colon, bam! Seriously, the search sucks if it’s going to be picky. They also need to add some auto complete suggestions.

I’m not a New Boyz fan but I thought I would check out their newest album since I couldn’t think of anything else to listen to but I was immediately confused since I was presented with SIX album covers all looking the same (except that parental advisory logo on two of them), surely I could roll over them and get the titles, how many tracks, release date, if its explicit, etc. Nope.

They need to limit some of the choices here, give me two choices max; the album that has the most songs (like the deluxe version) and if there is a clean version list that. Nothing else!

Spotify overall is pretty neat, it’s cheaper than a Zune Pass (just not as pretty as the Zune software) and if they add the radio features I’ll be happy. Right now though, don’t even talk to me…

Amy – using the Free Spotify service

As someone who has had awful luck with music managing systems, I’m impressed with the free version Spotify so far. It has managed to not freeze when reading and importing music from my network attached storage and it managed to sync with my phone, neither which my previous programs could manage. The streaming I’m still iffy on, according to Terms of Service (yes, I read that) “The Spotify Service can be accessed (i) as an ad-supported free-to-the-user service having no monthly cap on listening hours or a cap on number of plays of a unique track during the first 6 months following creation of your Spotify account but thereafter a cap of 10 listening hours per month and a cap of 5 plays per unique track (the “Free Service”)” That is my biggest down fall at this moment. So far I haven’t had a problem with the music managing part with my own MP3s, it’s worked better than both Itunes and Song Bird for me on my make. The mobile application works fairly well, though I do wish there were controls similar to Double Twist, where I can still use basic controls (Skip, pause, play, back) without having to unlock my phone. The true test is going to see how limited my free version becomes in six months and if my experience with the free version is life changing enough to pay the five dollars a month.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Phorat-Sagdiyev/1180037970 Phorat Sagdiyev

    I prefer Pandora – it’s one Hell of a lot easier to use, and it’s introduced me to tons of new music – some of which is not available on Spotify (I checked).

    • Anonymous

      Pandora is much better for discovery no doubt, but for acquiring and maintaining a regular stable of music, it just can’t do it. Kelly likes the radio method of listening to music, but I like having a vault I can recall and listen to over and over. Can’t do that with Pandora.


 
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