Why I'm excited about Spotify

Posted by Steven Suwatanapongched on August 8, 2011
I'm so excited and I just can't hide it. - Pointer Sisters (reference)

I’ve been using Spotify now for a few weeks already. I’ve enjoyed it so much I upgraded to a premium account the very same day I signed up for it, so I could enjoy it on my mobile smartphone. Overall it’s been a great service that I use almost daily. For a long time I’ve been waiting for music to hit the cloud, and this year alone it’s really been a hit.

I once was an iTunes user, back in 2005 and 2006. I bought all my music exclusively through them. That is until my PC’s hard drive crashed and my latest backup didn’t contain a lot of the music I bought. Previous to this crash, I had another hard drive crash that caused me to lose a decent amount of my music collection. In fact that was what turned me on to use iTunes, I was almost at zero anyway, may as well have a fresh start!

I wasn’t just upset with my PC for crashing, but also Apple’s iTunes system. I bought all this music through them, and there wasn’t an easy way for me to retrieve it all back, despite that I bought and owned them. And back then Apple had DRM on all of their songs. They have limits to how many CDs a song could be burned to as well as how many devices iTunes could run on!

I’m aware that I probably could have contacted Apple via email or phone, and they might have given me the opportunity to re-download my music. But I just didn’t feel like doing that. To me, that feature should be built into the software.

In 2009, I discovered LaLa. I actually wrote a blog post about them back then: LaLa.com: A Better Alternative to iTunes. I loved the service. It was great because I could not only download and own my music, but I could keep it stored on their servers (the cloud) to listen to anywhere I wanted. Plus it was DRM free, I could listen to the whole song as a preview before deciding if I wanted to buy it. This was a great alternative to iTunes and a great taste of freedom.

Unfortunately, later in 2009, Apple bought Lala. The following May of 2010, Apple shut them down. I was so infuriated. A great service I liked and was using, was shutting down and I was given credit to Apple’s iTunes. Like I wanted to go back and use iTunes! I was so sick of how much Apple wanted to try and shove Quicktime down my throat! Many of us speculated that Apple wanted to have a cloud storage system for their iTunes service. 2010 passed and nothing was released.

So for months following LaLa’s demise, I fell back to using Songbird and Winamp, and managed my own music over a Windows Explorer once again. I also became more adament about backing up my data regularly.

I also used Amazon MP3 mostly, which was DRM-free. It was great back then but it wasn’t until May of 2011 that they came out with Amazon Cloud Drive/Player. I was excited again. Once again I could buy/own/stream music to my heart’s content, with the warm fuzzy feeling, knowing that my music purchases was stored safely somewhere else, and that I could access it anywhere, and re-download them all if need be. Plus there was no device limit.

Not long after, Google came out with a beta for Google Musi. I think it’s great how it has a 20,000 song limit. I’m currently only at around 13,000 or so. But I personally have a few problems with it. One, there is no option to buy music from Google, this is a missing workflow currently. Two, unless you have your music’s meta data incredibly organized, it can be a mess to look at. For instance, I have a lot of Thai, Chinese, and Japanese mp3s, where the Artist, Album, and other ID3 tags are incomplete or just plain messed up. This music management mess was enough to turn me off from using the service currently. Of course this is all still in beta, so by means is it a refined service for public consumption.

In June 2011 Steve Jobs revealed the iCloud service, but it won’t be available until Fall of 2011. It would maybe be of interest to me if it would retroactively let me download all the previously purchased music from 2005/2006. But it doesn’t change the fact that I stil do no like using iTunes even on my Macbook Pro.

In mid July 2011, Spotify says hello the the US. Hello Spotify.

Here’s what I like about Spotify, despite other great music cloud services from Amazon and Google: I don’t have to own and manage my music. No need to do regular backups or worry that I will lose the music I purchased, because I don’t own them anymore. This is a huge relief on my part. Even the freemium desktop service allows me to listen to songs I don’t own, in full. I simply pay my $9.99 per month, and I can enjoy all the American music I like, hassle free.

The social aspect is great too, but it still needs time and improvement. Public playsists was something I really enjoyed about LaLa, which was also easily discoverable by users browsing content. This isn’t easily discoverable on Spotify, yet. Also, they don’t have support for a variety of languages yet either– Thai, Chinese, Japanese for instance.

Sure there are other similar services like Spotify out there like Grooveshark, Rdio, and Pandora. I admit that I haven’t fully tried the alternatives fully, at least not recently. But regardless, by letting go of my need to own music, I can easily switch services as need be. To me, with all this competition for my business, that’s worth getting excited about.