We’ve been hearing our geeky European counterparts rave about Spotify for years. The service lets you instantly listen to music. We’re talking about a massive on-demand catalog of music of over 15 million tracks that is free to stream. Well, it’s free for the basic service, which is supported by ads. For $9.99 a month, Spotify’s premium service lets you take the music with you on your phone too. So now that Spotify has finally arrived on U.S. shores, is it all that it was cracked up to be? Yes.
To get started with Spotify you’ll need to download the Spotify desktop app. On Mac, the app is very lightweight and responsive. It feels a lot less bloated than some other music management software we have used in the past. Its interface is also very straightforward. The software automatically recognizes your iTunes playlists and your local music files. Within minutes we were creating playlists. The app also has a Top 100 section which lets you browse through the top 100 tracks and albums, and of-course you can pick and choose what to add to your playlists. A search field on top lets you instantly search through Spotify’s library of millions of tunes. And search away we have! We’ve also been hard pressed to find any popular artists that we enjoy, missing from Spotify’s database.
Things get even more interesting if you pay for Spotify’s $9.99 premium account. A premium account means you get to take your Spotify tracks with you and you also get offline access. Spotify has an app available for the iPhone and Android phones. You can transfer songs to your smartphone over Wi-Fi, no usb cables required! After I downloaded the Spotify app onto my phone. the Spotify desktop app recognized my iPhone right away. It took under a minute for me to wirelessly sync a playlist I had just created with 12 new songs. The process was bug free and flawless. That is some impressive stuff.
You can also set certain playlists to be offline, so that this way if you don’t have an internet connection you can still have access to your Spotify tracks.
The Desktop app has some significant sharing features as well – you can share your playlists on Twitter. Plus, you can link Spotify to your Facebook account so that your friends can see your Spotify playlists and vice versa.
That said, Spotify is not nearly as good a tool for discovering new music as Pandora or Last.FM, as it’s really a different beast altogether. So it seems its closest direct competitor is Rdio which offers a similar pricing scheme, mobile phone and offline support. However, Rdio offers both a web based and desktop app client, while Spotify only has a desktop app. Also, Rdio currently offers a catalog of over 9 million tracks in comparison to Spotify’s library over 15 million tracks. Also, Rdio’s app’s interface is overall more slick in comparison to Spotify’s.
We’ve lost a good few hours playing around with Spotify today and it was totally an enjoyable experience. Their catalog of current big hits is very impressive, everything is pretty much there. However, if I do decide to continue using Spotify, that doesn’t mean that I wont be purchasing music anymore. When it comes to music I really like, I still find it satisfying to own the tracks. However, there are plenty of tracks, especially when it comes to top hits, that I do enjoy when I hear them on the radio, but I really don’t want to shell out money to purchase them on iTunes. That is where Spotify comes in for me. Not to mention that being able to instantly search a massive music library and instantly stream tracks on demand is pretty sweet.
Update 07/17/2011: Looking for a Spotify U.S. invite code? We’re giving them away here.
Update 7/9/12: Check out our full review of Rdio.