Spotify – The Way Forward?
So this past week Spotify launched it’s iPhone & Android application to allow it’s premium members the ability to tap into it’s music library on the go. Almost immediately people were complaining on the iTunes store about the fact that you have to pay to use it. The root cause being that the desktop version of Spotify is free to use. Do they have a point and is Spotify the way forward for online music?
Before the iPhone app I happily used the Spotify desktop application and put up with the ads as really I didn’t see the point in the premium account. At the time the bonus of the premium account was higher bit-rate tracks, no ads and a few other things besides. However once the iPhone application was released I took the plunge. For the price of the premium account (£10/mnth) I now have the ability to stream music on 3G and sync music for offline play. When you consider the cost benefit in terms of what you get it’s a pretty good deal. Consider that in the short time I’ve been a premium member I’ve synced four Kings of Leon albums, one album by Prodigy and another by Kimya Dawson. The cost of this through iTunes, where I buy most of my music, would be £47.85 so I’ve already made a saving. Now I appreciate I don’t “own” these albums. If I don’t renew my subscription come month end I will lose the ability to use the application and those offline playlists. Those who are against paying for Spotify point out that a years subscription costs £120 which is a lot of money for a service whereby in the end, you don’t own any of that music.
However I’ve chosen to look at the flipside. There are many times where I’ve heard a song that I like and thought of downloading an album to listen to more of their stuff or a friend has recommended at artist they think I might like but decided against it in case I don’t like it. Spotify allows me to check these artists out with out paying for that album. Now I appreciate the free desktop version of Spotify allowed me to do this but now if I do like it I don’t have to buy that album straight away. I can listen to it a few times, decide if I want to add it to my collection. On the cost side, if I sync more that 12 songs in a given month then, going by the average cost of a song in iTunes, again I’ve already made a saving. As far as the negative reviews on the iTunes store it’s been no secret that it was going to be a premium member only application. It’s also not the only company to employ this strategy when it comes to iPhone access. Remember the Milk, the online task management website, only allows its Pro members the ability to use its iPhone application.
So is Spotify the way forward for online music? I’d say it was complimentary rather than the way to follow. Spotify frees music lovers from having to buy a CD and wonder whether they’ve made a good choice and if not, live with an album they’ll never listen to again. It allows you, the listener, to be discerning in your choice of what you will actually purchase from your music provider be it iTunes or your local music store. Yes there are limitations to the service for a start there is nowhere near the same amount of music and artists on there as you would find in iTunes. A very good friend of mine has told me that one artist he listens to used to have 5 albums on Spotify but now just has the one. There could be licensing reasons for this decline but it is a bit of a concern.
However at the end of the day this is an amazing piece of software. The quality over 3G in my limited amount of testing is superb and the offline synching when on wi-fi was a breeze. It’s implemented well and is a real alternative for music listeners, the free offline application being a fantastic start point and the iPhone/Android app being there for those who wish to step up to premium. Yes it’s a little costly but when you do some of the math you find out it’s pretty good deal and Spotify isn’t forcing anyone to pay for premium. In some ways though the naysayers do have a point and they could create a free iPhone application to use but then if it wants to grow and increase it’s music library the money has got to come from somewhere and that somewhere I feel is the iPhone application. With it being locked to premium members only I would imagine more and more people will sign up to that service.