Jul 20th, 2011

Spotify launched in the US last week, and I have been spending the last few days diving into the new music craze that is sweeping the nation. Already established as tops in its class across the pond, Spotify is available for free as a limited preview, but that won’t do you any good if you want to take advantage of the music service on your Android smartphone. You will need one of two subscription models, and luckily if you’re willing to pay you won’t have to wait for an invite. Spotify is an excellent compliment to your existing music library, allowing you to take most of your tracks everywhere you go without the hassle of syncing to a single device. Use it on your computer, your friends computer, your smartphone…and share your music the whole way.

Let’s get one thing straight. Spotify isn’t Pandora (or Slacker, etc.). And not “isn’t” Pandora as in it isn’t as good as Pandora. It just isn’t Pandora. Someone made a comparison I found quite apt. Pandora is like listening to the radio. You can choose generally what you want to hear but the playlist is largely out of your control. Spotify is like your record collection. All of your favorite songs and albums are there to listen to, in any order, on demand. Except…Spotify isn’t just like your record collections, it is your record collection.

Spotify is installed to your desktop, gathers the music on your hard drive (including your existing iTunes library), and syncs it all for access anywhere at anytime. And they mean anywhere, anytime. You can select tracks to be available for offline playback on your mobile, freeing you from the burden of a cellular or WiFi network (or maybe just cutting back on your data usage). But herein lies perhaps the most major fault with Spotify: if the DRM rights to certain tracks in your library aren’t owned by Spotify, you won’t get to stream or share those songs. For the most part my iTunes library remained more or less in tact, but certain albums were left out, or in some instances an album might only have two or three tracks it can stream.

The Android app is about what you’d expect from any music app. View, create, and edit playlists, search for and add new music to your library, it’s all pretty old hat at this point, but we applaud Spotify for keeping it simple. One of the cooler features of the service is the ability to share music to your social networks or send songs to a friend’s Spotify inbox, allowing them to hear the track. Sharing is super easy in the Spotify app. Just long-press the item you wish to share and choose the option from the menu.

A drawback to Spotify is the lack of a web-based music player. Without one, accessing Spotify from a computer without the Spotify app, or, in my case, on Google TV is nearly impossible. But that minor setback shouldn’t detract from the overall experience.

If you aren’t on Spotify and don’t buy the hype, I understand. I was once in the same position, but just a week with the service and I’m jumping on the bandwagon. For me it won’t replace other options like Grooveshark, Slacker, or Pandora, but it will definitely get its fair share of use.