So I finally received my beta invitation for Spotify, the new internet-based music-streaming service that’s absolutely free at the point of use, but is subsidised by the occasional advert. And I’m exceptionally happy, because, much as I love buying music, I also like hearing songs that I’ve heard a lot about, but which aren’t being played on the radio, because the radio only plays rubbish.
This means that Spotify makes an awful lot of sense for any kind of music listener.
It’s 100% legal, because the money raised from advertising and premium passes goes to the record companies; it’s of a decent quality – around 160 kb/sec; and, best of all, they’ve put an awful lot of thought into the design of the application, which is available for both Mac and PC. It’s a joy to navigate around in; it’s dead easy to find artists, albums and individual songs; and what is even more promising are its ‘social’ features. Any user of Spotify can create playlists, for which a URL will also be created, which can be shared with any other user. Already there are plenty of websites springing up which list and categorise people’s uploaded playlists: for instance, some enterprising souls have created playlists for Pitchfork’s Top Albums and Top Songs of 2008, which is ideal for anyone wanting to actually hear the music that’s being acclaimed but not heard through conventional media.
The only downside is that it’ll probably convince me to buy more music too, for now that I’ve finally heard ESG’s “Moody”, or the excellent live version of Wilco‘s “Poor Places”, I’ll definitely be thinking of buying the original albums. Of course, nothing beats the physical embodiment of an album, as I’ve already discussed, but I’m not exactly going to rush out to buy an album from which I’ve heard absolutely nothing; only read reviews.
That aside, it’s also a great way of hearing old singles that I really should have heard by now – for instance, Gil Scott-Heron’s landmark proto-rap poem “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised”. However people use Spotify, it makes money for the music industry, which can’t be a bad thing, given its current beleaguered state (I would give anything to get Guy Hands‘ hands off EMI), without imposing a compulsory cost on the end-user. It’s a great idea, and while I’m here in halls, freed from the constraints of bandwidth download limits, I’m planning on making heavy use of it, not only to preview my potential purchases, but also to stock up on the music history that I’m lacking. Next stop: Arthur Russell!