With all the negativity surrounding the music industry at the moment, it’s nice to be able to focus on a genuinely brilliant service that could do wonders for all spectrums of the music industry – from small, independent bands right up to the majors. Spotify is such a service. Put simply, Spotify is a huge streaming legal library of music available in an iTunes-like interface which is currently available in Europe (Ireland is currently excluded as is the US and Canada but where there’s a way..).
Anyone can sign up for free and start listening to a band’s entire back catalogue ( I chose Super Furry Animals ), today’s chart hits, full albums and releases from less mainstream artists (MF Doom and Air France), with the (very) occasional advert. More discerning users can pay €9.99 a month for ad-free access.
What really sets the service apart from what’s come before is how easy it is to use. Spotify is fast. Like really fast. Tracks start to play almost instantaneously and in my experience (and many others), the stream was seamless, as if it was playing locally from my computer. The search function is intuitive, fast and accurate. Artist pages include bios, artist radio, top tracks and similar artists. You can create and share playlists with other users or use the radio function or explore.
More importantly: independent, major labels and unsigned artists have embraced Spotify. For example, at the time of writing, 8 of the 10 Choice Music Prize nominees had their shortlisted albums available on the service.
There are still signs that Spotify will encounter ye olde traditional roadblocks. In January, thousands of songs were taken from the service due to global licensing issues. Spotify’s global community manager Andre Sehr responded on the company blog: “These restrictions are a legacy from when most music was sold on tapes and CDs and they have continued over into streaming music, our hope is that one day restrictions like this will disappear for good.”
What Spotify does offer is quicker access to songs than illegal downloading does, albeit currently without downloadable files but the company has expressed interest in creating versions of Spotify for mobile phones, car stereos and mp3 players. Whatever happens, Spotify is fast becoming the shining beacon of today’s digital music models.