Spotify – not sure about the name, but liking the service

When you’ve been too busy to mess around much on the internet, or go through the thousands of items that have built up in your Google Reader feeds, it can be a bit difficult to come up with something to blog about… Happily, though, it seems I must have read about something called Spotify some while ago, applied to beta test it, and completely forgotten all about it, because a few weeks ago an invitation popped up in my inbox – just in time to provide me with a whole load of new music to accompany all of that aforementioned being busy.

Because that’s what Spotify is, a new music service. And, I’m happy to say, a pretty damned good one.

Essentially it’s legal, ad-supported streaming – download the Spotify player, search for music, create playlists, the usual thing – but remarkably smooth and easy to use. It’s quick to load, intuitive, and very rarely, and only ever briefly, glitchy. As for the range of music; you’ll be pleasantly surprised what’s on there (some quite obscure stuff, plus, unusually for these things, quite a lot of classical), and occasionally surprised at what’s not (Four Tet’s albums, say), but that always seems to be the way with these things and, hey, it’s still in beta – I’m assuming, in other words, that they’ll be constantly adding music.

Drawbacks? Well, just a few. A few albums I had on my playlist suddenly became unavailable and haven’t yet returned (some licensing problem, maybe?), and perhaps a little more work could be put into a mechanism for discovering new music (next to some artists you’ll find suggestions, but not others; however, checking out other artists appearing on the same compilation album can pay dividends), but really there’s not much to complain about. In particular, the staggered launch seems to be ensuring that the service stays quick and stable, so hopefully that sensible approach to building the customer base will continue.

But what about the advertising? Well, besides the odd unobtrusive image on the player, the ads primarily arrive in the form of occasional between-track radio style ads, but far shorter and far less frequent than on commercial radio. They’ll break the mood, sometimes, if you’re listening to a whole album, but you can always pay £0.99 to listen ad-free for the day, or £9.99 for the month – not bad, really, if you’re someone who would otherwise buy at least one CD a month. On the other hand, sometimes there isn’t an ad for ages…

Whether it’s a Last.fm-killer, of course, I’m not sure, since I still haven’t got around to that… but either way, I’d thoroughly recommend it – if nothing else, it’s great for trying before you buy.

However, at present, anyone wanting to give it a go will still need to apply to beta test it.

Actually, not quite anyone:

I have one spare invitation. Yours, to the quickest commenter off the mark.

EDIT: I forgot to mention that there is a radio function, which also helps a bit in discovering new music. You can select genres, time periods and combinations thereof and just listen to whatever Spotify throws up; or when you see the ‘Artist Radio’ option, click it and Spotify will play similar music, mixed with that artist’s own. The latter option’s nothing like as sophisticated as Pandora, yet, though, or MeeMix; so something more still wouldn’t go astray.

Also, the invitation has now been taken, but if I get any more, they might be posted here again…


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