Spotify is the latest weapon in my music arsenal. When I ah…spotted a link to it on Facebook recently, my first reaction was, what the hell is a Spotify and why do I need another music widget, and besides, I’ve already got something that’ll post music from my playlists to Facebook. I think it was iLike, but there’s also Songza, Earbits, and a few others. The point is–nothing does it quite like Spotify. I should tell you that in order to listen to music posted on Facebook with Spotify, you have to have Spotify. It’s a free download. Get the upgrade for $5 a month.
The most amazing thing I’ve found about Spotify is how instantaneously it works. You click on a music link and you’re instantly listening to the music, whether you have the music file on your computer or not! So, yes, it’s the hands down best way to share music on Facebook. But that’s not nearly all you can do with it.
I sort of started this story in the middle. Let’s back up to the beginning. How do I get Spotify, and do I really need it? You simply go to http://www.spotify.com and click on the free download button. And yes you do need it. If you want to listen to unlimited free music of your own choosing, explore and discover artists in greater depth than you ever could before, listen to whole songs–not just samples or clips, but whole songs, whole albums, and whole collections, without ever buying them, then you need Spotify. It’s so good it should be illegal, but it’s not.
Ok, you’ve got all this music on iTunes, and now you’ve got Spotify. Music in two places? Two similar programs taking up space on my computer? Whaaaa, what do I do now? You leave them both there, that’s what you do. And no, you only have one set of music files accessible from both programs. And Spotify, unlike iTunes, takes up very little space on your computer’s hard drive. Most of Spotify’s “guts” are online. The part that’s on your computer (client side) is little more than a widget. The music files you listen to–other than your iTunes downloads–are on the internet (server side or cloud-based as it’s now called).
Now will I have to get used to a whole different way of viewing and playing my music? What will happen to those precious playlists that I put so much thought into? Oh those. You can simply import your whole playlist structure from iTunes into Spotify, exactly the way it is. Or you can set up a whole new structure in Spotify and drag and drop individual songs into whatever playlists you want to put them in. And as far as getting used to something different, Spotify looks and works very much like iTunes.
The biggest difference is the colors. Where iTunes has a lot of white, Spotify is darker. But the menus and sidebars look almost identical. The columns you’re used to seeing in iTunes with Song, Artist, Album, Genre, etc., are pretty much the same with some minor differences.
So what are the main differences? The big difference is that there’s no store on Spotify. No Genius Recommendations, no advertising, no Ping, no endless marketing gimmicks. On Spotify they’re not trying to sell you anything. In fact you can’t buy anything on Spotify, other than the upgrade. There is also no equalizer. Which, at first, sounds like a bad thing, but on iTunes I was always fiddling with the equalizer trying to get the optimum sound, always tweaking, tweaking, looking for perfection. Spotify sounds better than iTunes without ever having to tweak or fiddle with the sound. It’s clearer, crisper, and louder than iTunes. In a nutshell, it sounds great! I’ll tell you about a cheat I learned for the perfect iTunes equalizer settings, but that’s for another time.
This article was not going to be about a comparison between Spotify and iTunes, and I don’t want to give you the wrong idea–they’re two different tools that do mostly different things, and you really should have them both. But, once you get Spotify, you’ll find yourself spending less time on iTunes. You may come to prefer it for listening and exploring music, but you’ll always go back to iTunes to buy music. Don’t forget to drag and drop any new music you buy on iTunes into your Spotify playlists. They won’t show up there unless you do.
One of the really great things about Spotify is the way you can explore a particular artist or band. You can either click on a band name in your playlist, or you can search a band name. Either way, Spotify instantly returns everything it has by that artist, organized as a list, or grouped by album, whichever you prefer.
And you can listen to all of it at your whim. As you listen–or while you’re just browsing music lists–right click on any song for a menu of options. You can add it to a playlist, star it, share it on Facebook, get online info about it, edit info, or delete it.
How does Spotify get away with letting people listen to music for free and even adding it to their playlists without paying for it? They are able to do this by buying licensing rights from big music labels in exchange for the right to offer it to subscribers for free, or for the small cost of the subscription if you choose to upgrade to unlimited or premium level.
Are there any downsides to Spotify? Well I don’t think this is a downside, but I know there are a fair number of dedicated Facebook haters out there. Bad news for you guys. Spotify recently restricted membership to only people who have Facebook accounts. I think it simplifies the registration process, or maybe there’s some kind of deal between them and Facebook. Now quit asking so many questions and go try it for yourself.