Talking tech since 2003

When news broke earlier this month that Spotify, a music service that has become incredibly popular in Europe, would become available in America I instantly became eager to try the service.  Finally I would have the opportunity to use the service that I had envied my European friends over.  So on Friday of last week when I had a chance to get online during my vacation I signed up for a Spotify Premium account so that I could get a feel for the service.  At just under ten dollars per month, the highest tier of Spotify’s service promised to be the perfect companion for music addicts such as myself.  With “millions and millions of tracks” of tracks available for streaming, as well as social integration and an offline mode to set it apart from other all-you-can-eat music services such as Rdio, the price for the service seemed incredibly justifiable.

Upon signing up for my account and downloading the application I was pleased to find that the selection of media was just as outstanding as I had envisioned.  Much like Apple’s iTunes music store, Spotify had countless tracks available and even a section showing popular chart-toppers.  The real difference was that with Spotify Premium I could listen and even store offline whatever I wanted without paying per-song fees of any sort.

Needless to say I soon fell in love with the service.  I added about a dozen songs to my “starred” playlist, which I then enabled for offline access.  Not always being connected to the Internet, this feature promised to be the key to allowing Spotify to replace my iTunes library entirely.

But when I went to go move a couple of songs over to my beloved iPod Classic, I soon came to realize that no matter how promising Spotify was it still wasn’t an iTunes replacement.  You see, even though users are free to use offline mode on their iOS and Android-based mobile handsets, users of any other MP3 player are left out.  Now, I completely understand Spotify’s need to protect their songs and prevent abuse in order for their service to be successful.  But in all honesty, I was a tad disappointed that the service wasn’t as flexible as it had originally seemed.

Moreover, this brought up an even bigger issue.  Spotify is indeed a great deal for someone who is constantly listening to and downloading the latest music or expanding their library.  Not only can one listen to Spotify’s entire library over a streaming connection, but favorite tracks and entire playlists can even be synced offline.  At the same time, though, you never really own the music you’re listening to.  Spotify users are limited to what devices they can listen on, and even though there aren’t going to be all that many users who will have problems with this I personally don’t like feeling restricted.  And if you ever cancel your Spotify subscription, you lose access to all of your songs; even those that you synced offline.  Again, I default to my dislike of being locked into services.

When all is said and done, Spotify is a great service.  And for causal listeners, I really think that the ten dollars per month is a small and very reasonable price to pay for what you get in retrospect to the per-song rates of other music services.  But for a certain number of people, Spotify seems somewhat pointless.  What good is an unlimited service if you have to buy songs through another service in order to gain what many now see as standard freedom and device portability?  Spotify doesn’t even offer the ability to buy individual songs directly from its application or service.

At the same time, if you’re on a supported device and do not intend to push the limits of DRM, Spotify is really a great service.  Regardless, I’ve canceled my subscription for the time being, because for me using the service means locking myself into a service with limited freedom in order to enjoy music.  I still have a few weeks to use Spotify before my billing period ends and I may very well opt to keep it (I’m not a huge mobile user after all, and I might just buy a compatible network-connected device).

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