A few days ago I downloaded and installed Spotify (it runs really well in Linux under Wine).

I’ve only been using it for a few days and already I love it. If you haven’t heard about it, the basic concept is that it’s a bit of software which you install, and then you can login to the Spotify servers using it and listen to music. The key difference between it and other music services is that – all the music is streamed, never downloaded to your computer. And it’s not the RealAudio kind of streaming either (i.e., spends most of the time “buffering”) – it’s virtually instantaneous. As in, it’s as if it’s all on your computer.

It’s also free to use – it’s advertising supported. This isn’t as bad as it sounds, there are a few audio ads every now and then but in general the advertising is pretty unobtrusive. They also provide a subscription model where you can pay a certain amount per month for no ads. They also have a huge selection of music – the only artists I couldn’t find on there were quite ‘niche’ market (i.e. drum & bass, EDM – that sort of thing). Oh, and there are no Beatles songs on there – which isn’t surprising as there are no Beatles songs on iTunes (some legal issues, not quite sure what).

There are a few downsides to Spotify, though: 1. In order to get that instantaneous quality, the bitrate isn’t massive. This does mean that the sound quality wouldn’t be as high as if you were listening to a CD or high-quality MP3s – but to my ears it’s not really noticeable; 2. You have to be at your computer to listen to it (don’t know if you have use it over a Smartphone, but unfortunately I don’t have one).

Anyway, I think it’s an absolutely fantastic idea: although I do like having my own music, and listening to it in the car or wherever – it’s probably the best thing currently available for discovering bands you might like. In the past 24 hours I’ve listened to about four different bands I’d wanted to check out, ordered two new CDs, and generally had a whale of a time. I often would say with downloading music illegally that it was a good way of previewing music – try before you buy kind of scheme. Well this is the ultimate “try before you buy” kind of scheme: you can listen to an album as many times as you like, for free. You can discover similar artists and instantaneously have access to their entire back catalogue.

I don’t think I will use Spotify much to listen to music on a day to day basis, but in terms of finding bands I might enjoy – definitely. I’ve just ordered two albums (on CD – by Arcade Fire and the Fleet Foxes) on the strength of hearing them on Spotify. The downside is, it will undoubtedly bankrupt me (indirectly, of course) – hearing albums I like, then buying them. Damn you, Spotify.

So there you have it: it’s useful for some things, but be careful that it doesn’t bankrupt you 😉

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