Review: Spotify’s Musical (U.S.) Debut

Spotify is a polished music streaming service, complete with robust social integration.

Note: This review focuses on the free version of Spotify, although the paid alternatives are discussed.

After three years of European exclusivity, Spotify and all its tunes have melodiously drifted to the ears of the American people—at least, those lucky enough to have procured invites. With its clean library, slick organizational tools, and superb sharing system, this polished music streaming service deserves much praise; however, hindrances such as its limited musical selection keep Spotify from truly trouncing its competition.

Streamlining Music Streaming
For the uninitiated, Spotify is a music service that allows you to stream to any of its 15 million tracks directly to your computer. No longer will your music library be limited by your hard drive (or, if you’re old-fashioned, shelf) space. All this for the low cost of $0.00; granted, there are limitations on the amount of music that can be streamed per month, unless you elect to pay a subscription fee for Spotify’s premium service.

Spotify neatly compiles artists' tracks into their own page, allowing you to easily bookmark your favorite songs by them.

Spotify is not the sole music streaming service—competitors like Grooveshark have existed for multiple years—but it is the most refined. The service is accessed through a clean, lightweight desktop client. Thanks to its sound legal foundations, Spotify is not cluttered with duplicate or faulty tracks, artists, or albums, and artist pages neatly display the musicians’ works. Music can be found easily through the search bar, and the well-organized results make it simple to sort tracks into your own playlists—just highlight the desired tracks or album, right-click, and select the target playlist.

Sharing Music with Friends

Your profile page shows your published playlists and allows others to subscribe to them.

Perhaps the most innovative feature of Spotify is the ease with which it’s possible to interact with your fellow Spotify users. If you choose to link your Facebook and Spotify accounts, Spotify can add all your Facebook-enabled friends. Curious what your friend is listening to? Just navigate over his profile and browse through his published playlists; if you find one you like, subscribe to it with a click of a button and it’ll show up in a pane along with your own playlists. Or, if you want your friends to listen to your latest musical discovery, simply right-click the track and send it to them, and it’ll show up in their inbox. All of these features compound to organically catalyze your musical exploration.

Playing Some Discordant Notes: Spotify’s Drawbacks
Despite the aforementioned praise, Spotify isn’t perfect. Particularly, Spotify’s limited library may disappoint music aficionados and even some casual listeners. While 15 million tracks sounds like a lot, Spotify’s library has failed me on a few occasions—usually when searching for tracks by T.I., but that’s a whole different matter. That’s not to say that I’m unhappy with the selection of music; I’d take a few missing songs over corrupt ones any day (I’m looking at you, Grooveshark). And Spotify does provide the option to upload your own local music, although your uploaded music will not be available to others.

Despite having some 15 million tracks, Spotify's selection is a bit limited—every once in a while you may not be able to find a particular song.

I am, however, unhappy with the frequency of audio advertisements, which to be fair are only present in the free version of Spotify. Having an audio ad interrupt my playlist is jarring and especially bothersome since I like to listen to music while studying, writing essays, and the like; blaring advertisements for rap songs can’t have a good effect on my reflective writing. And, unfortunately, Spotify is clever enough to pause advertisements if you try to mute them through the application.

To Pay or not to Pay
While listening to a woman enthusiastically advertising Spotify Premium’s features gets grating fast, the premium service itself does seem quite appealing. For $4.99 a month, those pesky ads will be removed and limitations on the amount of monthly streaming will be lifted. If you’re willing to fork over another $5.00 per month, you’ll get offline access to up to 3,333 tracks, as well as the ability to sync music to other devices like phones and iPods.

The Verdict
Spotify’s made me a convert: its slick interface, clean library, and interactive social system were enough for me to abandon the legally-dubious Grooveshark, its greater selection of music notwithstanding. As a matter of fact, Spotify has been running on my computer the whole time I’ve been writing this review—if you find any grammatical errors, know that they can be attributed to a lapse in my attention caused by Spotify’s ads.

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