Spotify: Is it worth all of the fuss?

Spotify: Is it worth all of the fuss?

Summary: Spotify, that digital music streaming service that has been all the rage in Europe, finally opened to U.S. customers this month. But is it everything we could have possibly wanted? The answer: yes and no.


Spotify, that digital music streaming service that has been all the rage in Europe, finally opened to U.S. customers this month. But is it everything we could have possibly wanted? The answer: yes and no.

Without sounding too unenthusiastic, Spotify is kind of awesome and kind of a disappointment. I had seen the service briefly once on a friend's computer in Finland, and it was wildly entertaining at the time. Naturally, as an American I was very jealous of something my European friends had but I didn't.

But that was over one year ago.

Since then and before this month, I've come across several other digital music streaming services to try out. Beyond the old guard of Rhapsody and Pandora (the latter of which I've only become slightly more fond of, mainly as a source for finding new songs beyond iTunes' top 10 charts), I also tried out Grooveshark and Sony's Music Unlimited by Qriocity.

Although it has a painfully long official name, the latter has impressed me more than anything else I've seen thus far.

In Grooveshark's favor, it does have a nice interface, access to thousands of songs for free and reportedly better social networking features than its competitors. However, I don't use the last offering (I still don't even get what Ping is all about), and I did not have an easy time trying to sync my iTunes library on this site to the point where I just gave up.

As for Music Unlimited, I liked this service enough to pay for it - primarily because it became available seamlessly on my PlayStation 3. (This was before the hacking crisis in April.) Sony's locker also retains more than six million songs from all of the major labels for unlimited playback. PC users have it even better as they can sync their iTunes libraries and playlists using the online platform, where as Mac users can still not. Unfortunately, I fall into the latter category.

But for $9 per month, I still found it useful, especially for listening to music in the living room as well as for parties. (Music Unlimited's user interface really sold me, and it always gets lots of Oohs and Aahs from friends). Yes, it is the same as Grooveshark's "Anywhere for Free" plan for unlimited plans on smartphones on multiple platforms (i.e. iOS, Android, BlackBerry, etc.), whereas Music Unlimited is still only available for Android.

I wanted this service more for my TV and console than I do for a smartphone, and I likely won't ever buy a music subscription for a smartphone. There a few reasons for that. First, I don't have an unlimited data plan (and probably won't ever thanks to AT&T and Verizon) so constantly streaming music on a 3G connection when I'm out and about would be too expensive. Second, there are going to be times when I don't have an Internet connection, but what if I still want to listen to music? Thus, I'm probably going to be stuck buying tracks individually for a long time.

So, where does Spotify fit in? For desktop purposes, I liked it more than all of the above. It was incredibly easy to sync my iTunes library with Spotify. All I had to do was drag my Library icon over to the Spotify application and it was done literally within seconds. Not every track is available in Spotify, but certainly more than 75 percent of my collection was. Also, all my playlists came over as well. I don't know if I could have asked for anything to be easier. Thus, I can log in to a Spotify application on any computer anywhere now and access my personal library without having to stream directly from my home computer.

Like Pandora and Grooveshark, there are plenty of ads. However, if I'm just using Spotify to listen to music casually while working or finding new songs and albums, it's really not a hassle nor is it worth upgrading to a paid plan - at least not yet.

Although Spotify has double the amount of tracks on Music Unlimited, I found that I still don't have a purpose for paying for it at this point. If it comes out with some kind of PS3 or Smart TV app (which will likely happen), then perhaps I'll reevaluate. I've tried the Spotify app out on my iPhone, which works well, but as I said, I don't do much music streaming from my smartphone without a Wi-Fi connection.

Thus, maybe Spotify seemed so impressive back then because it was something I couldn't have - or the competition has gotten better before it even arrived in the U.S.


Topics: Mobility, Enterprise Software, Piracy, Security

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • RE: Spotify: Is it worth all of the fuss?

    The one thing that I didn't see mentioned (maybe I over read it) was sound quality. I use Zune Pass for all my music greed and enjoy it immensely. At a friends recently I asked if he had changed something on his iPod because the quality of the music just didn't sound well (he typically plays his tunes directly off is iPod). He told me he was streaming Pandora and he too noticed the drop in sound quality. Did you notice if Spotify suffers the same degradation in quality?
    • RE: Spotify: Is it worth all of the fuss?

      @NPGMBR I've been playing with it and the sound quality has actually sounded quite good... except that I keep getting skips... I suppose it could be my internet connection, but it doesn't happen to me with Grooveshark.
      • RE: Spotify: Is it worth all of the fuss?

        @wzrobin I have had the same happen to me too <a href="">DJ Hire</a> <a href="">Free MP3 Download</a>
  • RE: Spotify: Is it worth all of the fuss?

    Why not just get the Sirius-XM online app and use that and enjoy over hundred music channels with now commercials?
    • RE: Spotify: Is it worth all of the fuss?

      Because satelllite radio sucks to. Spotfy is nothing to be excited about either. bother step up from itunes but nothing to bother with when radio streams are free and same with most music you would want.
    • RE: Spotify: Is it worth all of the fuss?

      @CowboyJake I dropped my xm a few years ago, when they cut the quality. They are something like 96kbps now. Used to be much higher. Sounds really bad on a good system. Unfortunately, Pandora's thinking was similar to xm. Lower the quality and nobody will notice. I don't use pandora much any more.
  • RE: Spotify: Is it worth all of the fuss?

    Spotify is a typically horrible java app, that looks and feels like it expired in 1992. When it isn't stalled out, preparing to crash, it's displaying all but unreadable tiny gray text on a dark gray or black background - with no way to increase the font size, etc.

    Your typical HS student can write a better app.
  • RE: Spotify: Is it worth all of the fuss?

    I've played with Spotify for a few minutes, but so far don't get the thrill. If I want to play my own music, I have plenty of ways to do that. It won't play a search list unless I drag the music over to the Queue? I can't get shuffle to work - it just plays down the list of music instead of randomizing.

    Probably all user error - but the gray and black interface wasn't very friendly to my eyes. I went back to Pandora.
  • RE: Spotify: Is it worth all of the fuss?

    Besides trying Spotify, I've used Rhapsody, MOG, Napster, Zune and Rdio (and the late lamented Lala). Spotify interface reminds me of iTunes, and it quickly indexed my local songs into it's search engine. That was very cool. But for day to day use Rdio rocks the most because of it's interface and social networking features.
    • Another vote for Rdio

      @jharris@... I'm with you on Rdio. A buddy of mine paid for Spotify and we sat in a restaurant comparing the iPhone apps for the 2 services for quite awhile. After all of the hype about Spotify, we were both surprised to find a number of places where Spotify did not measure up to Rdio in music selection. We didn't find any music in Spotify that was not also available in Rdio but the reverse was sometimes true. Plus, the UI in Rdio seems more straightforward.
    • RE: Spotify: Is it worth all of the fuss?

      Anything that has any social networking attached to it is just garbage and something stupid. If i use any of these things it has to be zune as its still the best but i preefer all the free music and live streams direct.The best is still am radio for all the sports and underground real music
  • RE: Spotify: Is it worth all of the fuss?

    I see no reference to Slacker -- easily better than all of these combined.
  • RE: Spotify: Is it worth all of the fuss?

    Why does Zune Pass get not get any love?
    • Cause Zune's sucked

      • RE: Spotify: Is it worth all of the fuss?


        Not really. I moved from Rhapsody to Zune Pass. It's pretty awesome value considering I get to keep 10 DRM free songs per month and still have everything Rhapsody offered. It's a solid product. I wonder if it's their marketing or just a negative perception they can't seem to shed?
    • RE: Spotify: Is it worth all of the fuss?

      Until this very moment did I know that Zune pass still even existed.
  • RE: Spotify: Is it worth all of the fuss?

    To me the hype isn't about the paid versions of spotify but the free version. As a free service, its amazing. I've tried pandora, slacker, Rhapsody, etc.... and none of their free services (for the ones that even have them) have matched up to Spotify's free service. Now if I have to pay for it, it doesn't seem that much better than some of the other options out there.
  • RE: Spotify: Is it worth all of the fuss?

    I paid for the full subscription to Spotify, and then canceled. Really, it's just Napster/Rhapsody/Zune. There are some advantages and disadvantages to each of those, but they're all pretty much the same.

    I just wasn't using Spotify. For me, it's all about the mobile, which you can't do at all on Spotify for free. I love Pandora (smart playlists). I love Tune-In Radio (Last.FM app, which plays most radio stations). Sirius-XM, is dumb (no pause, skip, rewind, no smart stations) and expensive, but has the best DJs from KROQ. I also love AudioGalaxy (streams from your Mac/PC's iTunes library).

    After all of that, and then iTunes, I just don't see the point in Spotify, which is why I wasn't using it.
  • RE: Spotify: Is it worth all of the fuss?

    I've been disappointed in the breadth of the collection (to say nothing of reproduction quality). After you get beyond the popular and current, discovering music I want to explore is difficult. A lot of these music services are becoming the equivalent of AM radio.
  • RE: Spotify: Is it worth all of the fuss?

    Having to request an invitation for the free service to check it out is a pain. I requested one 5 days ago now and am still waiting for it. Do they actually issue invitations? Or do they just hope you'll finally give up and buy a subscription.