Spotify Premium: Review starts here

I’ve just given myself the gift of Spotify Premium.  This is my ‘as-it-happens’ review

I’ve been using Spotify off and on for most of this year.  In all of that time, it’s been a fun service to use firstly because it has been free (ad supported) and secondly because it gives me access to a million tons of music I would never have otherwise heard in the days of CDs and ‘physical music’.

Can’t fault the ad-supported version.  Yes, the frequency of ads increased over the year but even then it was a relatively small price to pay for all that free background music.  In the course of Spotify’s first year, it’s been my pleasure to help out rather a lot of people get free accounts (via this link here) many of whom, lets hope, go on to be fully paid-up Premium subscribers in turn.

So what’s the Premium experience like then?

Let me point a picture of me-as-Spotify-user first.  I’m 46, male, white.  Professional.  Critical technophile (meaning I love & hate technology in equal measures).  I don’t have a lot of music CDs.  I don’t follow any particular bands.  Live gigs bore me after 45 minutes.  These days, I’d rather hear lots of random stuff I don’t know than stuff I do know.  I’m as likely to listen to spoken word these days as music.  I don’t go to festivals :-)

There you have it: grumpy old bloke sets out to try out Spotify Premium.

Signing up for Spotify Premium

First thing is that I hate being signed up to a rolling subscription when I only want to try.  If you try to upgrade to Premium, it will assume you’re signing up month on month (leaving the onus on you to cancel).  My way around this was to ‘gift’ myself a 1-month Premium Code via a Spotify Premium e-card. £9.99 one-off card payment.

It worked – now I’m Premiumed up for one month. Thank you Sam. You’re welcome Sam. (BTW don’t bother seaching Google for an obvious phrase like ‘spotify premium gift card’.  It’s as if they don’t want you to find their e-card. Doh!)

Spotify iPhone app

Downloading the iPhone app is quick and easy.  Ignore the 1 star reviews from the muppets who have downloaded the app expecting to be able to use it with a free Spotify account.  Don’t blame the app because you couldn’t read the small print, folks.

Now, there are two things you’re going to want to test with your Spotify app: the offline playlist capability and the streaming on-the-go 3G connectivity.

Spotify offline playlist downloads

On the face of it, this feature is supposed to make Spotify available to you when you don’t have enough 3G bandwidth to stream it.  In theory, it sounds good but in reality how long a playlist takes to download will depend on the WiFi bandwidth you have available..

At home on my 450kbs broadband connection, downloading a 100 song offline playlist took several hours.  I can’t see myself having enough time to download playlists on a regular basis.

Another consideration here is that there doesn’t seem to be any indication of the size of the files that are being downloaded.  How much will my 8Gb phone take?

And finally: on the iPhone, it appears that playlists don’t download unless you open the app and start them (or let them re-start).  If I exit to do something else, the downloading stops.  I think it carries on when the phone auto-locks but, without any detailed progress indicator, I can’t be sure.

Spotify 3G streaming

At home in Devon even on a lousy 450kbs broadband, Spotify Premium streams pretty well on the laptop – with only the occasional drop-out.

At home, where the 3G coverage is also patchy or non-existent, the iPhone app gives up trying to stream altogether and reverts to any saved playlist.

Sitting in London with a chunky 3G signal the Spotify app works perfectly on the iPhone.  Right now, I’m listening to Elvis – the 68 comeback special. :-) I have no idea if / whether streaming Spotify tracks ends up costing on my O2 iPhone contract.

Spotify Premium verdict?

The downside

The usability of the Spotify app is only as good as the mobile 3G coverage and the WiFi access you have (see above).  If both are lousy you’re not going to get the most out of Premium because the fallback (downloading playlists for offline listening) can be a long-winded and impractical business.

In reality, though, fewer and fewer of us are stuck with both crap 3G and crap broadband all the time – and it’s a situation that will only improve.

A major downside to Spotify has got to be the inability to run the app in background mode while I do other things with my iPhone.  After all, iTunes can do it – so why not Spotify?  Is it a deal-breaker? I’ll let you know when my trial month is up.

The upside

On the upside, Spotify does something that’s so different from any previous mode of music ownership: it encourages me to listen to lots of new things.  With Spotify, the musical world expands.  With my real-world CD collection (or paid-for mp3s), it seems to contract, encouraging us to listen more and more to the same things.

And Spotify’s search facility is everything you’d expect of a software that learned from iTunes, YouTube, Google and everything that paved the way before it.

All in all, I keep thinking “I don’t want to own music!  I just want to listen to it” – and Spotify lets me do that for £10 a month on my handheld device of choice.  I think that’s probably worth it.

What countries is Spotify available in?

Sorry to pinch your FAQ Spotify, but this is the one piece of information that isn’t very easy to find on your site that everyone wants to know:

So here’s the answer:

We’ve released our free advertising supported version in Sweden, Norway, Finland, the UK, France and Spain. In most other countries Spotify Premium is available for purchase.

Spotify is a great streaming music service. Its search facility is brilliant – letting you meander or focus or explore deeper in whatever way takes your fancy.  In short, it fits with how you might want to listen to music at any particular moment.

Its perfect for that quick (embarrassing) foray down memory lane; that mood-themed background for a special evening; for switching to ‘radio’ mode and letting Spotify open up new worlds you would never have otherwise listened to.

I liked it so much that I happily blogged about it for a couple of months and gave away over 400 of the Spotify invites which access to the free service at that point required. An effective use of social media marketing, I thought.

But these days, UK residents can sign up for the ad-supported, free version of Spotify without an invite. Cool!

But the traffic to my blog proves that are a lot of people from a lot of countries who still think they can use Spotify if they get an invite. Either someone at Spotify isn’t getting the message across or they’re enjoying the rest of the world thinking it can get on board…

What do you think?

Spotify Invites: down to my last 26 (as at 3.4.09)

I’ve helped over 380 people get Spotify accounts and I’m almost out of invites

But it’s been fun.

It’s taken maybe 10 minutes or so every day to copy and paste people’s email addresses from my blog post comments to the Spotify invite page but the payoff has been to get the occasional email from someone saying how pleased they are with Spotify.

It’s also fun seeing how friends and family I’ve introduced to Spotify are using it.  It’s become part of their language; it’s on in the background when I call or when we Skype (look, there’s another free thing that’s become part of the language).

For me, Spotify is great for finding whatever I want at any moment – expecially if I want something I haven’t heard before.  It’s also a great karaoke-machine for that party you’re planning.  Just pick out your playlist in advance and wait for the guests to arrive.

And it turns out that it’s also the perfect ‘play-along’ guitarists’ accessory.  I just pick up my accoustic, find some tracks and play along.  Or, if I’m feeling particularly Burt Weedon, the karaoke versions of just about every classic track of the last 50 years are perfect for picking the melodies.

Long may it last.

Spotify invites, invitations and codes: no longer needed with Spotify ‘Open’

Spotify ‘Open’ free to everyone without invitation!

**Ignore the rest of this post and head on over to Spotify!! :-)**

Sadly, on or about the 18th Jan 2010 Spotify closed the back door that allowed you to create a free account without need for an invitation.

During this time, probably close to 200,000 people came through this site looking for a free, ad-supported Spotify account.  Some of those people were  from outside the countries supported by Spotify but the majority will have successfully created a free account. And of those, a healthy percentage will go on to sign up at some point for a Spotify Premium account.

So, it is with a heavy heart that I have to tell you I can no longer help you get set up with a free account.

Many thanks for visiting and remember, if you really can’t resist having a go on Spotify, why not get someone with a free account to buy you a 1-month gift card for £9.99 so you can try out the full experience on your PC and on your mobile?




Spotify invitation: not needed any more with Spotify ‘Open’

Spotify ‘Open’ free to everyone without invitation!

**Ignore the rest of this post and head on over to Spotify!! :-)**

**** old news *****

Yes, that’s right – about 140 Spotify invitations left at this point in time

And they’re yours for the asking.

I know I’ve said it before, but Spotify is about as good as Google Earth – and that’s saying something.  If you’re like me and you love listening to music more than you are obsessed by any single band or style, you’ll love thanksSpotify.

Why? Because it’s the free streaming service that will bring you music you’ve never heard before but will be glad you did.

And it works like an intelligent iTunes: explore from any and every logical angle.  Kick off your own radio station and let Spotify bring you 1950’s Jazz tracks.  Like an artist? Click on their name, explore what else they’ve done.  Like an album?  Click on that album to listen to it like an album.

Like a track? Click on the track to find every version and every appearance and every cover of that track.

Search just by words.  Like ‘Chill’.  Or ‘Karaoke’ (if you’re like me, you’ll end up Burt Weedoning your way through all your favourites..).

It’s great.  No, really it is.  One ad an hour isn’t a problem.  The fact that it’s Moira Stewart reminding me that I’m still waiting for my Self-Assessment PIN number and am likely to miss the deadline, is.