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.

Spotify Premium: review time (coming soon)

Ok, it’s time to review Spotify Premium and the iPhone App

Since I’ve benefitted from loads of traffic to my site since first blogging about Spotify back in January and giving out 600 free invites, I think it’s only fair that I finally give the paid version a go and report back here.

So long as it’s ‘easy in, easy out’ I’ll sign up when I get back from holiday, give it a full go and update this post.

Watch this space for the full ‘can-it-really-work-on-an-old-iPhone’ warts and all review from someone with truly rubbish broadband access.


Wall-E movie review. Proof I’m mad.

Wall-E scored 96% in the Rotten Tomatoes site – with 208 good to 8 bad reviews.

Imagine what its like to feel almost totally alone in a world where everyone else has gone off in a different direction. I know how Wall-E must have felt, bless him.

These days, it has become fashionable to love everything new, shiny and CGI – particularly if it purports to have some important, timely message for us. Anybody who doesn’t love it (the mass hysteria goes) hasn’t got a heart.

Ah well. That’s me branded then.

I watched Wall-E with a desperate hope that – given no dialogue for 30 minutes, and given our ‘prowess’ in computer animation – I’d at least be treated to a visual spectacle worth sitting still for.

What I got – from the clumsily out of place opening music to the grating anthropocentricity of Wall-E and his attachment to cute objects – was another piece of Hollywood trapped in the cycle of media obsession and self-referencing that turned me off King Kong in as short a time.

I know everyone else in the human race loves Wall-E. I don’t. Given that CGI not only gives you the chance to create breathtaking worlds of the imagination but breathtaking ways of people and things interacting, did we get either? No. We got a world that was more of the same in every sense. And we got emotional gestures and interactions that were depressingly – maddeningly – familiar and tired.

Hollywood is trapped in its own limited range of ideas and gestures. Draw a gun, Eve! They do it in every movie! Blow things up, Eve! You just gotta.

CGI seems to have fooled everyone into thinking that you just change the skin of a movie and Presto! A new story.

I summed up my review for Wall-E in a text to a friend:

“Don’t worry, kids, we’re all going to get incredibly fat but then good technology is going to come along and save us from bad”

End. Ah, well. I suppose I’ll just roll back into my container with my bits and bobs, then.

Online reputation management. Not.

This is a recent, real review about a real hotel. It is public, still there, available for anyone to read.


We were allocated a second floor room fronting onto the street and the noise from late night revellers outside adjacent bars continued into the early hours of Saturday morning. Sleep was impossible.

OK you say, typical for [location] and it did finally settle down – for about an hour. However, persons in the next room returned and we endured loud conversation, radio/tv at high volume and hysterical laughter throughout the rest of the night. Our complaints to reception resulted in the comment “They are entitled to laugh” It continued, even louder. We checked out in the morning!.

We expected some explanation, regret and maybe an apology. No contact until 3 emails inviting us to “Visit [name] Hotel This Festive Season”. This prompted a reply from me reiterating our experience. It was ignored.
I sent a reminder email – “HOW ABOUT THE COURTESY OF A REPLY?” No response – But I did receive a copy of an internal email in error, it says everything about [name] Hotel, [location] viz. “John remove them from the email database please Regards”

How beligerant. Unable to recommend to anyone.

When we read online reviews, we’re doing two things simultaneously: we’re looking at the detail and the bigger picture to decide whether to buy. We expect the odd slip-up in service or the occasional faulty goods. But if we spot a trend of poor service, faulty goods or a failure of the business to respond to such problems – we’re suddenly on consumer high-alert.

What we won’t forgive is someone’s unwillingness to listen when we’ve had a less-than-satisfactory experience. In the case of the hotel (above) there is a worrying silence despite there being a facility to respond via the online review site. Of course, it’s possible the hotel has resolved this matter to the customer’s satisfaction offline. But the absence of any online response suggests that’s unlikely.

A prospective customer will conclude that either this hotel is as beligerent as the reviewer asserts or that they are incapable of handling this situation. Either way, the original problem of noisy rooms still remains unresolved (bad) and now, added to that, the impression that nobody gives a damn (worse).

This situation presents two significant challenges for this hotel. It clearly needs to develop the skills to monitor and respond publicly to such critical and public online reviews.

But in order to address and resolve this particular review – and to avoid others like it in the first place – the management in this hotel has to change how it deals with feedback in the first place.

1 star reviews on national hotel review sites are – make no mistake – acts of punishment.

The crime isn’t the noisy bedroom. The crime is not listening.