Considering the shear unsuccessfulness of most streaming music platforms, one might thing that streaming music can’t be more than a novelty. Napster is barely a thought in today’s music marketplace, Rhapsody shares a laughable market, and the Zune Marketplace is just sort of puttering along in the background. When users have the uber-intelligent Pandora and Slacker Radio to tap into their minds and pick songs they’ll love, why pay for streaming music? Likewise, polled Internet users routinely state that they want to own their music collections, hence why they so rarely choose subscription-based music models.
But what about those times when you want to listen to a certain song — like right now? Sure you can try to prod Pandora into playing the song for you, but it’s hit or miss. Slacker lets you choose some favorites, but these choices are limited, and again, there are no guarantees. And since the RIAA is actually still suing people, despite their assurances otherwise, we’re going for legal methods.
Spotify is essentially a digital version of the iTunes catalog, where every song is available for free streaming. No kidding, you can pick and choose any song you want to listen to, and it will begin playing on demand. (OK, OK, The Beatles are still nowhere to be found, but that’s surprising to no one.) The familiar interface works much like iTunes. Artist names and albums are hyperlinked to the respective pages where you can listen to the artists other songs and albums.
I was very impressed with the selection. While all of the most obvious artists and songs are available, there’s an impressive back catalogue. I found many b-sides and live albums I didn’t know existed for many of my favorite bands as well as many, shall we say, “band nerd” songs from my yesterdays in the high school band.
The software allows you to build playlists drag and drop style but many websites also offer a robust selection of playlists that you can add. The software also comes with the ability to share songs via links.
All in all, this possibly strikes you as too good to be true; and alas, for anyone living state side, it is. Spofity is currently only available in a handful of European countries. Of course, enterprising users have managed to find a way around the IP address checks used to make sure that users are from these allowed countries; a simple Google search will probably reveal the methods.
Though currently in invite only-beta, the site actually allows new users (again, from the appropriate countries) to sign up and download the software, all for free. The company’s revenue model is based on inserting ads in the software and in the audio stream. Users can also sign up for premium service to eliminate these ads.
For the future, the company also has iPhone and Symbian apps in development, an obvious addition considering the limited space on most devices. All in all, free is hard to argue with, and should Spotify manage to strike the right licensing deals, they might just have a winning formula.