20 Million Songs for $10 (a Month)
In the coming months, we will be highlighting products and services we use in the LifeEdited apartment. Today, we’re looking at the streaming music service Spotify.
Do you remember going to the CD store (or for some, the record store)? You’d rifle through the aisles and their indexed rows, peering at the tall, half-empty cardboard boxes, squinting to see which album was in front of you; the more artistic bands wouldn’t say, so perhaps you’d have to unearth the album from a tight stack. Then you’d fork over $15-20 for the disk itself–and this was 10-20 years ago. Then you’d bring the disk home, listen to it, enjoy five of the twelve songs then store it on a CD tower or bulky wallet.
For most of us, the iPod ended the CD era. It enabled us to load tons of albums in something that fit in our pockets. No hard-to-open boxes, esoteric album covers, CD towers or filler songs. Slowly-but-surely, we built our music libraries via converting CDs, purchasing on iTunes (which at $10/album or $.99/song was still a lot cheaper than CDs) or downloading through shadier channels.
But the iPod still locked you into storing your MP3’s on a harddrive. We acquired gigs and gigs of music on our computers, hogging RAM and creating confusion when trying to trying to access music.
In keeping with the “access over ownership” ethos, we chose Spotify as the music purveyor at the LifeEdited apartment. Spotify is a web-based service that allows you to have streaming access to a catalog of 20 million songs. With a membership, you can sort, bookmark and make playlists with any music in the catalog. Should you choose, there’s a social aspect where you can see what your friends are listening to as well as recommendations from tastemakers.
Spotify is available in three versions: Free, unlimited and premium. Free is, well, free, but has ads and a ten hour limit for listening each month (sound quality is not-so-great in our experience). Unlimited is $5/month and allows you to access the full catalog on your laptop or desktop without time restrictions or ads. Premium–the service we use–is $10/month and gives access to any web-enabled device, has improved sound quality and allows offline listening to your playlists–an important feature if you’re trying to replace an iPod.
If this seems like a bit of money to pay for a service, consider most of us were okay buying twelve or more CDs or iTunes albums a year at $10-15 each. After collecting these albums over the course of a few years, we’d still have a collection that was a tiny fraction of what’s available on Spotify. We’d also have to manage the CDs themselves or the storage needs of the MP3s.
The biggest drawback to Spotify is portability. You can’t load it onto a normal iPod (you can use it with the web-enabled iPod touch). This is less and less an issue for most people, who use a normal iPod only for working out and whose phone is their main music device.
Spotify also takes pains to make sure only one person is listening to an account at a time. In other words, you and and your wife can’t listen to your premium account on two separate computers at the same time.
Audiofiles might find the sound quality lacking on Spotify and may choose to stick with CDs, high quality MP3s or even vinyl for that reason. However, for the great majority of music listeners Spotify works great and provides an immense library of new and old music without the hassle of storage.