Review: Spotify Music Streaming

By Mike Wheeler

Spotify is one of a number of music streaming services that have arrived on the scene over the past couple of years, including the likes of Guvera, Rdio, BBM and Samsung’s Music Hub.

By Mike Wheeler

Spotify is one of a number of music streaming services that have arrived on the scene over the past couple of years, including the likes of Guvera, Rdio, BBM and Samsung’s Music Hub.

These streaming services have caused some controversy due to the way in which they make money – or lack thereof – for some artists. Most use a subscription- based services, while the remainder will make you watch and advertisement before playing the track.

Being old school, I’ve always liked to have hard copies of CDs, and my own iTunes files – ownership of music is important to me, so the idea of paying for a streaming service has not been of great appeal. Yet, after going through the motions with Spotify, I can certainly see why some people would use in the service.

In order to utilise the service you have to do is download the app to your smartphone or desktop, you then follow the set up wizards cues, which is all pretty straight forward. Once you decide on the service that you would like – free, unlimited or premium, you give out your credit card number (although not for the free service), and you’re up and running.  The free service plays audio ads before songs, unlimited is for listening via your PC, while premium allows you to not only listen on your PC, but also via your mobile handset and offline. Unlimited will set you back $6.99, and premium comes in at $11.99. With Spotify Premium you get to download the mobile version for your smartphone and you can also take the tracks off line as they are stored in the cloud (however, you cannot own the tracks permanently).

Once set up, you log in and start streaming. The service will initially recommend albums to play, new albums available, and also spruiks some local radio playlists. With my tastes being a little more eclectic, I hit the search button looking for some deliberately older songs to see how far Spotify’s claimed reach of 20 million songs really does go.

First up, I put in an obscure German singer from the late 1960s called Heintje Simons, and lo and behold, there he was. What about Middle of the Road and their annoyingly catchy Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep? Yep, it was there. And one of my favourite old punk bands The Angelic Upstarts? Absolutely. After hunting through and discovering a few more not-so-popular artists, I decided that some contemporary songs might be on the agenda, so I typed in Will I Am, Justin Timberlake and Beyonce, all of which turned up in the search.

And what about the sound quality. As you would expect, the files were pretty good, and it really comes down to the hardware your laptop or smartphone has that will affect the sound outcome.

However, there are a few of bugbears that punters do need to take note of when signing up.

First, the search function could be better. If you put in a song or artist and there are popular words in the title or name, then all titles or artists with those words are listed. For example, if you put in Will I Am you get a whole slew of possible tracks and artists with the words “will”, “I” and “am” in them, so you have to scroll down a while before you come across one of his tracks.

Then you’ll have to get over the issue that some well-known artists such as the Beatles, AC DC and Led Zeppelin have yet to sign on to the service although that might change. The Beatles were not fans of iTunes when it first came out, but have since allowed their recordings to appear. However, you will find a lot of tribute bands on there, and you do wonder how many of those 20 million songs are covers.

Finally, you might find that a song you are really keen on is there, but not the original version. I found this with a couple of recordings – one being Mike Oldfield’s Moonlight Shadow, which does have a version featuring the vocalist Maggie O’Reilly, but not the version the finished Number 6 on the charts in Australia 30 years ago. There were also a couple of instances where there were live versions of a couple of punk rock tracks, but no studio takes. You’ll also notice that some of the track listings are incorrect – ie, it says that Imagine is sung by John Lennon, when clearly it is not him but a cover version.

Overall, investing the best part of $150 a year for access to a huge array of songs is not bad. If the company can get every artist on board, with the most popular versions of their songs, this might just put Spotify’s head above the parapet of what is becoming an increasingly crowded music streaming marketplace.

Pros: Easy to use; easy to set up; massive array of tracks to choose from
Cons: Some artists not represented; can chew through bandwidth; obscure version of songs; search function could be better

3.8 Shacks Out Of 5

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