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Spotify: What is it, and why it’s US launch is significant to the music industry

Tuesday, July 19th, 2011

Though users in Europe have been reaping the benefits of Spotify since 2008, music lovers in the United States got their first taste for the first time a few days ago, when it officially became available in the U.S..
Created in Sweden, At first glance, Spotify must appear like yet another overtyped streaming music service, but upon further investigation users will find that it could very well be the future of the music industry.

It’s not that Spotify is unique, it just blends some of the best features of several competing streaming media services. Like Google Music, it uploads music you own to a cloud library, and like Qrocity allows you to stream full albums and songs from a database of millions of songs to a wide range of devices. Like Amazon Cloud Player, you can even access it from a wide variety of devices, including your PC, Mac, tablet, or smartphone. But most important of all, it’s like Pandora in that it’s free, subsidized by ads.

Basically, it’s the ultimate way to get, discover, and listen to music.

The foundation of the service is the computer software player, an iTunes like portal that is attractive, powerful and flexible. The interface feels good, presenting songs in an organized list, with a side bar that displays your library and playlists, playback controls and artwork.

When you first start the software, all you’ll encounter is the music you already have localized on your computer, but there is a much larger cloud library that you can explore…

Unlike digital marketplaces like iTunes or Zune, however, Spotify doesn’t present the cloud database as a storefront, but relies on search, an listing of most popular songs and albums, and social interaction amongst users for new music discovery.
The Top Lists present 100 of the most popular songs and albums on the service, which can be filtered by locale (U.S., U.K., Spain, etc.), and a New Releases panel shows off the newest additions.

But what really drives the service is social interaction and search. Spotify integrates with Facebook, which allows users to find friends who use the service, and share public playlists with each other. It also allows users to copy direct links to their custom playlists, which can be shared publicly (to users who sign up for Spotify)

Browsing custom playlists from friends is a great way to find out their tastes, but using the search tool to dig into the larger database is the best way to expand your library.
Spotify has built a library of over 15 million songs, with 10,000 new tracks added every day. Currently the site’s foremost publishing partners include Sony Music, Universal, EMI, Warner Music, and many others.
In searching for music on Spotify, we’ve found most or all of the tracks we’ve been looking for, with only a few limited instances where we couldn’t.
The biggest names in music? They’re there too. Most have their entire catalog available.

Adding songs to your personal library is as simple as dragging them to a playlist, and there’s no limit.
Once you’ve built a large library, you can take it on the go using the Spotify mobile app for iPhone, iPod touch, Android smartphones and tablets, Windows Phone 7, and WebOS.

Of the various versions of the app we tried, all had surprisingly speedy high-fidelity playback, even over 3G. Browsing music using the mobile UI was also pretty intuitive, though obviously browsing thousands of songs is preferable on your desktop or laptop.
The one catch, however, is that only users who pay a monthly subscription fee will be able to stream their complete music library on their mobile device. While the app will allow free users to browse the Spotify library, only premium users will be allowed to play tracks, and flag songs to be cached for offline playback.

The fee for unhindered access is actually pretty reasonable, however, at $9.99 a month, which grants you unlimited offline mode playback on both your PC or your mobile device, as well as higher audio quality and the ability to remove ads.
Of course, nobody likes paying monthly subscription fees, but the beautify of Spotify is that the core service of unlimited access to the larger streaming library is free, so if you decide you don’t want or need a premium account, you don’t lose any tracks you’ve organized. For six months, the free version of the service will offer unlimited playback, but after that it will limit users to 10 hours of playback and only 5 plays per song each month.

For those who don’t care about mobile access and offline functionality, but loathe ads and want unlimited access, there’s a separate option called Spotify Unlimited that costs $4.99 a month and eliminates ads.
If you’re cheap like us, however, you’ll want to stick with the ad-subsidized version. The ads really aren’t that bad. Over the span of two hours, music playback is usually interrupted around twice, and the ads are less than a minute. They were actually not annoying at all. The audio ads either advertised functions of Spotify or played a sample of a song available.
There were also banner ads built into the player, but we hardly noticed them.

What does all this mean for the music business and the future of music?
If you used Spotify, we think you would know the answer, basically it fulfills the need of the music lover that has existed ever since the release of a $18.99 CD with one good song on it. It’s quite simply, the legal solution to music piracy.
Music fans want their music when they want it where they want it without restrictions and limitations, or a hard drive of files that gets filled up and won’t fit on your phone iPod…
And best of all, the music creators all get paid!

If your a music fan, get on Spotify now (let us know if you can’t because you don’t have an invite, or your in a different country, we can help…)
if your a music creator, contact us if you want help getting your music on Spotify.

Major labels give free downloads via Google in China

Monday, April 6th, 2009

Google China has finally decided to make some noise (translated story) about their free MP3 search service.
They’ve been giving away mp3 downloads paid for legitimately by advertising.

When this went into beta almost a year ago Ed Peto predicted that it would be game-changing news, but somehow it has remained under the radar. At their press conference last week, however, Google China announced that all four major labels are on board, as well as all the major publishers and some 140+ indie labels, through their partner in the project, Top100. This amounts to some 1.1 million songs being given away for free.

Check out more translated details and links on Ed Peto’s music industry in China blog:

http://outdustry.com/2009/03/30/google-china-mp3-search-finally/

Desperate for a solution to piracy

Wednesday, March 4th, 2009

It would seem that the Isle of Man, a small island of 80,000 people between Ireland and Britain, has come up with two new tactics to fight music piracy. 16 years ago, Ireland would punish misdemeanors by a so-called “birching” law, meaning, one would receive Birch wood lashes. Luckily, they have taken kindly to a new approach; defeat. The white flag has been raised regarding piracy in Isle of Man. Unfortunately,  they have instead proposed a new tax that is approximately 1.45$ a week that will be paid directly to the recording companies. This allows the citizens of Dublin, Ireland to download as they please. This also means that even those who do not even download and listen to music are paying for it. Does that make any sense? What business runs that way, forcing payment on people who may not even be interested in their goods?

Across the Irish Sea just 50 miles away, record companies in Ireland have reached a huge agreement with the country’s largest Internet provider to combat piracy. Consumers found guilty of piracy are now being punished in a new way; Total disconnection from the Internet. The music industry sure loves extremism doesn’t it!

These two islands are being watched very closely by the world’s eye. This experiment is likely to further confirm the results of combating piracy by force. We all know the music industry is desperate to find a solution, but our prediction is that both of these ideas will fail miserably as have all the efforts of major record corporations in fighting the inevitable. Interesting how many corporations are so resistant to change, they would rather face failure and destruction than do so.

Amazon announces best selling MP3 album of 2008

Wednesday, January 7th, 2009

And, as Pro Soul blog readers may have guessed… it was free!

Nine Inch Nails’ Ghosts I-IV was made available under a Creative Commons license, and earned more than $1.6 million in revenue – in the first week alone.  It beat out a host of music heavyweights including Coldplay and Death Cab for Cutie.

Creative Commons encourages creators to share their work with others, at no charge, so as “to increase the amount of creativity (cultural, educational, and scientific content)”.  It explains that although fans could have easily downloaded the album from any file sharing network – legally – they chose to support NIN by purchasing the MP3s directly from the artist.

The Creative Commons blog itself put it best:

“The next time someone tries to convince you that releasing music under CC will cannibalize digital sales, remember that Ghosts I-IV broke that rule, and point them here.”

Just another sign of the changing times in the music industry…