Spotify is finally coming to the US. After a couple of years of painful release rumours and difficult label negotiations, the all you can eat streaming service is finally set to hit the big time.
So you've downloaded the desktop client, maybe even stumped up some hard earned dollars to get the service on your mobile. Problem is you are struggling to see what all the fuss is about. At the moment streaming is all you got. Thing with Spotify is that, on the face of it, the service actually seems very bare bones. The reality is very different. Unlimited music means risk free listening, allowing you to try out unknown bands you would never have thrown down cash to hear.
Using Spotify's search and playlist building functions is only scratching the music exploration surface. In order to really get the most out of the service you need to use the power of the Internet and there are plenty of websites set up which do nothing other than discover great new music for you to send straight to Spotify.
For the purposes of this guide, we decided to pick out one of our favourite bands, then see just how much similar music we could find via Spotify exploration that we liked. We went with Tom Vek, whose new album is making waves through indie circles and will undoubtedly be sitting in plenty other playlists. Problem is we liked Tom Vek's album so much, that we listened to it all the time. We got bored. So how to find more?
Of the two we decided to stick with Spotibot as it allows you to use your Last.fm profile to build playlists as well as search for individual bands. In goes Tom Vek and out comes a selection of acts we haven't heard of before, along with a few familiars. You can then drag the playlist straight into Spotify and get listening. Of the tracks played we liked the sound of the Cinematics best, so clicked on them within the player.
This then opens up the bands' Spotify home page, great if you want to listen to their back catalogue. A few tracks and we were starting to get bored of the slightly generic indie approach to things, so we clicked on related artist, Stellastarr. Things are getting better. Problem is we still haven't found music worth of our hallowed 'indie' playlist. Gaining access to the magical list requires serious levels of musical talent and we are yet to discover anyone quite worthy.
We decided to look elsewhere, using website spotrecord to incorporate the powers of our Last.fm listening habits with Spotify. This turned up a band called Smith Westerns who we almost instantly enjoyed.
So Smith Westerns get the privilege of being added to the hallowed indie playlist. What next? Well, no decent band is complete without an edgy and cool looking video with which to copy outfits and hairstyles from.
The joys of Spotify mean we can auto generate a YouTube video playlist based on a single URL. Using website Tubufy we created a 10-track-long set of Smith Western videos which was so cool we wanted to share it with everyone else.
We had the option to Tweet things directly from Tubufy or Like on Facebook and even Google +1. This however was not enough, we wanted to send things between our closest of friends and for this the Spotify app itself is best.
To the right of Spotify's main tracklist is a special 'people' section. From here you can import your Facebook friends and view their Spotify content. You can also drag your own playlists and tracks and send them to others within the app. Tracks you have received will turn up in your inbox.
This is where you can gain serious social brownie points.We have a select few Facebook friends that we rely on to get our cool music fix, keeping us up to date with the musical underground. We also regularly copy URLs from tracks and playlists and post them onto Facebook's news feed, meaning people we know can enjoy music we have created.
iTunes tried to create this kind of music sharing with Ping, but Spotify nailed it by building on an already massively established social network; Facebook.
Spotify doesn't have to be entirely about the musical underground. There is more than enough mainstream and chart music on there to keep even the biggest of pop fanatics satisfied. Websites like Topsify create top 40 charts for different countries around the world. You simply click on the chart and Spotify will instantly open and start playing tracks.
There are also services like Playlistify, that will make you a totally shareable and embed-able playlist. This means you can create your own top 40 chart within Spotify and then send it to whoever you want.
So what happens if you want to take all your Spotify action on the go? Well first up you are going to want to get yourself a £10 per month premium subscription. This means you can enjoy all the music found on the desktop client on your mobile. Both the Android and iPhone versions of Spotify work extremely well, even allowing you to store tracks locally for offline play, basically negating the need to use iTunes.
Spotify isn't just a computer bound service, it exists on a whole load of other platforms, including Android, iPhone, Windows Phone and Symbian.
You are going to need a paid for £10 per month subscription in order to access Spotify on the go, but believe us, its worth it. Once you fire the app up and start syncing playlists from your computer then it can rapidly replace iTunes.
Everything can be managed from the Spotify mobile app, including playlists and 3G syncing (which by the way chews up a lot of data). Using a combination of the Spotify desktop application and Wi-Fi networks it is entirely possible to build, queue and then send a whole load of tracks straight onto your phone, all wirelessly and with relatively speedy download times.
It is also worth mentioning that Premium users get access to higher quality songs on the mobile, so make sure you tick it in settings.
There is of course the Sonos option. Using a very clever system of wireless amps, speakers and a controller, you can send tracks direct to your Hi-Fi without having to turn on your computer. Sonos simply uses your Spotify username to access the entire services library, allowing you to pick tracks and play them straight away.
As of yet Spotify is still vacant from many other home media platforms. Expect a Virgin Media based version of the player to be released relatively soon as well as proper Facebook integration. What we really are keeping our fingers crossed for is a total cloud based listen anywhere music solution. Might happen, but will likely take a while to sway the labels over.
Spotify on your computer acts very much like a cloud based version of iTunes. It is however a bit more of a playlist-centric setup than Apple's offering.
To the top left is the search bar, whack any band or musician in there and expect to find instantaneous results and playback. This is great for those who just want a quick song or to check out the odd chart hit. Beware though, unpaid versions only get 10 hours of playback and they have to deal with adverts. Paid for members however can listen as much as they like, advert-free and crucially with the option to have ultra high quality streaming.
On the left of the player is your playlists and inbox. From here you can begin to build up a selection of music that you can share with friends as well as send to devices.
Facebook friends are stored on the right which you can drag playlists to. These tracks will then turn up in their inbox.
Local files is our personal favourite function. Here you can import your entire iTunes library and play it via the Spotify player. This means you don't have to deal with iTunes and can enjoy the much speedier Spotify experience.
There is also a radio and artist radio function similar to that of Last.fm. Here you can let Spotify do a lot of the discovery work for you. One of our favourite habits it to leave the artist radio playing from some of our favourite bands, then when a track we like the sound of comes on, star it and listen again later.
Personally we suggest going straight in for the paid for premium option, at £10 per month, offering you as much music as you want both on computer and mobile, for the price of a single album. You can, of course, stick with the freemium model. The problem is once you start using the service as a primary music player, you are going to want more. The web-based community built around the service has grown so big that it is almost impossible not to discover new music, meaning you will easily chew up your free allowance.
With Spotify now hitting the big time over on American shores, the service can only get better. Expect continued growth online, better Facebook interaction (with possible built-in player) and crucially more tracks for us music fans to enjoy. Not long now before we get cloud based festivals, who knows maybe even gigs streamed live to the Spotify player. Imagine that.
Given Spotify a go yet? We want to know?