This quarterly column offers reviews of free and fee-based music resources in a variety of digital media, including CD-ROM products, World Wide Web sites, online subscription services and databases, and music-related software of any kind. Some reviews may cover a number of related sources together. Excluded from this column are reviews of media in purely digital audio format that would normally be reviewed as sound recordings. The dates of access for each review of an online source indicate the dates during which the reviewer was evaluating the resource. All Web sites were last accessed to verify availability on 25 May 2012.
Spotify. Spotify Ltd. http://www.spotify.com/ (Accessed March 2012). [Requires Mac OS X running on an Intel processor, version 10.5.0 or later, or a PC running Windows XP or later. A broadband Internet connection is also required. Spotify is currently available in Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the United States.]
The last Fifteen years have been a period of massive change in the music industry. Although individuals had been sharing music for decades, the proliferation of relatively high quality compressed audio formats and mainstream peer-to-peer networking services--beginning with Napster--marked a completely new era and a clear need for new business models. While most individuals were willing to admit that simply giving copies of copyrighted music away presented a problem, by the time Napster had been shut down, the situation had already changed; listeners now believed that the cost of music had become too high given how simple distribution seemed.
In response to Napster and its many successors, new business models popped up far and wide. The founding of Pandora Media in 2000, Rhapsody in 2001, Audio-scrobbler and Last.fm in 2002, and Apple's release of the iTunes Music Store in 2003 were among the most important steps toward the realization of a new market system. Though heated discussion continues about whether an ownership model or a licensing model is better for artists, distributors, and consumers, the staggering number of users of the streaming services (Pandora now boasts some 80 million users) indicates that listeners are very supportive of this approach.
Founded in 2006 by Daniel Ek and Martin Lorentzon, Spotify is a music streaming service marketed to individuals. It is billed as a "legal and superior quality alternative to music piracy," with the stated goal "to help people listen to whatever music they want, whenever they want, wherever they want." (1) Like its peers in the streaming audio service industry, Spotify offers a free ad-supported version and a premium monthly subscription service. Its name is derived from "spot" and "identify." Although the service has been highly successful in its European hubs, it is relatively new to the United States, having entered the market in July 2011.
Spotify is an enormously popular service with many facets, thus rendering the establishment of a scope for this review as especially important. The review will describe the content found in Spotify's database, remark on its subscription options, report on sound quality, and expound its functionality. There will also he a report on the active community of developers creating add-ons and applications (apps) for use with Spotify and the ever-growing mass of helpful user activity, such as playlist blogs. Spotify's possible effects on the market and on library patrons' expectations of service and content will also be considered. I tested Spotify using Mac OS X Lion (10.7) as well as the apps for Android and iOS (using an HTC mobile phone and an Apple iPad, respectively).
WHAT IS SPOTIFY?
Spotify is an audio player with an experience more like iTunes than its streaming music peers. Just as 'Tunes is an application; that runs on one's computer, Spotify uses a downloadable client application for Windows and Mac, rather than a Web client. …