App Reviews, Music, Technology

With Spotify, we are all Cameron Crowe

After years of operating in Europe, Spotify launched in the US in the summer of 2011 on an invitation-only basis, much like the way Gmail and Google+ began, before later becoming open to all who want to sign up.

I had resisted Spotify for several months. I had so much invested into iTunes over the years, with large play counts, thousands of tracks, and playlists of all sorts. I didn’t want to go overboard with streaming, since there isn’t good coverage in the town where I live, and I had been trying to save money wi AT&T’s basic data plan. Also last summer, Apple had announced details about iTunes Match service, and it was much cheaper.

However, after months of using iTunes Match, even after a couple software update from Apple, the service is very buggy, and the parts that don’t have bugs are completely stripped down. Genius doesn’t work in the cloud. Last Played doesn’t work either, and play counts are sporadic. Even Smart Playlists, one of the oldest features that made iTunes different from other players, don’t work right in the cloud.

By removing these features for users who activate iTunes Match, they are training them in a way to use their cloud library in a way that’s different from the way they’ve gotten used to it. And therefore services like Spotify suddenly seem more attractive. When you compare iTunes (not Match) with Spotify, there are a lot of pros on the iTunes side. But when you move to the cloud, all of the iTunes pros go away and actually move to the “con” column, and suddenly Spotify looks more attractive. Apple shot themselves in the foot with iCloud and thereby put a billion-dollar revenue stream in jeopardy.

So I stuck my toe in, and after a single day of use, I jumped in with both feet. I also signed up for Last.fm, so I now have my play counts stored in the cloud, by a third party, as a way to get around the fact that my iTunes play counts aren’t updating correctly, and I can also get additional credit for those songs I listen to in both iTunes and Spotify.

Spotify is a really amazing service. It’s like having all of your friends CD libraries in the same house, and everyone constantly coming over for listening parties, and then you all make mix tapes for each other for the drive home. And it’s as if one of those friends owned their own record store so you always had access to new music, or old music you just don’t have on your shelves. We no longer have to depend on soundtracks from Cameron Crowe or John Cusack for great compilations. With Spotify, now everyone can be Cameron Crowe or John Cusack!

With a larger library now open to me, I have decided to leverage my experience as a fiddler to create regular playlist series I am calling “Greengrass.” It’s a fusion of Celtic and bluegrass music, assembled with an ear to blending one track with the next, so that despite the diversity of styles, you end up with a feel for the unity of the genres throughout the set. It’s almost like something you’d hear on weekend public radio, but influenced by my progressive tastes. I really hope it goes somewhere. I’ve published two volumes so far on Spotify but I don’t think I have any subscribers yet. Tomorrow I’ll post a link to volume one.

Update: The old scroll-wheel iPods used to have an “On-the-Go Playlist” feature that would allow you to queue up music on the fly, without interrupting the song you were already listening to. Apple discontinued this feature in their iOS devices. But the Spotify app has a “queue” feature that is even more useful than OTG, because you can queue up songs while you’re already listening to a playlist, and when the queued songs are finished, the remaining songs from the playlist you were on before will continue. Brilliant!

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