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If you’ve been listening to either of our podcasts lately, you’ve probably heard me going on and on about my love for Spotify. I admit I’ve blathered on about it so much that I sound like I’m on their payroll. But honestly, I’m simply a user who loves their product. So today, I’d like to go into a bit of depth on what makes Spotify so great, as well as give a bit of advice on how to best put the service to use.
If you’re like me, you often have to be dragged kicking and screaming into changing your habits. For example, a few years ago, I assumed Twitter could be nothing more than a spin on the Facebook status update. And while it certainly can be that, when used properly, Twitter is an amazing resource. And after getting out of my own ass about it, I now use Twitter constantly, each and every day. It was this lesson that inspired me to jump on the Spotify bandwagon the moment it became available in the United States.
I should emphasize that Spotify is free. Yes, there are two different pay tiers (which we will get to in a moment), but the free version allows you to access every single bit of music available on the service and all of its features. No exceptions. Of course, you’ll have to deal with a few ads from time-to-time, but nothing nearly as egregious as what today’s radio stations put listeners through.
Let’s clear something else up: you no longer need a Facebook account to access Spotify. This was a requirement early on, but in late 2012 that all changed. You can now get Spotify by simply using your email address.
I’ll admit, upon your first time using the program – unless you have something specific you’d like to listen to – Spotify’s interface can be a bit daunting. I was an early adopter (in the US), and many updates and improvements have been made since then. But when I first logged in I had no idea where to go. After all, when you have nearly the entire history of music at your fingertips, it’s hard to know where to begin. When you load up Spotify now, however, you’re greeted with a list of new releases, recommendations, featured apps (more on those later), top tracks among friends, and top tracks near you. These features make dipping your toes in the water a lot easier. My recommendation is to spend some time getting acclimated to the interface. Search for a specific artist and play around on their home page. Before you know it, you’ll be well on your way to an entire world of music.
Here’s another quick tip: you can install and use your Spotify account from as many computers as you wish. Wanna listen at work? I’ve got Spotify on my work computer, you can too.
Now let’s get to those pay tiers. Let’s say you’ve sampled Spotify on your laptop and want to know why you should pay for it. Do those ads bother you? For five measly dollars a month you can make them disappear with the “Unlimited” version. Furthermore, you can cancel any time you want; no need to commit to six months or a year.
And then there’s the ten dollar, “Premium” tier. This not only allows you to download an app so you can listen on your mobile devices (phones, tablets, etc.), but also allows you to download as much music as you’d like so you can listen offline, any time you want. And, similar to the note above: you can install the Spotify app and access your account from as many mobile devices as you’d want. No limits.
Back to the bit about old habits dying hard. I’m a big fan of physical media. I’ve got shelves full of movies, CDs, video games, vinyl, books, you name it. Half of my house looks like a media library. And even now, after being a Spotify Premium subscriber for nearly a year, I still buy vinyl records on a regular basis. I like to own my music. I like to read liner notes and admire album covers. So I completely sympathize with that point of view.
However, the convenience of Spotify is too much to keep me away. If I’m having a conversation with someone about a band or a style of music, it’s amazing to be able to simply pull out my iPhone, load up Spotify, and play them the exact thing I’m talking about. The depth of its library is immense and something I will never be able to approach by simply buying records. However, Spotify has probably caused me to increase my record spending due to the fact that I can poke around and find something I like so much that I simply have to own it.
And then there’s what I like to refer to as the “Spotify Rabbit Hole”, which in my opinion makes Pandora’s radio recommendation system look silly and obsolete. Let’s say I’m researching a metal band for the MUYA Podcast. I click on the band name and am greeted with their entire catalog, an extensive band biography, and a list of related artists. There have been times when I’ve found myself lost for hours clicking through the related artists, but if you’d like, you can simply hit the “Start Artist Radio” button and Spotify will send you on a guided tour.
While we’re on the topic of recommendations, now’s a good time to talk about apps. Within Spotify, you can install an unlimited number of apps to help you explore genres, learn about new releases that may not be featured on the main page, and so much more. For example, let’s start with the Earache Metalizer. Care to explore the world of metal, but don’t know where to start?
Metalizer allows you to use sliders to determine how much of each subgenre of metal you want to hear, as well as the number of tracks. After you receive your results, you can either just listen through the playlist, or save it as one of your own so you can listen any time you’d like.
Other great Spotify apps include Rolling Stone Recommends, which gives users new release playlists, up-and-coming artists, best-of lists, editors picks, and more. The great iPhone app SongKick has a Spotify app that allows you to track the concert dates of artists you’ve listened to. And fans of classical and orchestral music will love Ulysses’ Classical, which operates not only as a classical music generator, but also gives historical and biographical information on each featured composer or subject. It’s almost like a digital magazine that comes with complete audio examples. And finally, for the folks I mentioned above who, like me, love liner notes and album covers, The Complete Collection app gives you just that: virtual copies of liner notes and album covers for a large section of artists.
The final Spotify feature I’d like to mention is its social function. Earlier, I mentioned that Spotify used to require users to sign up using their Facebook credentials. While this was an annoying downfall for those who have managed to avoid the social networking behemoth, it made sharing music with your friends incredibly easy. Now that Facebook is no longer required, non-Facebook users won’t have a list of contacts automatically imported, but can simply find out the user name of the person they’d like to add in order to put them into the People list. Your People list allows you to share songs and playlists with users, as well as see what they’ve been listening to. And if you’ve got a friend with particularly good taste, you can add him or her to your Favorites.
Sharing playlists is an integral part of Spotify and a great way to get turned on and turn other people on to new discoveries. If you run across a track that you love, or create a playlist that you’d like to share, you can do so either via the People list, by posting a link to the playlist in Twitter or Facebook, or by sending it via email or SMS. Making your playlist public allows other people to either subscribe to it, or – if you choose – to collaborate in the playlist’s evolution.
If, after 1,300 words, you’re still on the fence, I recommend simply downloading Spotify and starting a free account. Dig around, listen to a few bands you’ve never heard of. Add some apps and experiment. I can’t promise you’ll love it as much as I do, but if you’re a music lover you owe it to yourself to give it a go.
If you have any questions, feel free to leave them in the comments section below.