In 2007, I met fellow serial entrepreneur Daniel Ek and was very impressed with him and Spotify, his new music service. I blogged about it, calling it the Joost for music. Unfortunately, since then, Joost has faded away and as a small investor in the company I lost some money. But the concept of Joost lives on in Hulu. I should have called Spotify the Hulu of music, but in 2007 Hulu was not around yet. And, in any case, Spotify is so famous now that people are calling the all-you-can-eat, $10 per month, streaming service of Netflix the Spotify of movies. And we are all waiting for Spotify to launch its own movies service.
Two years later, in January of 2009, I blogged that Spotify was coming to Spain. The response was great. Many readers asked me for invites. Spain took off nicely for Spotify, becoming an over represented country in the Spotify community. This I found very interesting because over here music downloads are legal, nobody needs to pay for music, and yet, Spotify has done super well. Indeed Spotify in Spain thrived despite competing with free. That people would either pay or put up with advertising is just another proof of how great Spotify service is. Or most people I should say, because until today I was not one of them. Even though I pay for Last.fm and for Grooveshark, I could not get myself to pay three times as much for Spotify Premium. And because I hate commercials I was not using the free Spotify. Instead I had Last.fm in my Sonos, Grooveshark in my Android phone and in my Blackberry, and both services in my computers. These service are around $30 per year instead of around $150. So I became this unusual person in Spain who first promoted the hell out of Spotify and then failed to use it. It would have helped had Daniel gave me a free premium account, but I guess he is as cheap as I am, and did not volunteer. 🙂
So, no Spotify for me, until today. Today Spotify introduced a €5 per month service that is not as good as the premium, but good enough for me to join. It does not allow you offline playing nor mobile playing, but it gives you all the songs you want for less than I used to spend in a week on music when I was in college and used to raid Tower Records, spending $100 or more per visit. Now Spotify costs twice as much as Last.fm or Grooveshark, but not 5 times as much.
If you don’t have Spotify you are probably wondering what makes Spotify so great. Or why it’s the only web service in the world that Americans seem to be truly sad that they don’t have. Here’s a list of what it does:
It piggybacks on iTunes and makes all your iTunes music and lists available to you, even all the music you have without copyright (which is not a crime in Spain to download).
It blends incredibly well with Facebook. You sign up, connect with Facebook and have instant access to your friends’ iTunes and Spotify lists.
As opposed to Last.fm and Pandora, you can play the song you want when you want it. This, btw, is where Spotify can lose their shirt because licenses for radio playing are much cheaper than song on demand licenses.
The quality of the music is great and the speed at which a new song that you asked for plays is remarkable.
On the negative it does frequently happen that you go to a friend’s list, want to play it, and you get a message that says “this track is currently not available in Spain”. The solution? If you are in Spain, go to Vuze, Limewire or simply to a friend, get the music, upload it, and then Spotify considers it your own and plays it off the list of your friend. But, Grooveshark for example, does the same thing for all your computers. Spotify, probably more closely watched by the rapidly vanishing music labels, actually check if you have the music in your library at that computer before it plays it for you. This forces you to use Spotify from computers with huge hard drives to avoid the “not currently in Spain” label and that gives an advantage to Grooveshark. Especially on netbooks and mobile phones.
If you are willing to pay €10 per month, the offline and mobile playing should be great.
Lastly, I would like to say that I think the two best user experience entrepreneurs in Europe are Janus Friis and Daniel Ek. They both went into crowded fields: VOIP/Chat and music players, and outdid everyone else.
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- Spotify offers two new versions (timesonline.typepad.com)
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Follow Martin Varsavsky on Twitter: twitter.com/martinvars