MacMost Now 803: Spotify Streaming Music Service

Spotify is a competitor to iTunes that streams music to your Mac or iOS device. A free account allows you to listen to music with ads on your Mac, but a premium account lets you download music for offline listening and also use your iOS device to listen. The service is only as good as its catalog of music, and Spotify is far from perfect in that respect.

Video Transcript
Hi this is Gary with MacMost Now. On today's episode let's take a look at Spotify.

So Spotify is a music service I have been using as an alternative to purchasing music on iTunes. Now a lot of people have been asking me what it is about and how it works, and why it may or may not be better than using iTunes. So let's take a look.

Spotify is an App that you download. It is a free App to download and then you have to sign up for an account as well. The basic account is free and I will go over the different types of accounts in a second. But once you're in Spotify here you can basically search for music. So you can search for a group that you like, say the Rolling Stones, and then you can get Search Results or you can go right to the Artists Page. You can look at different albums and of course you can double click on any song and to stream it and listen to it. So basically you can stream and listen to any type of music you like as long as it is on Spotify and somewhere between 50 and 90% of all music is on Spotify, depending on how you count it.

I find plenty of things not on Spotify but also a lot that I like that is and some groups I am discovering by just exploring around and searching. Looking at things like related artists and such and just looking at some of their suggestions for new music as well.

So there is a lot you can listen to and at this level it is free and just streams and is available on your Mac as an App.

Now the way to get it and sign up for an account, as you may have guessed, is you go to Spotify.com. Now when you are there you can see the different types of accounts. I've been talking about the free account and the way things are paid for there is through advertising.

You can sign up for a $5 a month account and that gets rid of the advertising. But both of these two accounts have the restriction that you can only play music on your Mac. You can just stream it live from the internet. If you go to the $10 a month account then things get really interesting because not only can you play music and stream it from your Mac but you can also play it on your iOS device through a free App available for the iPhone or iPad.

The other thing that you can do from that Premium account is that you can create a playlist, playlists are pretty much like they are on iTunes. You can create them and then drag music to them. So you can create a playlist and then in that playlist you can click Available Offline. What happens then is the music downloads to your Mac and it is stored in the App and if you are not connected to the internet, say you are on an airplane or you are out in the country, and you want to listen to music if you have made it available offline and waited for it all to download, you now have it available to you. So you can listen to music offline when you have no connection to Spotify or the internet.

So now here on the iPhone I have run the App and I can do all the same things here. I can search for something, an artist or a song, maybe if I've got a weird craving to listen to a song while I'm out, I can just search for it here and it will then find it for me in Spotify. I can also go to playlist and I can see the same playlist that I have on my Mac. It will sync across because you are using the same account. I can go to a playlist here and hit Available Offline, and this is while I am connected to the internet, and it will start to download each of the individual songs and now I can see here that I've got a few albums already set, they've got that little green arrow next to it showing that I have that available offline and I can listen to it even if I don't have a connection. It is worth doing sometimes even when you think you may have a connection because you don't have to worry about the cost of streaming if you are on a restricted plan with your provider. You can just play the music and it will just stream it from your local cache of those songs.

So the biggest problem with Spotify is that it is only as good as its catalog. So you are going to find things not available in the catalog. You are also frustratingly going to find things that are available in some countries but not in others. Of course this is all due to licensing. In some cases you will find compilation albums or soundtracks that will have some songs available and others not. There is also some artists that apparently you have a delay. So you find a new album comes out and you find that it is available immediately on Spotify and then other times it seems to be about six months later that it is available on Spotify.

You have the ability to go and get the free trial and then look at it on the App on your Mac and see what's available. See if your favorite artists are in there or the ones that you are considering purchasing in the future and that can help you decide whether or not it is worth going to Premium level. Of course at ten bucks a month there doesn't have to be too much on there to make it worthwhile. Pretty much one album a month that you get on Spotify rather than purchasing in iTunes makes it all worthwhile and then using some of their discovering features and some of their social media features you may discover a new artist through Spotify that you may not have found otherwise.

There are also radio stations on Spotify which makes it similar to Pandora in that respect except that you listen to music that is available on Spotify so you can then stop and then go and listen to the entire rest of the album or more songs by that same artist if you like.

Another drawback to Spotify is that you don't get the feeling that you own the music. Ownership levels have gone down since you are not purchasing the album or CD and then purchasing the digital music in iTunes. Now with something like Spotify you are kind of like subscribing to the music. But if that kind of thing doesn't bother you it certainly may save you some bucks to do it this way.

So go take a look at Spotify and see if it is something that can fit with you and how you listen to music.

Until next time this is Gary with MacMost Now.

Comments: 3 Responses to “MacMost Now 803: Spotify Streaming Music Service”

    Danny S.
    12/21/12 @ 7:35 pm

    I have started using Spotify recently and am really psyched about it, BUT I do feel that I could easily reach my data cap (10 GB) each month if I didn’t monitor how many hours of music I stream with 3G. What do you think? Does the stream “quality” affect the amount of data you use significantly?

    Happy Holidays Gary!

      12/21/12 @ 8:25 pm

      Yes. High quality means more bits means more bandwidth. It is a trade-off between quality and bandwidth.
      Depending on your quality, I’d guess it can range from 25MB to 100MB per hour of music. So let’s say 75MB per hour. If you listen 4 hours per day, 7 days per week that’s about 2GB per month. Of course if you are downloading an album offline with Spotify premium, and listening to it again and again, then bandwidth only counts the first time.
      But if you have an ISP that is limiting your bandwidth, then they should be providing you with tools to measure your bandwidth. So you can check and see how much you are using, exactly.

    Mojo66
    12/26/12 @ 5:12 am

    Thanks Gary for bringing Spotify to our attention. I’ve taken a look into it and found a few important bits that were missing from your podcast:
    – as a free user, streaming is limited to 2.5 hours/week, 10 hours/month
    – all files are subject to DRM i.e. are encrypted, even offline files that are available to premium users only.
    – while running the Spotify client, a P2P network is active that connects to other clients. This will affect your internet connection.

    HTH.

Comments Closed.