The Liner Notes

All the music that matters

Posts Tagged ‘Napster

Studying Spotify

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The folks over at Spotify must have read my last post because that same week I received three invitations to the new streaming music service here in the U.S.

I immediately signed up and downloaded the mobile app for my iPhone. There I encountered my first disappointment. To use the mobile app you must subscribe and pay for the site’s upgraded service.

So I am tethered to the computer for now. But I was hopeful, if the site is a good as it is rumored to be I was ready to pay and switch from my current streaming music provider MOG.

Almost immediately I was frustrated again. Rather than just use a site online, the company requires you to download their program to your computer which you then launch from your desktop. All other streaming sites I have ever used are web-based.

After taking the time to install the program, I created a profile and signed in. A note on this step, you can’t change your screen name that you choose so take care. It almost is a moot point because to use any of the site’s social options you are forced to use Facebook, which is your main ID.

But I digress.

Initial impressions after logging in were great. The site looked really clean. Great interface and new music was right up front. Everything is easy to play, just click and boom music. The ads are horrible as they move and interrupt the music, but hey it’s free so I can get past that.

I was prepared to dedicate hours to exploring the site and all it had to offer. It took me all of 10 minutes. Spotify is so limited in what it can do.

I’ll start with the strengths. It offers all you can listen to free streaming music. The share options are easy, and playlists are really simple to create. And that’s about it. If you want to check out new releases or listen to some classics, yeah this site is great. But Spotify is supposed to be social and make sharing music with friends fun.

This is where the negatives come in. Spotify social permits you to link to Facebook. I did this and found only two of my friends had done the same. I assume this is because the site was still hard to access. Since then my “social” group on Spotify has grown to four people. This may change when the site opens up but really it does not matter.

To find a user who you’re not friends with on Facebook or who does not have Facebook you have to know their screen name. The point here is that I already know what my friends listen to, I want to be able explore a larger social network as in everyone signed up to Spotify and see what they are listening to then choose who I want to follow based on their tastes.

The bottom line is the site’s biggest strength tuned into its biggest weakness.

The ability to share with my four social friends on the site is great. I can simply click, drag and drop albums or songs into their inbox.

Beyond this the library has a ton of holes and is missing a great deal of music, but again it’s free so for someone who does not want to pay this is the best option.

For those willing to pay, almost every other streaming service I have tried – Napster, Rhapsody, MOG – all beat this.

With the high hopes I had for Spotify, It’s sad to report it’s not all that it was hyped up to be. Even Pandora beats it in respect to streaming radio.


Written by David Young

July 28, 2011 at 7:16 pm

Spotify premiers in U.S.

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It’s the day music lovers have all waited for.

Spotify is available in America. But as it is with all things that seem too good to be true, the streaming music service that was supposed to change the game is already exposing its flaws.

Spotify is a free streaming music service that has been available in limited countries for a number of years now. For some time the record companies here stateside haggled and hemmed and hawed over legal rights.

For the longest time it seemed as if the service would never make it here. In that time competition has grown. Services such as Napster, Rhapsody and MOG have taken chunks out of the streaming service market. Each has their strengths and weaknesses.

Spotify was supposed to come in and crush them all. Or so they would have you believe. The biggest disappointment is for now the only way to use Spotify is to pay or to get a special invite.

The biggest claim by Spotify, as you can see in the video below, is that it is all the music in the world at your fingertips for free. But no, it’s not true here in the U.S.. An impact of the record companies I would guess.

Thus the site makes you enter your e-mail for a special invite. This is frustrating because more than two years ago I gave Spotify my email for updates on its U.S. launch. Not only were there no updates, but they gave no advantage to those who signed up in advance of the launch.

We will see if the site can overcome these initial foul-ups. I would even be willing to pay for the service if it is that much better than current sites, but not without a free trial period.

It’s not looking good for the site to start for Spotify.

In related news, MOG has unveiled a new beta user interface for its site. After using it, I must say it is much better than the previous layout. The new site is cleaner and permits users to have “favorite” songs and albums as well as manage their music in a left-hand tab system.

However, the best improvement is an embedded player that eliminates multiple windows to play a song or album.

Written by David Young

July 14, 2011 at 4:21 pm

The Music Cloud

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For years now music has been moving toward the cloud.

The days of buying music or even downloading music are fading fast. In a not too distant future majority of people will access music via a subscription service that grants them the ability to listen to any song they like from their computer or phone.

This is already a reality; however no one has quite mastered it yet. Technology is still lagging, 4G will help, and record executives still think people should pay $15 for a physical CD.

I have tried a number of these subscription servers from Napster to Rhapsody and have found flaws with all of them. Napster doesn’t offer full versions of a lot of their songs, only 30 second samples and Rhapsody’s format is horrible not to mention their phone apps are slow and sporadic.

Lala by far had the best format. It was a simple interface that let users share their musical interests and tastes with others. It also was tailored to the user so that you don’t have to sift through Billboards top 50 to find what you want.

Best of all it was free, but alas it was too good to be true. Apple bought up the service and thus far has only offered Ping in return, which is an afterthought at best.

Most recently I tried MOG, which offers unlimited streaming for $5 a month. I thought it was a great deal and found the iPhone app worked great so I could stream any album I wanted virtually anywhere. In addition their “artist radio” feature is great. It allows the user to manage via a sliding scale how similar they want the station to be to any given artist.

The format, while not great, is one of the better that I have tried. It is clean and simple. The profile options are limited and sharing capabilities leave a lot to be desired, however there is potential.

My main complaint came when my free trial period ran out. I was more than happy to start paying, however I discovered the $5 offer only pertains to computers. If I want to keep my iPhone app it costs me an additional $5 a month. Not that that is a lot, it is just not stated upfront, or if it was I missed it.

The other main drawback is that only one computer can log into the account at one time and there is no way to add users. If I want to add an additional user I would have to start a whole new account.

With the loss of access to music on my phone I was left with Pandora and a handful of albums I had loaded. I went in search of a solution and found it, ironically enough, with one of the trailblazers in file sharing: Audiogalaxy.

Audiogalaxy started in the 90s as a file sharing site for music similar to Napster that drew the ire of the RIAA and led to legal issues. Long story short the site has re-launched as a placeshifting service meaning users can upload their library to Audiogalaxy servers and then can listen to it from other computers or a smartphone.

Audiogalaxy has an app for the iPhone so I have been able to take my entire iTunes collection with me anywhere I go and listen on my phone. Thus far it has worked pretty well and is a great substitute until Spotify can crack the U.S. market.

Written by David Young

February 28, 2011 at 3:59 pm

Posted in MP3s, Music

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