Sunday, 10 January 2010

My Internet 2009 Top 5: Spotify

If you live in a country where you don't have Spotify, then I feel sorry for you. Of course it's not your fault, but it's a real drag. Spotify has really been the new launch of 2009, a web-application that I can say changed my daily life.
For those who don't know it: spotify is a web-based application which you
download on your computer. The application gives you access to a huge amount of music. It works with streaming, so you can only listen to the songs, you don't actually 'have' the music at any stage. So you can't upload it onto your mp4.

The good things about spotify are:

There is a massive amount of music to listen to. It's not all there, but you can find as good as anything.

You can listen to exactly those songs you want to hear. So it's not like LastFM where the app is only recommending music to you all the time.

It's free. Spotify gets funded by advertising which is heard while you put on your songs. You hear about 1 spot every 20'. There is also display advertising on the application.

It's legal. Spotify has made deals with the 4 majors and some other labels to get the rights for the music. It looks like Spotify is paying the labels for each subscriber or for the streaming of the catalogue.

You have the possibility to make your lists with favourite songs. These lists are linked to your account, so if you log-on to another computer with your account, the lists will be uploaded there as well. You can share these lists with friends. You can even make collaborative lists, in which you can make lists together with your friends.

The user interface is really nice. And the streaming of the songs is flawless. So it's not like watching YouTube videos where the streaming is still pretty lousy.

Spotify has been launched at the end of 2008 and therefore it's still very young. But it did manage to get 1 million of subscribers in 1 year in Spain. That is in a country where internet penetration hasn't exceeded 60% yet. The rise and the value proposition of Spotify has been so important that the BBC included it in his list of the cultural elements which defined the passed decade.
In a more broad sense, spotify is just a part of a long story about how the internet changed the music industry. And it's an important story and one which hasn't finished yet. It's a story about social networks like MySpace, piracy, P2P file-sharing sites like E-mule and Napster and about new opportunities for music fan, artists and business, like the live streaming of a U2 concert on YouTube.

Since I'm on spotify, I have bought just 1 CD. That was a birthday present. So spotify actually stopped me buying music, which could be seen as something bad for the music industry. But at the same time I have to admit that I haven't downloaded one song from illegal sites this year. So that's a good sign for the music industry too. During the same year I have spent quite some euros on concert tickets. Since the prices for these concerts have all gone up, I'm still spending my fare share on music. And since we all have expensive iPods, we can't say that we're not paying anymore to listen to music. We've just made a shift from paying a lot for software (music albums) to paying a lot more for hardware (mp4 players).

Another good thing for spotify, is that I have discovered a lot of new music. Some people argued that Spotify didn't have the recommendation algorithm like LastFM. First of all this isn't true: Spotify has a very decent player, in which you can build your own radio, depending on type of music and the decades of music you want to hear. Second of all: I must say I haven't discovered so much new music for a very long time, and this even since I don't use the player of Spotify. The good thing is that you have a whole catalogue of songs and artist at your disposal and you can find almost any song in no time. You read an article or blogpost mentioning a song, and within seconds you can listen to see if you like the song. You also find a lot of music because of the nice search function within the catalogue. So, if you want to know who has a version of 'Thunder Road', the search function will give you the whole list of every artist in spotify who sings this Springsteen classic.

Last but not least: spotify works as a very good social media platform. It combines genuinely on- and off-line interaction with your friends. This looks like the real power of social media, and spotify gives a good value from this point of view. Spotify is enabled with direct share-functions so you can publish songs in facebook of twitter. But is has also the collaborative list in which you can build a list with your friends. For my birthday party this year, we had such a list and the invitees could upload the songs they wanted to hear on that list. When the party kicked in good, we put on the list and people could dance to the songs of their choice.

So where will it take spotify from here on? Since spotify has been on-line they are continually adding songs and artist to their catalogue. This is of course a good thing, and is quite the opposite of what happened to, where since the launch they were continuously taking of songs. Various artist have also been presenting their new albums on spotify. Alicia Keys had her latest CD a week before the official release date on spotify. She's not my favourite artist, but I listened to it, even if I wouldn't care for it otherwise. But having it exclusively on spotify had me to give it a try.

More recent developments have been centred around their advertising. They've created new and innovative formats for display ads. It's understandable that they focus on this area, since they have to focus on creating revenue for this start-up.
But I would be more happy if spotify centered more around their innovative aspect. Like I said: they have a very good and powerful social media tool. So why don't they try to develop this more? Youtube shows that people like to add comments to their favourite songs, and that a reliable count of how much I listen to this or that song, gives an extra dimension to the platform. So if my favourite brand makes a list together with it's customers, it would be nice to see how many times this list has been played.
This year U2 broadcasted a concert on YouTube, which had an enormous impact on thousands of fans and had a lot of press in social media. If I were spotify, I would think on this example. Artists look ready to innovate, and being spotify you have the audience and the platform to start building something really powerful.

Here's maybe my favourite list on spotify: Songs for a roadtrip through Arizon from the Coca and Lola Blog.

PS - If you you live in a country where you can have spotify and you need an invitation: pop me an e-mail, and I'll see if I can help you out.

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