Spotify and the Clones of Dr.Funkenstein

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It’s been a while since I discovered a new web service that I immediately fell in love with. There are so many things to try, but so few hit me as a massive winner from the start. Spotify just did.

A friend sent me an invite to their Beta and I was sceptical at first. Anything that asks me to download an application makes me hesitate. Moreover, the information on their site was sparse. It wasn’t until I googled and read a Guardian article that I decide to have a go.

Within 60 seconds I’d signed up and downloaded and was ready to start listening. I clicked on one of their “new” singles – Royksopp, Happy to Hear, and immediately found myself with a smile on my face. A great process, free music and best of all I’d discovered a new song that I immediately loved. Although, to be fair, that was mostly because the sample was taken from an album I’d almost forgotten: The Clones of Dr.Funkenstein by Parliament.

So how does it work?

Spotify is just like iTunes. It has a vast database of music. Probably 90% of what most people might ever want to listen to (I checked and they had the original Parliament track) . After a quick download you have instant access to all this music. You can browse by track or listen to a play list.

What’s cool about Spotify is the business model. For years people have predicted a move by consumers away from owning music to paying a monthly fee for unlimited streaming. Whilst I’ve been happy to believe this might be destination, I’ve never understood how consumers would move from today’s habits to monthly fees. After all it took Sky years and very expensive sporting rights to entice people to pay for TV on a monthly basis. I have a large music collection – whenever I hear music I like, I buy it. So the idea of paying a monthly fee when it would take me over a year of listening all day every day to my own music before having to repeat a track, seemed unnecessary.

Spotify are offering the endpoint (all the music you want for a monthly fee) but more improtantly they are also offering two routes to help get you there. There’s a good old fashioned freemiumservice – you can listen to all the music you want for free, but you’ll be forced to hear a 30-second ad every 25 minutes (just like commercial radio, with less advertising). Alternatively you can pay for one day’s free music for 99c.

This is exactly the sort of kick that’s needed to change the way I listen to music. You can get an invite here

Could it be any better?

Yes. There is one problem. The developers have clearly focused their efforts on the listening experience and securing music rights. Clearly that’s the right place to start. But what they need next is a better way to find new music.

I’ve always been a fan of iLike (which got even better after the Facebook masses were introduced to it back in May 2007) and have also used Last.fm and iTunes to find new music. I find the online community aspects of these services are the best way to discover “songs you might like”. I remember listening to Pandora before the arrival of the Web2.0 music sites. Despite a sophisticated algorithms that attempted to judge what I liked in the music I listened to, it’s ability to correctly predict what I’d enjoy was poor.

Forget the clever maths, the best way to recommend me music is to find what people with similar tastes also listen to. And that’s what’s great about iLike and the others. Every couple of months I spend a few hours listening to the “music that I don’t own” which ”people like me” listen to on a regular basis. To date that’s been the best way for me to uncover new artists.

Spotify is crying out for a similar online community angle. Despite the service being less than a week old, the online community is already organising itself. There’s a user-created Facebook app for sharing Spotify playlists and around 10 websites that users have created for the same purpose.

Good luck with the development. This is an excellent idea, well executed.

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