Spotify remains one of the top music streaming services in today’s market, competing with iTunes, Rdio, Google and others. The good thing about this crowd at the top is the simple fact that competition frequently leads to innovation.
Today Spotify announces an all-new, revamped user interface, referring to it as “paint it black” in an announcement. An appropriate reference for both the look and musical nature.
“Today we’re launching the best-looking Spotify ever. Introducing a new darker theme, refreshed typography and rounded iconography, playing your favourite music has never looked so good. We’re not only improving our looks though”, Spotify’s Diego Planas Rego.
You Music is designed to help better organize the music your most interested in. “Save albums and browse their beautiful cover art, gather your favourite artists and create playlists for every mood and moment. Found a song or album that you like? Just hit save to add it to your collection. It’s that simple”, Rego claims.
The new update is for both computer and mobile versions of the service. You can learn more by visiting the site.
Twitter Music released today to the general public. I have been playing around with it for the last couple of hours. When you go the website the first thing you will see are the most popular tracks . You can choose from Popular, Emerging, Suggested, Now Playing and Me. How they are curating some of these categories such as Suggested and Emerging isn’t clear. So far I haven’t recognized a lot of the artist on my suggested list, that is neither good or bad just interesting. To play a song you simply tap on it. If you have a premium Spotify or Rdio account you can play the full song, if not it plays a 30 second clip, which appears to be an iTunes preview. Which makes me wonder what happens when you come to a song that isn’t on iTunes. When you play a song a rotating circle appears at the bottom of the screen. If you are on a iPhone and you tap on the rotating circle it will go full screen. You can fast forward or rewind by swiping the outer ring of the circle backward and forward. You can go to the next song by simply swiping to the left. To stop it you just tap on it. You can control the volume directly in the app. If you are using the web version and tap on the same rotating circle you are shown a view of the artist twitter profile page. If you tap on the right arrow on you keyboard it will take you to your next song. You can swipe forward or backwards with in the song by using your mouse, although it is very hard to control. I haven’t discovered any keyboard short cuts for that, but I might be missing something.
There are a couple of things I noticed right away. The first was there is no way to save a song or tag it to buy later. Unfortunately, to play a full version of a song you must have either of a premium Spotify or Rdio account. I had no problem connecting to my Spotify account on the iOs version. At first the connection to Spotify wasn’t working on the web version, however it is now. It is an iOs app only and is built for the iPhone or iPod, although it does play fine on the iPad. Since I have an Android phone I am hoping they bring it to the Android platform soon. I am not sure how much I am going to use it I like the ability to check out emerging artist and what my friends are listening to. I think it will be something I start playing and then let it run in the background when I just want to listen to music, but don’t care what it is.
Today, May 2 Spotify released a new app for the iPad. It is available in the iTunes App Store. In order to use the app you have to be a Premium member, which is $9.99 a month. The premium membership allows you to access Spotify on a mobile device. It is a beautiful app and very easy to use.
When you first open it you have to sign in using either your Spotify account (if you have one) or your Facebook account. The first page you will see is the What’s New Page. On the left hand side are Search, What’s New, Inbox, Playlists, People. These option are available on all screens.
At the bottom of the screen is the song you are playing. To see the album art in full screen you simply tap on the arrows next to the album art icon. Then if you want to star the song, share it or find out more details about it, just tap on the album and then the options are listed below it. To go to the next song on the playlist swipe up, for previous song swipe down. To go back to the main page tap on the black section of the screen and hit the hide button.
On the People tab you can click on the person icon and see their top tracks, top artist and published play list. If you tap on an artist it will open up a tab on the right hand side of the screen and show; related artist, the artist top hits, their albums and singles. To close the tab simply swipe right. Under the setting’s tab you can control offline mode, crossfade, gapless playback and whether you want to make the session private or public.
The one thing I noticed was when I uninstalled and then reinstalled the application, the people’s faces I was following no longer showed up under the People tab. There was just a grey profile with a number underneath. If you tap on the grey profile, on some of them the name would appear, but on others nothing would happen. It appears the names would appear only if the person had published a playlist. If you have a lot of friends who publish playlist this can get a little annoying. To fix this problem I powered down my iPad completely and than power it back on again and the pictures were back. Other then that small annoyance I really like the Spotify app for the iPad. It is beautiful and highly intuitive. If you have a premium account I highly recommend downloading it.
Sonos are well-known for their innovative audio products which integrate together to build highly controllable wireless hi-fi systems. Simplistically, you can start with one or two units and build-up over time until you can play music in any room in the house. The Sonos system can be controlled via smartphones and tablets with apps available for both iOS and Android devices.
I chat to Ian about Sonos’ latest developments including Spotify streaming, their entry-level unity the Play 3, and the larger Play 5.
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Spotify, the music service announced today that they are going to be adding apps to their service. I downloaded the beta version to try it out and to see if this is something that is big news today, but will be forgotten by next week or is it a game changer. I say it depends on whether they can get developers to create apps for the platform. They released the Spotify Api for Apps which allows third-party developers to create applications that can then be added to Spotify. However it is my understanding that the developer is paid nothing for placing their apps on Spotify, (other than the publicity), So I am not sure how many developers will want to develop for Spotify. Right now in the beta version there are 9 applications
Like Facebook when you click on the plus button next to an app it is added to your side bar under the Radio icon. Some like We are Hunted, Moodagent and Pitchfork are great for finding new songs and artist. Others like Tunewiki and Fuse give you information about the song or artist. The one that looked the most interesting to me is Sounddrop, you add a playlist to Soundrop and then share it with your friends, who can vote tracks up and down and add their own. I can see this becoming very popular, it reminds me a lot of Turntable FM. Although the fact it requires you to log into Facebook to use it is a definite negative, at least for me. Also at one point, Soundrop kept on asking me to log into Facebook, even though I was already logged in. I finally had to close and reopen Spotify to fix it. I not sure if the problem was with Spotify itself or Soundrop, this version of Spotify is still in beta and so problems like this are not unexpected. The one thing that was planned that did bothered me was with the Rolling Stone app. The Rolling Stone app recommends various albums, songs and playlists to play. There is also an option to read a review of the song or album, however if you want to read more than the first couple sentences of a review, you are taken out of Spotify and into the Rolling Stone Web site on a browser. I understand why Rolling Stone did it this way, but as a user I hate it.
I plan to use a lot of these apps within my Spotify account but I am not sure it is a game changer, like I said before it will depend on whether developers are willing to develop for the platform, but it has great potential.
The details are not disclosed, but it looks like Rhapsody has come to an agreement with Best Buy to take over Napster service. Of course, this is Rhapsody’s attempt to counter the surge of users on Spotify.
Napster was founded in 1999 by John and Shawn Fanning. Of course, issues arose with the downloading of illegal music, which was brought to the forefront by the band Metallica. The peer-to-peer sharing site went bankrupt in 2002, then sold their assets to Roxio, who then sold the company to Best Buy.
Rhapsody has also been in the music space since 2001. Their music streaming service has gone through a few changes, but survived for over ten years. So when Spotify brought a surge to the online streaming service category, it would make sense that Rhapsody would want to counter.
“This deal will further extend Rhapsody’s lead over our competitors in the growing on-demand music market,” said Jon Irwin, president, Rhapsody. “There’s substantial value in bringing Napster’s subscribers and robust IP portfolio to Rhapsody as we execute on our strategy to expand our business via direct acquisition of members and distribution deals.”
The only thing we know from the details is that Best Buy will still keep a stake in the company. That could become a great marriage for Rhapsody, because Best Buy has been known for putting bundles into their product sales. Getting someone on a service for a couple free months and hope they don’t cancel the membership when the time comes.
Currently, Rhapsody and Napster are the two largest on-demand music services. With the acquisition, they will be able to run against Spotify and the Facebook integration.
The deal will be finalized on November 30th.
I have a Spotify Unlimited subscription which I created as soon as Spotify became available in the U.S. If I am not listening to Podcast or watching something I am listening to music on Spotify. I also have a Facebook account, mostly to keep up with my family and friends from high school and college. Occasionally if there is a song I really like or it triggers a memory I share it to Facebook, along with Twitter and Google Plus With the new Facebook update if you connect your Spotify account to Facebook, every song that you play is shared to it. There are several other music applications that also work this way, including IHeartRadio, Earbit, Rdio, Slacker Earbit and Songza.
I connected my Spotify account and it works. If you have your Facebook account open to your profile and you are listening to a song, that song will appear as you are listening to it. I connected my Spotify account to Facebook for a couple of days and then decided that my friends really didn’t need or want to know every song I listened to. Plus because I have music playing in the background and I like to try new playlist from ShareMyPlaylist I may not even like the song that is playing. I am just doing some exploring to find new songs, artists and bands. One solution would be to disconnect Spotify from Facebook entirely, but I don’t want to do that. I could see using the information later to set up playlist. I just want to have more control on what I share and when I share it. My solution to this has been to go into app settings in Facebook and click on edit and then go to custom settings and set the share to only me. I hope this will work when the new Facebook changes go public. I want to use Facebook to collect the information, but only share the songs I want to. I wish there was a way to be able to share specific genre to specific groups, For example if I am listening to jazz music then I only want to share that with friends who like jazz and not those who like rap.
I am also not happy with the way apps are being integrated and dependent on Facebook. For example if you want to sign up for Spotify now you must have a Facebook account. To me this is a case of putting all your eggs in one basket. Granted Facebook is a big basket. However not everyone wants to have a Facebook account for various reasons including privacy concerns. Spotify has now cut itself off from these potential users. Plus it means as a user the more the apps I use are integrated into Facebook the harder it is to leave. I have already been through the walled-garden era with AOL, I really don’t want to go back.
I talk about the Gaf in show 707, and then spend some time on my soapbox talking about Facebook and the implications of recent revelations. I talk very seriously about the ramifications of allowing Facebook to track your every move and how it could impact your life, relationships with a spouse and ruin your reputation.
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I’ve been trying out Spotify Premium the last couple of days since it came out in the U.S. I have to decide between it and Slacker Radio which I’ve been having a lot of fun with lately. First Spotify appears to have more tracks in it’s collection 15 million compared to 8 million for Slacker. They both appear to have licenses with most major record companies, Sony BMG, EMI, Warner Music Group, plus numerous independents. There are clear differences between th two services outside of numbers, which one you choose will depend on what you are looking for.
The first difference I noticed was how you set up playlist. With Slacker Radio, you pick an artist you like and it will give you a list of similar artist, you can then uncheck the ones you don’t want to hear. However you don’t get to choose specific songs. Slacker radio also has genre specific stations, top stations and highlighted stations. The genre specific station are somewhat limited though. With Spotify you have to create the playlist yourself by picking and choosing the artist and songs you want to have in the playlist. When you pick an artist there is a tab where you can see and browse similar artist and then add their songs to the playlist. Spotify doesn’t create any stations for you. I have to admit that the lazy part of me likes Slacker Radio, but the controlling part of me prefers Spotify in this area.
Exploration and Sharing
Slacker Radio also has a leg up when it comes to exploration. Slacker Radio automatically creates a playlist of similar artist from you what you start with. This is a great way to find new artist that you might like. With Spotify you have to choose each artist individually, it is easy to get stuck in the rut of choosing the artist you already know, instead of ones you don’t. The one area that Spotify does help with exploration is if you connect it to Facebook. When you connect it with Facebook you then see the playlist of your friends on Facebook that are also using Spotify. You can only play those songs that are available through Spotify. The more friends you have that are on Facebook and Spotify the better this is for exploration. Both services allow you to share easily with the popular social networks like Facebook and Twitter.
As far cost is concern both Spotify and Slacker Radio have a free version that includes ads. Spotify’s free version limits you to 20 hours of streaming per month as far as I can tell there is no such limitation on Slacker radio. Both have two paying subscriptions. On Slacker Radio you can pay $3.99 a month and get no more ads and unlimited song skips. You can also cache songs to play when you are offline. You can also view full lyrics instead just partial. Spotify’s first paying tier is called Unlimited and is $4.99. With this tier you get unlimited streaming and no ads. The top-tier on Slacker Radio is called Premium and it is $9.99 a month. It includes everything available under Radio Plus in addition you get the ability to play songs and artist on demand and create custom playlist. I am currently paying for Plus Radio on Slacker so I am not sure how well the premium version works. Spotify Premium is also $9.99 a month this adds offline mode for playlist. You can also play Spotify on your mobile device if you paying for the Premium version. You can take advantage of Slacker Radio on your portable device even if you are using the free version.
One of the biggest advantages Spotify has over Slacker Radio is it let’s you include your personal music library, so you can create playlist from both your own library and what is available through the Spotify catalog. You can not add your own library to Slacker Radio. Also Spotify does have a desktop application, Slacker Radio is web base and is available in the US only. Spotify is available in mutiple countries. I like the way Slacker Radio looks and is set up better then Spotify. It is just easier to see where things are with Slacker Radio. For example on Slacker radio if I want to buy a song or album the button is right there and easy to see, on Spotify it is hard to see.
The bottom line is if you have lots of friends who use Spotify along with Facebook and like to share music with them. Plus you want to have access to your personal library then Spotify is for you. However if you are more into exploration I would go with Slacker Radio. Right now I am leaning toward Slacker Radio. How about you, what music service do you prefer and why?