On a snowy Steamboat weekend with the mountain not yet open, I decided to get myself up to date on the newest music software: Spotify.

After navigating to Spotify and clicking sign up, my Facebook account information was automatically entered and all I had to do was accept the terms of agreement. No new username, no new password, no new endless pages of information, and I was in. After a quick software download I had a whole new music library at the tip of my fingers. Or should I say libraries.


Growing up at the brink of the digital music sharing age I’ve used it all, from Napster to LimeWire to Pandora. But my favorite experience to date has been iTunes. Arriving at my dorm for my first semester of college, I immediately plugged in my laptop, subwoofer, and speakers so I could listen to music while I unpacked. When I loaded iTunes, I noticed that half a dozen other libraries had popped up on my computer. I clicked on a song from another library and it played in my room through my speakers. It was only my first day and I was already in love with the college life.

After further research, I discovered that this type of music sharing was known as a peer-to-peer network. I could listen to music from anyone logged on to the dorm network who shared their iTunes library. I didn’t own the music, it wasn’t physically on my computer, but I could listen to it.

Logging into Spotify for the first time brought me back to those early college days of music sharing. Except this time I wasn’t connected with only the few hundred people in my dorm, I was connected with the millions of other Spotify users. Spotify searches the internet for songs and then streams them to the listener.

And the reason why it’s caught on so quickly is that it combines features of some current music software; you can listen to a specific song, like looking it up on YouTube, play random music of the same genre, like Pandora, and make playlists like iTunes. In fact, Spotify basically borrowed the entire iTunes interface, and it’s so similar that iTunes users will have no trouble navigating the features. And all those iTunes playlists you created for the gym, the car, and when your friends come over automatically sync to Spotify so you can keep them, change them, or add to them. Now you don’t actually have to own the music; you just have to search for it.

Spotify vs iTunes

Spotify also brings me back to my college dorm years of listening to my friends’ music. On the right hand side of the interface I can see a list of my Facebook friends that also use Spotify. Clicking on a friend, I can see his top artists, top tracks, and any playlists that he’s made public. Friends can also send music to my Spotify account if they want me to hear something. Joining Spotify Social also lets you see what your Facebook friends are listening to in real time.

Eliot Van Buskirk, music technology expert, tells NPR: “It gets closer and closer to that original Napster feeling. ‘What do my friends have? Can I have that?’ And now it’s like, ‘Yes, you can.’”

Unlike the other music sharing services that have been disbanded, Spotify has all the legal rights to broadcast the music. Check back next week for another post on Spotify’s business plan and how artists and record labels may benefit.

So what will Spotify do for Strings? Well, this past summer I was asked to create a playlist for the Encore dinner. After perusing my classical music selection, I realized most of what I had was piano music and not all of it was appropriate for background music. I ended up pulling together a mix of pieces from our past Strings Highlights CDs, which left me wanting more. Next year, when I need to make a playlist I will have a much larger variety of music to choose from. And instead of loaning someone my iPod and hoping that “Evacuate the Dance Floor” doesn’t accidentally start playing, all I’ll have to do is share the playlist on Spotify and whoever decides to DJ can log on and use it.

Posted on November 15, 2011
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Comments [2]

  • 15 Nov, 2011 Jamey Lamar says:

    Nicely written post. I too am a big Spotify fan.. more and more it's eclipsing iTunes for me.

  • 3 Dec, 2011 Anonymous says:

    Thanks for this post – I wasn't aware of this, and it's great! In addition to it just being great for listening, I use it to study music I'm not familiar with before our group's first rehearsal.

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