Last week’s announcement that Spotify is to restrict its free service elicited much handwringing and no little anger from folks who think unlimited access to a world of music isn’t worth a fiver a month.
Each to their own, but for many music fans Spotify now fulfils pretty much all of their music needs, especially now that the service allows you to store music offline, and add your own music files to supplement its catalogue. After a couple of years of hype, Spotify is finally justifying its reputation as an iTunes-killer. And, from a consumer viewpoint, it’s so cheap and easy to use it makes illegal downloading seem entirely pointless.
One of the most frequently heard complaints about Spotify is that its catalogue doesn’t include certain artists and tracks. Although Spotify has signed deals with every major label, some artists (The Beatles, Bob Dylan, AC/DC etc) have chosen not to make their music available on the service. In addition, as we’ve previously reported, some labels have been playing funny beggars with new releases, removing them from the Spotify catalogue after an initial promotional period. But I’m sitting here now listening to The Beatles via Spotify, and I can in fact listen to anything I want via the service, regardless of what Yoko Ono wants.
Adding your own tracks to Spotify is so simple it hardly merits a tutorial, but few users seem to realise it’s even possible. All you need to do is open the Spotify desktop client, create a new playlist, and drag and drop in your music files. (Spotify plays mp3s but can’t play iTunes’s pesky DRM-protected m4p files, but you can blame Apple for that).
Once you’ve added your own tracks to Spotify, you’ll see a musical note icon appear to the right of the track name to denote they’re local files. They’ll then show up in searches and in artist listings, and Spotify will even pull across cover images. If your files are missing any tags, you can use the integrated Gracenote search to identify them.
A major bonus is that Spotify’s desktop client is much more user friendly than bloated, resource-draining iTunes. Even the most devoted Apple addict must despair while waiting for clunky iTunes to update and sync. But Spotify updates are so effortless you barely notice them, and syncing to your mobile device is ingeniously fast.
You’ll need a Premium account, at £9.99 a month, to access Spotify on your mobile, but once you’ve got that you can access the entire catalogue from your handset, including the local tracks you’ve added via your desktop. All you need to do is make sure your mobile and computer are connected to the same Wi-Fi network, open up Spotify on both, and mark the playlist as ‘Available Offline’ on your mobile. The tracks appear on your mobile almost immediately, probably faster than you could download them. (I should add that the first time I tried syncing local tracks nothing happened, but closing and reopening Spotify on desktop and mobile immediately fixed things.)
So you’ve got access to the entire Spotify catalogue, plus up to 3,333 of your own tracks (that’s the off-line storage limit for each device) instantly, on your desktop or mobile. Spotify isn’t perfect, of course. The ‘What’s new’ and ‘Radio’ functions are essentially useless, and a decent method needs to be found for sorting playlists. But even completely sidestepping the ethical and legal arguments against music piracy, the question is, with a solution this elegant and efficient at your fingertips, why bother?