Why Spotify is an iTunes-killer worth paying for

18 April 2011

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.

spotify4A 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?

TOPICS:   Cool Stuff


  • Steve O.
    This has been a party political broadcast on behalf of Spotify. Should it have "ADVERTORIAL" written at the top?
  • Mat J.
    Nice article. I pay for Spotify Premium, and it's a bargain. I disagree about the Radio functionality though, I use this a lot, and have discovered a lot of new music I wouldn't have come across otherwise.
  • Avid R.
    "Paul Brown"?????
  • dddd
    Oh come off it! Did spotify pay for this? Spotify really is not that good. I want to *OWN* the music I play not rent it. I don't want adverts of any kind (and the 5 quid sign up still has ads hasn't it?) They also only have a slice through the world of music. If you have an interest in anything outside the super trendy or "yoof" markets there are big holes (yes they do have some more obscure stuff but there is no prospect of them getting some of the things I want to listen to)
  • Alexis
    Are you getting some backhanders from Spotify? Since they've screwed everyone over with the advertisement version, I'd be loathed to give them £100 a year. Who knows what they'll cut once they have your cash? You criticise iTunes, but iTunes + Audio Hijack + £10 in my pocket is much more preferable.
  • klingelton
    music piracy is dead. all hail legal music piracy! I love spotify, they have great bands such as redwood thinkers and steel panther in their midst. you should listen to them both.
  • PokeHerPete
    @Alexis - Cutting features for paying customers is a little different than cutting features for freeloaders who they would have never made a penny from.
  • VB1
    LOL @ all the foaming freeloaders. I've paid for Spotify for ages... its worth it. I'd spend way more than that on itunes. It's easier to sync than itunes too. Hopefully now they've ditched the freeloading poor people, we'll get new albums faster. Now get back to your council estates, give the computer you nicked back to the cops, and PIPE DOWN SCUM.
  • David N.
    I was a little hacked off when I heard they were going to chop down what I could get for free. However, the key phrase is "for free". Don't bitch - it's free. It's fucking free. I'm sorry, my free steak isn't cooked *quite* how I like it, may I speak to the manager. Free. Free! FREE! If you don't like the changes, buy a motherfucking account and stop being whiny cunts about it. Then, you can bitch if the service isn't good enough.
  • andyof y.
    This is just opinion..no news or consumer angle
  • Alexis
    "However, the key phrase is “for free”. Don’t bitch – it’s free. It’s fucking free. I’m sorry, my free steak isn’t cooked *quite* how I like it, may I speak to the manager". Depends if you had to eat your steak whilst listening to a godawful advert for GoCompare. I think you'd be entitled to call it a worse deal if one day, out of the blue, nothing was different apart from you were now only allowed 5 bites of steak.
  • David N.
    Doesn't matter, still free. It's a free service, so you should expect nothing. If you pay for something, you're entitled to expect a suitable standard of service. If a restaurant does a free steak service and they aren't making enough cash, so they make it a smaller steak then you just deal with it. You either don't go, you pay for a bigger steak or put up with the small steak. If you expect free steak to continue, and the restaurant goes bust, you get no steak. The worst possible thing that could happen is that Spotify tanks and the idea gets dropped and record industry execs start rubbing their hands together.
  • Skymarshall
    "If you expect free steak to continue, and the restaurant goes bust, you get no steak.". Well Said.
  • Tim
    I briefly paid for Spotify but than reverted to so called "free" (not free, it's advert funded). Why? Because I was perfectly fine listening to adverts for my typical office based Spotify use (where I'm likely to be frequently interrupted by other people so adverts aren't much different). It is also little different to me listening to the radio. I do that via the Internet also. Paying for Spotify only really got me my mobile app working but with quality problems on Nokia phones. It wasn't worth it.
  • Andrew
    This does smell a bit of advertorial!
  • Alexis
    For crying out loud. The restaurant isn't giving away steak. It is paid for by another party. Imagine if the world cup stopped being shown on telly and you could only watch by going to the games. I really doubt people would say "Never mind, the world cup was free to watch so we can't complain now it's been taken off air." The world cup isn't given away for free by FIFA, even if you don't write ITV a cheque.
  • Paul S.
    Andrew -if Spotify wanted advertorial, I'm reasonably sure they'd set their sights a little higher than Bitterwallet. andyofyarm - discussing the merits of services which reduce (or increase) consumer spend on entertainment is fair game as a consumer topic, I reckon. dddd - yes, the £5 service means no adverts - http://www.spotify.com/uk/get-spotify/overview/
  • Not m.
    So if I read your advertisment feature correctly you aren't really paying for the music here; but the service Spotify provide? You can listen to Spotify's collection as long as you keep paying the subscription...
  • PokeHerPete
    Do you get any sauce with this free steak?
  • Observcer
    Its a good article with some good points, personally tho I would prefer to buy and own rather than rent my music, so spotify is not the ideal solution for me. The best service ive seen offered so far was the microsoft Zune music pass, £10 a month and you got to pick 10 tracks a month to keep. Unfortunatly not offered here in the UK tho :-( but if Microsfot did offer it I could see people leaving Spotify in droves http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zune
  • Si
    As I understand it, all music is essentially "rented", there are just different ways of renting it.
  • Jamie
    @Observcer £10 is steep for 10 tracks. Especially when the cost for singles nowadays is between 59p and 79p.
  • Hydra
    Jamie, as far as I know the 10 tracks is on top of being able to listen to the whole collection. Means if they stop the service, or you stop paying, you still have something to show for it.
  • You
    Hang on, we're getting off track here, now where exactly is this restaurant with the free steaks?
  • klingelton
    also - did anyone say if there was free sauce?
  • Stuff f.
    [...] Read the full post at Bitterwallet. [...]

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