Spotify review: The iTunes killer?

Spotify is a multi-platform application which provides access to a free and legal barrage of online music. Its a streaming music player which has a similar feel to iTunes. Through it a user can get links to a large number of albums and tracks. Spotify use a peer-to-peer network along with streaming servers to provide their music.

Spotify is available for Mac users with OS X 10.4 or later, Windows XP users or later and it can also be run using the application Wine if you have a Linux based system such as Ubuntu.

The advertising funded version of the software is completely free of charge and can easily be signed up for by UK users. Spotify ask that the rest of the world wait for an invite to register, you can visit their invitation page should you wish to join the waiting list. Advert free versions of the software are also available: £0.99 for a 24 hour ad-free pass or £9.99 as a monthly subscription should you wish to get going straight away. Based on my own experience the adverts come along roughly every half an hour and last for around thirty seconds. Spotify consider this to be considerably less than the amount you would hear on normal radio.

The software is quite simple and easy to use, a search bar is provided on the top pane for a user to begin browsing. Once you've made your request, the results should appear within the larger right hand column. Form here, just double click your choice and listen. Much like iTunes but more simplified, the right hand pane allows you to view the home page, (where recommended artists are provided) listen to the radio or create your own play queue. A section dedicated to playlists can be found above the album artwork in the bottom right hand corner. Here you can create your ultimate party shuffle.The bottom pane is where a user can play, pause, select the previous or next track, choose to shuffle or repeat the tracks selected. The program is also responsive to the inbuilt track selection keys on my MacBook.

There are advantages to a piece of software like this. It could free up a little space on a user's hard drive should it be bogged down with music. Spotify also has the capacity to hold a vast expanse of music, more space = more choice. Users don't have to wait for tracks to download before they listen to them and Spotify allows a fair amount of control over the music you listen to. This is a piece of software I can see being popular with netbook users where hard drive space is a little more limited.

Spotify recommend an internet connection of 256kbit/s to be able to get a hassle free user experience and say that it usually works well on a 3G connection. I'd recommend a try to anyone interested, but I don't think its going to stop me using iTunes.

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I have been using this for a couple of months now.
I think a lot of people don't realise what this service is due to being mislead by the review.

  • Spotify let's you listen to any music track for free (providing it is on their system).
  • You can't download the music or store it on any device (iPod, Zune, mobile phone, laptop)
  • You can build unlimited playlists. For example, I have a "party" playlist that contains 100s of tracks as well as several other playlists like "Kooks" for all music by the Kooks.
  • You can send a friend a link to the tracks you like using a special spotify URL (I don't think you can do this with playlists but it would be very cool if you could)
  • You can't view videos or other media formats through it
  • You have to use the software to play the audio, the service is not available through a website, mobile phone etc.
  • The service is very quick and most fields in the UI are hyperlinks. This makes discovering music a lot easier.

It would be more useful if I could "heart" tracks like I can in Zune or Last.FM. I also would like to be able to play any tracks I already own through it. The search function is great but it would be cool to save them as dynamic playlists. Finally, it would be great if my playlists where synced across devices.

You have to pay to get it to work in "non-supported" countries? No way I'm using this!

Media Player did the job for me 2 years and it will still do it.

I'm an avid Spotify user, so are quite a few people I know at my University. I think it's the first program where you can try new music quickly and legally, which has a definate appeal to students. Using in combination with last.fm to find new artists is fantastic, well recommended.

Been playing about with Spotify today after reading this. Love how it's lightweight, so smooth and fast, the way things should be. Sure, music not available in your country issues but that may get better in the future as the service grows. Major gripe, I just can't think of anything to search for and the top lists aren't great

Pretty cool, been using it for a little while now and it's very handy for installing on your girlfriends/work PC so no need to lug all your files around

Ludvig Strigeus the creator of utorrent is a software engineer on this. So its a lightweight app which i love! Tons of free music and plays instantly no buffering what so ever. The adverts are audio 30 secs usually and non intrusive only happen every half hour or so. Occasionally a movie banner or some live gig will appear in the player. But half the time you don't even notice.

Worth giving a good shot if available in your country. Love love love it

Zune Marketplace *could* be the iTunes killer, if it didn't require one to own a Zune to use it. Personally, I like the UI 10x more than iTunes, and with Zune Pass you can stream or download millions of songs to up to 3 computers by subscription and download 10 songs to keep each month (many are in DRM free MP3 form) all for only $15/month.

Any news on when it might come into the U.S? Also, are they trying to do anything to make it come to the U.S?

Originally it was not available to the whole UK it was invite only, its been out almost a year I believe, open uk registration only in the last couple of months. I think they are just slowly extending the service so it doesn't become too big too fast.

The reason its partly restricted is because its legal, and so it depends what rights they have on distribution I suppose.

wow! never heard of this service, but logged in and was amazed to find some kitsune remixes ive never even heard of, all for free!!! will definitely keep this bad boy going

Another good point about Spotify is that it links fully to your Last.FM account, just like iTunes does, so it doesn't matter much to me whether I'm listening on iTunes or Spotify because it all syncs up to my Last.FM account (recently listened, top artists etc) :)

I love Spotify. There are a lot of tracks I don't have, so it's good to be able to listen to them. Also, it's good for finding new music.

Not available in the USA and Canada lol, that's like half of the internet cannot use it, shame because I would like to try it, remembers me of the now extinct Mercora service, I think they actually took ideas from them.

And only someone who is not American could be so prejudiced against Americans First off don't take it so seriously, do you know what LOL means? I hope you do, and if you do then you look quite ignorant by replying the way you do, check out internet usage graphics and you would see that the United States is second after China in terms of Internet users with a whooping 220,141,869 million users average, sure that's not half the internet, but still only one country beats us, and for your information I'm a proud American Citizen yes, but I'm Cuban by birth.

It's just not available in Canada? Shame. I think I'd stick to iTunes and YouTube though, but I can't even try it.

I love Spotify, been using it for months now.

This should be posted under general news though, it's not Apple specific.

DrunknMunky said,
I love Spotify, been using it for months now.

This should be posted under general news though, it's not Apple specific.

Funny that a news staff member says it...

starburst1980 said,
Funny that a news staff member says it...

What's funny? That he pointed out that it should be under the General News section? He's just pointing out the obvious. The forced iTunes comparison (iTunes killer? really?) doesn't mean it needs to be posted under Apple news.

There is a iPhone app being created too so you can have spotify on the go - however I bet Apple block it for some "madeup" reason. Cough* retain iTunes monopoly.

iPhone users are forced to use it. I know I'm not forced to buy an iPhone, but for me it is the best phone out there with all the apps.

I only fire up itunes when syncing music/upgrading firmwares, but it's a mild annoyance there isn't an open protocol for syncing music to the device.

What the hell is people's problem with iTunes?! No-one's being forced to use it, and the complaints about DRM and quality are surely a thing of the past now.

A single CD (much like a CD single) costs, at most, 99p. Prior to Napster and P2P going to HMV and buying the latest CD singles would cost £3.99 while albums were at £11.99.

I just don't see what iTunes is seen as so evil!

The fact that the audio-- perhaps not with the non-DRM audio, but the regular stuff at least-- is locked into the iPod ecosystem. I don't own an iPod, and probably never will, because other players offer more features and more storage for less money.

Anyone with an ipod or iphone is forced to use it, first to activate, and then only itunes can transfer music to ipod touch and iphone.

Garry said,
What the hell is people's problem with iTunes?! No-one's being forced to use it, and the complaints about DRM and quality are surely a thing of the past now.

A single CD (much like a CD single) costs, at most, 99p. Prior to Napster and P2P going to HMV and buying the latest CD singles would cost �3.99 while albums were at �11.99.

I just don't see what iTunes is seen as so evil!

I wont comment on CD singles, but when it comes to album, the evil is that albums were sold at that price because of material and distribution costs. Now that there's no material and the distribution costs of music online is possibly next to zero, i dont see a reason why we should keep paying similar prices for LESS ( no material, and less audio quality, albeit unnoticeable for most)

Don't kill my iTunes just yet....
Bahh, am I the ONLY ONE who don't see the future in streaming music?
I want my music in my pocket when I'm walking the street, not in a cloud I can point at...

Another day, another item described by Neowin as a 'killer' for another software product. Tellingly perhaps, not one of them ever has been yet.

How exactly is this better than grooveshark? And this shouldn't be in the Apple category tbh. I know the poster tried to force a link to iTunes but it really isn't necessary.

People throw around "killer" like they know what it means.

OS X Server 10.5 was the "Exchange Killer".
Zune was the "iPod Killer".
Blah blah blah.

Fact is, there are many superior alternatives to iTunes already. Until people figure that out no one service will "kill" iTunes.

I disagree. I have yet to find a media player which suits my needs better than iTunes.

It has everything I want and some minor features which aren't in other media players.

Spotify is different to iTunes because they serve different purposes. iTunes lets me play the music I have or download music, Spotify lets me play music that I don't have.

Calum said,
I disagree. I have yet to find a media player which suits my needs better than iTunes.

It has everything I want and some minor features which aren't in other media players.

Spotify is different to iTunes because they serve different purposes. iTunes lets me play the music I have or download music, Spotify lets me play music that I don't have.


I'm with Calum on this. A "superior alternative" to iTunes is solely based on a person's opinion of iTunes AND the product. For example, if I say a toasted sub from Subway is better than a non-toasted one, then that's my opinion. I use iTunes because it does everything I need and then some. Yepyep.

Sweet, another program that looks cool but I can't use because it has P2P technology and my university will kill my internet connection, regardless of legality.

Now it's crippled, I can't listen half of the songs I added at the playlist because of territorial licencing restricctions, so the freedom I had listening to a ton of music is gone, even when paying. that's why I don't use it anymore. I was good while it lasted, though.

undu said,
Now it's crippled, I can't listen half of the songs I added at the playlist because of territorial licencing restricctions, so the freedom I had listening to a ton of music is gone, even when paying. that's why I don't use it anymore. I was good while it lasted, though.

I havent had many problems with spotify in that aspect. Only a couple of songs, of which they oddly have duplicates that will actually play. There are a lot of italian songs that seem to be blocked for outside of italy though.

OK, in that case I'll give it a go. Fortunately not being able to listen to Italian songs isn't a concern to me.

Just to add, I have now tried it, admittedly only for a handful of songs, and so far haven't a problem with country blocking from the UK.

I have been using the free version for a while now and havent noticed any ad's . I dont think there is ad's like pop ups, I think its before and after songs are played.

The article implies that the ads are audio ads, pretty obvious for a streaming music site where you're not often looking at the actual site.

marleyuk said,
I have been using the free version for a while now and havent noticed any ad's . I dont think there is ad's like pop ups, I think its before and after songs are played.

There are ads, but if you have Spotify playing a playlist and you are doing something else you hardly notice them

Why does everything have to be a iPhone, iTunes, Facebook, Google, IE or Windows killer?

Anywhoo, how obtrusive are the ads, are we just talking about audio or pop-ups aswell.

That was the only jazzy title that I could think of. They're not really that intrusive, just a 30 second Vodaphone ad, and then you're music carries on playing.

Sounds reasonable.

Seems like the benchmark for success is putting the other guy out of business these days, not a dig btw.

You get one ad inserted before some song every two-three hours or so, and that's it.

They're so little intrusive that I kind of regret my paid subscription sometimes (to get ad-free and music release previews). But hey, I like the service and like to sponsor the artists in this way more than via iTunes, so...

McDave said,
Why does everything have to be a iPhone, iTunes, Facebook, Google, IE or Windows killer?

Anywhoo, how obtrusive are the ads, are we just talking about audio or pop-ups aswell.

There's also sometimes a little ad that pops up in the app, either on the side or at the bottom, but once again, it's fairly un-intrusive and you're not really going to care as it's minimised most of the time, anyway. You can even minimise it to your task icon area in your taskbar.

Considering the amount of streaming radio and video that people already use I guess it's not going to make a whole lot of difference.

Julius Caro said,
More like, the youtube killer.

youtube used to be the de-facto streaming music website. now with all that country blocking and video deleting, i barely watch youtube videos anymore. most of the videos say "this video is unavailable in your country". thankfully spotify is there. and i know there are videos that are non music videos, but you never know. i love watching videos of acoustic covers by anonymous people, but the labels can take those down as well

But someone commented that Spotify also has country blocking so unless it's much less restrictive it's no improvement.

m.keeley said,
But someone commented that Spotify also has country blocking so unless it's much less restrictive it's no improvement.

it's MUCH less restrictive for sure. youtube is insane. at least here in finland almost everything music related is blocked

In the UK, a lot is also blocked. With that and the piracy groups going after every video that has even a few seconds of copyrighted audio in, Youtube will start to die as a music service unless they start signing deals with record labels

Frank Fontaine said,
Youtube will start to die as a music service unless they start signing deals with record labels

Since when was YouTube designed as or appropriate as music service?

Julius Caro said,
it's MUCH less restrictive for sure. youtube is insane. at least here in finland almost everything music related is blocked

The entire spotify service is blocked here (Canada) so unless "almost everything" means 100% of content is blocked then YouTube still beats this.

More like, the youtube killer.

YouTube isn't aimed for high quality sound, doesn't offer searching by music categories, doesn't do the "related artists" thing to discover new music, doesn't do custom radio stations, doesn't do volume normalization, etc...

YouTube however provides video thumbnails, allow people to upload and rate user-submitted videos, tries to forbid copyrighted music from being uploaded, etc.

So I can't really see the similarities between the two.

Julius Caro said,
More like, the youtube killer.

People want music, a whole bunch of them dont mind the quality (and when in HQ mode, if the sound quality at source was okay, the quality is more than acceptable), so they use youtube.

Spotify doesnt provide high quality music either. And youtube has related videos.

Both are streaming services. So obviously nobody uses spotify to put songs in their ipods. So for this specific "need" (dont need the files, just to listen to the music in a somewhat acecptable quality), youtube had always been there. And I'd love to have figures, but I'm pretty sure the proportion of music videos (or videos containing music) is huge.

Julius Caro said,
youtube used to be the de-facto streaming music website. now with all that country blocking and video deleting, i barely watch youtube videos anymore. most of the videos say "this video is unavailable in your country". thankfully spotify is there. and i know there are videos that are non music videos, but you never know. i love watching videos of acoustic covers by anonymous people, but the labels can take those down as well

Whenever I use Youtube for music, it's often for drum n bass since alot of record labels that host DnB are smalltime/overseas.