Spotify – free, legal streaming music

OK, I took a while to get round to trying this, but now I have, I am as impressed as all the people writing about it in the press.

For those who are slower than me, Spotify is something quite new in getting music on your computer. It’s only available in a small number of countries so far, including the UK, so bad luck to readers on the left of the pond. Basically, it’s a music streaming service that runs a nifty client application on your Windows PC or Mac. And has a huuuuuuuuuuuuuuge selection of music from all the major labels, and quite a few smaller ones, too. And it’s entirely legal – all properly licensed. You can’t download tracks to keep, so it won’t completely replace whatever else you use for getting music onto your iPod or other portable music player, but for listening while you do computery things it’s hard to beat. And it’s a great way of checking those new albums before you decide to buy a CD or download.

The service is funded by advertising – small banner ads appear on the application interface, and spoken ads will appear between tracks (never over the top of them) – these aren’t too frequent, and are less intrusive than DJ babble on the radio. So far I’ve heard ads for the newly relaunced UK version of Wired and for Spotify’s premium service. Premium service? Yes – for £9.99 a month, you can have the service without ads. Don’t think I’ll bother to pay, but I will make more use of the service.

There’s an impressive back catalogue, which I’ll be exploring over time.

Sound quality is clear with no suttering, skipping or any other nasties. It caches data to disk to help with this and uses the Ogg Vorbis q5 codec which streams at approximately 160kb/s. That’s quite good, apparently. More paranoid readers should be aware that Spotify does use some of your internet bandwidth to share data in a peer-to-peer manner.

If you can get it, it’s worth a try.  The price is certainly right.