Spotify: A new bounty of free music
This European app streams free music and makes money for musicians.
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Even so, there are a few glaring omissions, such as Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Metallica, and The Beatles – bands that have been historically slow to adapt to digital media. (The Beatles aren’t even on iTunes.)
In the short term, Spotify may boost music sales because its search engine encourages users to sample new music, which they might want to buy to support the band or bring with them when there’s no Internet connection in sight. In some territories, the player links to the 7Digital download store.
One can also share Spotify playlists by assigning each one a URL and then sending those links to friends via e-mail or Twitter.
“Subsequently, they’ve listened to all their albums and on the back of that, they’ve gone and bought some CDs.”
Nowadays, Mr. Wood mostly buys MP3s because his “stacks and stacks and stacks” of compact discs felt like clutter. Since Wood streams Spotify from his laptop to his stereo, he only requires MP3s for the two hours of his day when he has no Internet access: his daily train commute. But in the future, when wireless broadband becomes omnipresent, Wood may no longer need his iPod.
“We’re not quite to the point where we can all rely on Spotify for all [our] music needs,” says Eliot Van Buskirk, a technology journalist at Wired magazine. “However, I’ve referred to Spotify on the iPhone as kind of an end game. I think it becomes fairly obvious that once you can create playlists of all the music in the world and access them from your mobile, then at that point, buying music really starts to look like a waste.”
Spotify already has a demo version of an iPhone app on YouTube. The irony that an iPhone app may threaten iTunes surely isn’t lost on Apple. The company might refuse to sell the application.
Such a move wouldn’t be a dead end for the Swedish company. It raised up to $50 million in an August venture-capital drive and the firm hopes to be profitable within a year.
Spotify has also positioned itself to play on other mobile devices and video-game consoles.
If Spotify is to succeed in the US, it will have to ward off several competitors. The popular site LaLa.com, for instance, allows users to listen to any song once free of charge, but then charges for repeat streams of each track. An imminent service, the ad-supported QTRAX, promises free downloads from the world’s biggest labels, though they’ll only be playable on Windows Media Player and not the iPod.
But Spotify’s immediate worry is negotiating music licensing deals with major US record labels.
Ultimately, if Spotify does conquer America, millions of new users may soon echo a famous ABBA chorus: “Thank you for the music.”