If Only Spotify Were More Social

I must be one of the worst mavens about – I only ever seem to get on board with trends after they’ve already tipped, even when I have the chance to do so in advance.

For example I signed up to Twitter in early 2007 just as the initial buzz about the service was starting to grow. But with my normal talent for waiting till the bandwagon had well & truly rolled past, I didn’t really starting using it properly till the hype had built right up about a year later. And so it is that despite having had an invite to Spotify for a couple of months now, it’s only the fact that I’ve been prodded by Kieron and there was an article in The Guardian about it, that has finally got me using the service that is all set, apparently, to change the music industry.

In case you haven’t heard about Spotify yet, essentially it’s a service that allows you to stream unlimited music and it’s legal. Having done deals with nearly all the major labels the catalogue of music available is very impressive and whilst the catch in getting free access to all of this music is that you have to listen to ads every so often, in the few times I’ve used it, I’ve yet to actually hear one. A pretty impressive offering all in all and one that seems to be increasing in popularity.

So mush so in fact that it already seems to have made the jump, out of the tech world & into the real world. I was chatting about it to a mate whilst standing at a bar this lunchtime when the manager of the pub, overhearing us, mentioned the fact that he had been using and was going to plug his laptop into the speaker system so that he could use it to run the pub’s sound system. I can see why, as it’s very easy to find tracks, create playlists and, apart from the odd connection break, the quality is pretty damn good.

For all that though, I have to say that Spotify isn’t really doing it for me. Yet. For a start there’s the biggest problem with a streaming service – for most of the situations where I listen to music, streaming just doesn’t work for me. When I’m driving or traveling, I need downloads so that I can listen to them on my iPod. And when I’m at home I prefer to listen to my iPod, through my stereo, or to vinyl. And finally, at the office, I tend to listen to the office iTunes account via speakers. All situations where Spotify isn’t going to be able to help.

Then there’s the thing that I think is Spotify’s biggest weakness – its almost total lack of social functionality. Currently the service offers the ability to share playlists you’ve created and to create collaborative playlists where multiple users can add tracks. But how do you share the lists? You have to email, or IM, someone the URL – hardly the best use of web 2.0 technology I’ve ever encountered. Compare this with last.fm, where sharing music is built into the DNA of the service: last.fm’s entire raison d’être is allowing users to find people with similar music tastes making it easier to find new music. Whereas Spotify is, at the end of the day, a glorified music player – an iTunes you can’t take with you.

Now I realise that having access to a huge music catalogue without having to pay is a massive deal and that many hope Spotify will be the saviour of the music industry. But, when you consider that, despite the fact that it was essentially available for free, more people chose to download In Rainbows from file-sharing sites than the official Radiohead site, it strikes me that Spotify is not going to save the music industry from anything.

In fact, one could argue that all it will do is mean that the people who are still buying music will instead stream it. And with Spotify relying on advertising revenue, along with every other web 2.0 start-up, it strikes me as unlikely that this revenue will fill any holes left by CD sales. But were it to build the kind of social functionality that pervades last.fm into its, undoubtedly impressive, offering, it might be able to start putting together much more interesting, and lucrative, packages which might just fill a few holes.

Spotify image by Sorosh on flickr


  1. If you think you’re behind the curve then consider that I’ve just started using Twitter a couple of weeks ago – I’m well behind!

    Interesting to hear your thoughts on Spotify, personally speaking; as you know I love it. TBH I’ve never used Last.fm (see what I mean about being behind?) so can’t compare the social functions. However, I do know that the team at Spotify are mad keen to make this the best service of this type ever. So I know there will be loads and loads of cool stuff coming up – remember its still in Beta.

    Until then though it more than does the job for me now, and I’m still in awe at how good the streaming is. In fact I’m listening to your playlist now. Still not sure if I prefer the original “Breathe and Stop” by Q-Tip or the mashup from Mr. On and the JB’s. Hmmm

  2. Spotify already works together with Last.fm’s audioscrobbler. Spotify focus on to be the best music player and to co-operate with the other social networks. And it will last just weeks before you could use the service when you are on the run.

  3. Hi Ciaran,

    Good post, you’re right that Spotify doesn’t have any social features aside from playlists at the moment but one feature which we did recently launch was scrobbling to last.fm. That way you can use the two services in combination which may satisfy your social needs.

    Details here:

    Thanks again for the post, we’re always interested in users feedback.


  4. It seems you haven’t noticed that Spotify does scrobble natively to last.fm,
    which means Spotify users kan take advantage of the social aspects of last.fm.
    Furthermore, there is also a greasemonkey script which makes all artists in last.fm
    clickable into Spotify.

    Also, it seems you may not be the target user for Spotify since you mostly listen to
    music when offline. I listen to 95 % of my music when online so for me Spotify is the
    best solution.

    And, your remark about In Rainbows is somehow off here I think. With Spotify there is
    no need to download anything. Why go through a lot of hassle a filesharing sites when
    I can listen to it for free with instant playback? I can only speak for myself here, but since I
    signed up for Spotify three months ago I have only downloaded one album (with Frida
    Hyvönen, an artist currently not available in Spotify). Before I downloaded albums all
    the time, but not anymore. For many of my friends this is also the case, even though some
    still has to download for their mp3-players.

    According to rumours in Swedish press there is an Iphone Spotify version in closed beta.
    I have no idea how much truth there is in that, but it wouldn’t surprise me if Spotify wants
    to create versions for all mobile phone users out there. And when that day comes, then
    we will have a complete revolution.

    All the best,
    – Joe –

  5. So, does it Scroble to last.fm then?! 😉

    OK, so that’s definitely great though maybe more could be made of it (I’m sorry, but I’m just a really lazy user and expect things to be right in front of me). I also like the idea of Spotify concentrating on being the best music player but hope that it does work to build social functionality into its operations as it moves forward.

    As for Joe & Martin’s suggestions that iPhone/portable versions will be available before too long, that really could be a game-changer. I still wonder though whether they will be able to raise enough advertising revenue to make this worthwhile for the record companies.

    @Joe – I think you miss my point slightly: I agree that many people will no longer bother to download music now they can stream it without any hassle. My point was that Radiohead offered people a legal way to download free music, but instead most chose the illegal version.

    My fear with Spotify is that exactly the same thing will happen: those how used to download legally (other than luddites like me, who still like owning transportable music)) will switch to Spotify but the pirates will still flourish – this will see the record companies’ existing download revenues drop with small ad revenues to replace them.

    Your comment that you have only downloaded one album since using Spotify would have me sweating were I a record company exec.

    What’s for sure is that Andres (I appreciate the comment btw) and the guys at Spotify have a very interesting product that could do some very interesting things to the record industry.

    And Kieron – the version I wanted to put on the list was a Q-Tip/Michael Jackson mash-up, but that was the nearest I could find!

  6. Social schmocial, Lack of social networks on music supplying software is a plus to many people. Social networking built into every damn side of the net will be looked upon as the internets ‘reality tv’ phase.

  7. Rab – I agree that not everything needs to be social and often shudder when someone tries to pitch me ‘another’ social network. But when last.fm etc… offer this sort of functionality, but at the same time don’t rely on it, I don’t see what makes Spotify better than those sort of sites. What, in other words, is their USP. Without that sort of thing I see them as ‘just’ radio on the web, and I prefer real radio.

  8. I agree with Rab. To me, the USPs are lack of social rubbish – I want to listen to music, I don’t want to say “hey everyone, look at me, haven’t I got cool taste in music!”. I did dabble with last.fm and found the social networking side of things really got in the way – I’d start thinking about what people will see against my profile as opposed to what I’d actually like to listen to. I hate twitter too – just because I’m a software developer, doesn’t mean I have to like social networking – which seems to be a strange link people draw on.

  9. As I said to Rab, I totally see that point of view.

    But if that’s the case then I’d rather listen to my iTunes collection (no ads) or radio (I don’t have to be tied to a computer, and it’s a bit more interesting). I just don’t see how Spotify proves point of difference with these things, and monetises itself, without some sort of social element.

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