By SARAH ROUSSEL
Chances are, you’re listening to some type of music as you read this. Over the last few decades, music availability has increased drastically, and the outlets for listening to it have as well. In the last few years, two programs have emerged as front runners—iTunes and Pandora.
iTunes offers a full web store to its customers, comprised of millions of songs—the majority of music ever released. Users can then download music to their own libraries, and listen to it either on their computers or on iPods, iPhones, or iPads. Additionally, many also download music illegally to their iPods or iPhones from alternate online sources.
Pandora, alternatively, acts as a ‘personalized radio’. Users create a station by inputting a song, artist, or album of their liking, and Pandora begins to play music related to that ‘seed’. One then rates the songs Pandora plays with a ‘thumbs-up’ or ‘thumbs-down’, and over time each station develops its own specific characteristics.
A station with a Jack Johnson seed might play songs with, as Pandora states, “pop rock qualities, a subtle use of vocal counterpoint, a subtle use of vocal harmony, mild rhythmic syncopation, and acoustic sonority,” while a station with a Mumford and Sons seed might play songs with “acoustic rock instrumentation, bluegrass influences, folk influences, acoustic rhythm piano, and interweaving vocal harmony.” These stations allow users to expand their music tastes by finding artists similar to the ones they already enjoy. While one must also listen to advertisements, an advertisement-free “Pandora One” option is available for $36 annually.
In more recent years, these two sites have upped the ante. iTunes offers a “Genius” tool, which creates a playlist of songs either in the user’s own library or to download from the iTunes Store that is similar to a song or artist of the user’s choice. Pandora is now available not only on the computer, but also on iPods, smart phones, and even some cars. However, another option for music has emerged that combines iTunes and Pandora. It is known as Spotify.
Founded in Sweden in 2008, Spotify is now available in thirteen countries and was launched in the United States on July 14th of 2011. As stated on its website, Spotify is “a new way to listen to music.” Users simply search for music and listen. That’s it. No fees (unless one desires to upgrade to the ‘Unlimited’ or ‘Premium’ versions), no downloads, just streaming music. While Pandora doesn’t allow users to pick songs to listen to, and iTunes doesn’t allow users to listen to songs in their entirety without paying for them, Spotify allows both.
In a press release announcing Spotify’s U.S. availability from July 14th, 2011, Ken Parks, the Chief Content Officer and Managing Director of Spotify North America, states that “Spotify was founded as a better, simpler alternative to piracy.”
Sure, downloading music illegally is more appealing than paying for it—but it’s also more of a hassle. With bills and agreements like SOPA, PIPA, and ACTA being considered, that piracy is about to become much more difficult. Spotify seeks to find that delicate balance between offering users thousands of songs for free and providing artists and record companies with their money.
Spotify also provides the social networking that other music platforms have attempted to achieve throughout the years. All Spotify accounts made after September 22nd, 2011 required a Facebook account, and users who made accounts prior to this date were heavily encouraged to synchronize their Spotify and Facebook accounts.
Facebook treats Spotify as an app, noting in both the Newsfeed and the Ticker sidebar which friends are using Spotify and the songs they are listening to. It even introduced a new “Music” tab, which compiles all of the music one’s friends are listening to together, so any user can get recommendations from any of his or her friends with Spotify. Additionally, Spotify allows users to view all of the music their Facebook friends are listening to and the playlists they have made.
FLHS Sophomore Gillian Kennedy particularly enjoys the social networking and playlist-making capabilities Spotify provides.
“Spotify’s great because it’s easy to make playlists really quickly for free,” said Kennedy. She adds that one of her favorite parts is “how [she] can also publish [her playlists] to Facebook and see the playlists [her] friends have made”.
According to a press release from late November, Spotify currently has over 10 million users, over 2.5 million of which pay for premium services like exclusive content and eliminated advertisements. It provides over 15 million tracks globally to these users, and its catalogue is growing each day. Spotify seems to be taking over the music scene, so why not try it out? Visit www.spotify.com to get started.