The world of music lovers has been atwitter recently, or at least they’re tweeting, because Spotify has finally launched in the US. Long a favorite in Europe, Spotify is a great service that allows users to play almost any song any time with the touch of a button.
But Spotify isn’t the first to offer that service in the US. Pandora is extremely popular, with its more radio-like music service. Whereas in Spotify, you create playlists of the songs you want to hear, or your grab one of your friend’s playlists from Facebook, in Pandora you just tell it a few songs you’re in the mood for and Pandora will create a custom playlist of music just for you, filled with songs that match your mood.
That’s the magic. Each of the online music services has a slightly different model for payment, and a slightly different model for discovering music. Almost all of them offer a free service of some kind, usually with ads, and many of them offer premium services for money allowing you more control over what music plays, often eliminating the ads, and often letting you take the music service to your portable device like your tablet or smartphone.
One of my favorite services is Slacker. Slacker offers many ways to pay and many ways to discover music. With the free service you have a streaming radio station with ads on your computer or connected device, almost exactly like Pandora. With the premium service (about $10/month), you can play any song you like at any time, or even hear a favorite song over and over. My son loves Turntable.fm. There he and his friends can take turns playing DJ, and introduce each other to music while also getting to show off their eclectic taste.
None of the services have every song you’ve ever wanted to hear. For example, none of them have The Beatles, and none has the latest two albums from Radiohead, and many are missing some random track that you really love. In fact, here is an infographic of how many songs each services offers in their catalog, costs, and other key facts:
So what’s so cool about Spotify? Only Spotify offers a great way to fix the missing-tracks problem by letting you mix your personal collection — the songs you’ve spent a lifetime collecting — with their catalog. Create a playlist with tracks you own and some new music you don’t yet own. Discover new music from your Facebook friends, and yet still keep your playlist from iTunes all in the same interface. For the person who already has a great collection of music, it’s very cool.
Each service offers some different way to enjoy music. Each service has different cost models. But the thing I’m most proud of is that every service I’ve mentioned here (even iTunes) uses Rovi’s metadata to make their service more powerful, visually stimulating and fun to use. Our talented staff of writers, editors and database wizards make our service the starting place for creating a great music service. Check it out for yourself — at the bottom of a biography, or in the album listings, and sometimes in the credits for the app itself it will say “Powered by Rovi.” We’re quite proud of that.