I have most of my music available in digital format and have occasionally pondered the purchase of a wireless streaming device so I could listen to music anywhere in the house.

Another possibility would be to upload all the music to my own server and stream music from any computer using freely available software (e.g. Icecast).

Of course, both those options cost money and more importantly, time so, as always, I chose to so absolutely nothing apart from duplicating my iTunes library on my two main (home/work) computers.

Well that’s not entirely true - over the years I have had an on-off friendship with last.fm. Last.fm is a social network which allows you to log music you are listening to, mark favourite tracks, create and share playlists with friends so you can use it as a discovery engine. This didn’t entirely work for me - I simply marvelled at people’s shocking taste in music and wondered how on earth ‘Plastic Bertrand’ even appears on the Habari group.

Recently, I picked up on a new music service called Spotify and scoured the Web to secure an invite. I was immediately impressed with Spotify - you have to download a desktop client but after that, you are free to play music - streamed from their servers. In fact, I think there may be an element of peer to peer and BitTorrent going on behind the scenes as Spotity does use disk space on the local PC as a cache.

Anyway, streaming music was hugely impressive - playback was completely seamless - no stutters, no pauses, no jumps. It was just like playing music locally in Media Player or iTunes. Spotify doesn’t have all the world’s music collection available on their servers but fortunately I am stuck in an 80’s musical timewarp and the vast majority of my narrow tastes are catered for on Spotify.

I also really like Spotify’s interface - simple, intuitive and reassuringly grey. Guess what - you can choose your favourite artist and then select an album (unlike last.fm that insists on playing your library in an arbitrary order which is incredibly annoying when you want to listen to a specific album or track).


So how much is Spotify charging for this wonderful service ? Well, it’s free although there are occasional audio adverts spirinkled in between songs although in my view, the adverts are not invasive (every 5 or 6 songs) and no worse than commercial radio - a lot better in fact. There are also visual ads in the Spotify aplication, but again, I don’t find these too bothersome. If you do, there are subscription options for an ad-free service although at £10 per month, I think this option is way overpriced.

What’s the catch ? Is this illegal ? Isn’t this Limewire dressed up with a different interface ? Well - no because Spotify pays the artists and labels for access to the music so the content on Spotify is legal. In fact, Spotify does contain some content from dubious sources which is occasionally being trimmed and removed from the servers as it is identified.

The good news doesn’t end there. The labels, bands and A&R men behind Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, AC/DC, Metallica and The Beatles refused to share their music so there is simply no way you can ever encounter any of that dross. Ever.

The only two main omissions that I care about are The Smiths (hears loud cheering in the distance) and that Beatles tribute band fronted by two brothers from Manchester - Oasis (hears more loud cheering).

Using Spotify I can access most of my music library from any PC (desktop or work laptop) and there’s an option to automatically update last.fm with tracks played.

Does this signal the death of the music industry and mark my last ever CD purchase ? Well - no, ironically Spotify has sparked my interest and unveiled more hidden musical nuggets (‘Entertainment’ by ‘Gang of Four’ to name just one) I had completely forgotten about. Consequently, I will probably go out and buy now more CD’s as I also listen to music on my iTouch and in the car.

Anyway, Spotify is only available in selected countries at the moment and subscription is by invite only (Google Blog Search is your friend) but today Spotify opened up to users in the UK without the need for an invite.