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Spotify: An Introduction

Posted at 4:44 PM on August 31, 2011 by Hans Buetow
Filed under: In the media, Musical philosophy

Spotify is something you may have heard about. For some, it is a long-awaited music streaming service. For others, it's just something else they don't use that might or might not (and who really cares?) be like Pandora, Rdio, iCloud, Jango, Slacker, Maestro, Grooveshark, last.fm, MOG, or Turntable.


But whether you are excited about it or ambivalent towards it, Spotify is here, and Spotify is changing music distribution.


That change has been met, as all changes are, with skepticism, anger, elation, and all of the other reactions produced by the friction of that change. The rub from Spotify has been keenly felt, and discussed, in the classical music community recently, causing conversations and even arguments in the Twitter and Blog-spheres for months.


So, for those of us who aren't following the exact conversation, what exactly is Spotify, and why is it causing all of this hubbub?


For the next three days, Classical MPR will explore those questions and hopefully give some clarity about what Spotify is, why people are upset, and why others think it's great.


So, let's start with a little context.


First, what is Spotify?


In short, Spotify is an online music library that you can access, completely free of charge. Think of it as an iTunes account that has been pre-populated for your use by several major record labels (including Universal, Sony, EMI, and Warner Music Group) with their music catalogues. Imagine, if you would, waking up tomorrow to find that overnight your iTunes library had been expanded to include a large portion of all recorded music. Well, imagine no longer, because that is the reality of Spotify.


Once you sign up, which you can do with a free, but limited, account, you can search out and immediately stream (to your computer) any song or piece of music that has had rights cleared to be in the database. That database is currently over 15 million songs, and is growing every day.


There is a social element to Spotify as well, which can link to your Facebook and Twitter accounts to share playlists with friends. Through Facebook you can even "send" songs to friends, highlighting for them something you've just discovered, or an old favorite you love. You can also collaborate on playlists, allowing multiple people to add songs to the same playlist.


So, Spotify is a huge collection of recorded music that I can listen to at any time for free? That sounds pretty cool.


TOMORROW: So, why are people so upset about Spotify?