I am a huge music fan, I'll listen to all sorts of music ranging from the pop to opera and this is my experience of Spotify, a service that truly is a “game changer” meaning you can listen to virtually any music you like without having to go buy a download or a CD. I've been a Spotify user for quite a while and am now a premium (subscription) customer. There is one snag though, I am also an Ubuntu user, a platform not supported officially by Spotify. Despite this, it is possible to get Spotify up and running on Ubuntu and a few mobile devices. This is my experience so far of using Spotify.
There is no Linux client for Spotify – still. Instead you have to get the Windows version and run it under Wine. Native Linux support is a subject that has been raised in the online customer feedback system Get Satisfaction with the comment:
“I'd love to see a native linux-version of spotify. Yes it works fine with wine, but in the year 2008 a native version for the cool-people among us 'd be great.”
Sadly I did not mistype the year, the comment is that old. Apparently 493 other people also liked the idea, but nothing has happened, which is a bit of a shame. It is worth noting that there is a native Last.fm client for Linux.
However, all is not lost I have found that the client works pretty well under Wine. The only thing that does not seem to work is the buy music button, which should take you off to a partner store, but I just get a blank window. This is not a major problem though. Spotify provide instructions for getting their product working under Wine at: http://www.spotify.com/en/help/faq/wine/. I found the section about getting Firefox to recognise Spotify URLs did not work for me, but found an alternative method at http://rob.iparker.co.uk/?p=35 which worked really well.
Spotify is available in a free version and a premium version. Currently you need an invite to get the free version, but when I signed up that was not the case. When you have the free version you get interrupted by adverts every so often, which is not so bad at first, but these adverts become repetitive. I do not know if Spotify try to target adverts at a demographic in any way, but I just seemed to get constant adverts for a brand of luxury car, and got constantly urged to “talk to Frank”. I can't have a drug habit and a luxury car – make your minds up! Anyway, after a while these adverts do become rather annoying, so I decided that, as it was a service I used regularly, it would be good to treat myself to a premium subscription at the cost of £9.99 a month (slightly more than one CD). This would certainly be a cheaper option than been worn down by the power of suggestion and buying a luxury car.
Spotify Premium has been great, no more adverts and pretty much whatever music you want whenever you want it. Sometimes this has been a bit weird though. The problem with being in charge of the world's biggest jukebox is, ironically, finding music to play. I also use Last.fm and have enjoyed the way I can discover new music thanks to the way it can find similar artists to ones you like. I have bought many CDs and downloaded many tracks as a result of these suggestions and learnt about artists I would not encounter on the radio. Spotify has been fun, but sometimes I cannot remember the artist and/or the name of a track that I like, particularly I have not heard it for some time. Maybe Spotify should integrate with a service like Shazam so I can just hum a half forgotten tune and it would find it for me.
Having a premium account also means you can use the mobile clients that Spotify have produced. I have tried the official clients for the Apple iPod Touch (I have one on loan) and the HTC Hero. These clients also allow you to listen to the music while offline, very useful for travelling and with the addition of an FM adapter could make a very nice solution for having music in the car. This is done by having playlists that you can chose to be available offline. This is not the same as downloading music normally, you can only play it through the Spotify client, and you must have a currently valid subscription for this to work. All this works pretty well, apart from some issues I have found on the iPod Touch client where Spotify will occasionally crash when going from a playlist to playing a search result. I don't know why this happens. Also the iPod Touch's operating system cannot handle multitasking so you cannot listen to Spotify and browse the web at the same time which is a bit of a shame. On the Hero things were better and the client seemed to work smoothly (although I only had it for a few days). Spotify also do clients for other mobile phones, visit http://m.spotify.com from your phone to see if it is supported.
One device that is not currently supported by Spotify is the Nokia N900. Here open source clients have been springing up to meet this gap. One I have tried is Qtify which does not offer offline playlists but enables you to listen to playlists online and also the other tracks on offer. This looks like it is being actively developed and has come on a long way in the short time I have been trying it out. It is based on Despotify, an open source client for Spotify that various projects can plug in to. You will still need a premium subscription to use these options though. Spotify on the N900 is not really on a par yet with other devices, but hopefully either these clients will continue to develop or N900 users will get an official client (which maybe could share a lot of common code with a desktop client for Linux machines?).
Spotify is I think a very innovative service. It, and similar services, could change the way we consume music forever, removing the need to own a copy of a track before you can listen to it on demand. I use it along side Last.fm, I don't think one replaces the other necessarily, but both can be a better option than listening to the limited playlists of many radio stations. It is disappointing not to have a native Linux client for Spotify, hopefully that will happen eventually, which may open the doors to more Linux users becoming subscribers. For now, the Windows Spotify client seems to work pretty well under Wine and I am enjoying using the service so will keep my subscription for now. I will also continue to buy music online too, for the foreseeable future at least.