Last week I was sent an invite to try Spotify. Spotify is a streaming music service that was started by a Swedish company in 2008. The service has just launched in Canada and is currently limited access until it’s’ official launch.

I have never really used any streaming music services but I know people who use Pandora and Grooveshark. I’d done some searches on these two services in the past and been underwhelmed by the available content. Recently I have started using Soundcloud which it seems most artist are releasing music to but it’s mostly tracks that in the past would have been b-sides and bonus tracks. I regularly listen to music from Bandcamp pages and usually end up buying them from there if I like them and download in FLAC format if it is available. I have never used iTunes and probably never will. For files that I have purchased I listen from my computer using foobar2000 which is a free bloat free media player and on my Cowon digital media player.

I have heard that Spotify is the best of the streaming music services so I decided to accept the invite and try it out. After signing up I had to download and install their client. This was straight forward and the application had a relatively small footprint in regards to CPU and memory use. The applications interface is intuitive and it’s also easy to search and very quick to load. The sound quality is very good for a streaming service.

First thing I did was search for a few different artists to see what content they had and I was very impressed. I found they had some recent releases and full discographies or some of my favourite 90′s hip hop. I was able to find a few artists that were not on there at all or had albums missing but overall the available catalog is impressive. If I had one criticism it would be the way the albums are listed the order seems to be a bit of a random mess. I’d like to see official albums listed first and bootlegs and live albums later but I can understand that curate that is not always a simple task.

I clicked on the discover button that is meant to give recommendations based on you listens but all it showed me were releases from major record labels that have nothing in common with what I had listened to. I am not sure if this feature is not available to me or if i had to favourite songs/albums before this worked. I have not tried the mobile application and probably won’t as I currently do not listen to music from my phone as I have a dedicated device for that.

After listening to a few albums and being very impressive two questions came to my mind. How does Spotify make money and how much does it pay the artists? It was right about this time Spotify started splicing promos for Spotify premium and popups over the application suggesting I sign up for Spotify premium for $10 a month.

I assume that when the service officially goes live that there will be advertisements for other products.¬† I also read that new users get the premium experience for 30 days and that after that¬† the service is restricted to 10 hours per month is restricted and repeat listens of individual tracks will also be limited. This all sounds fair just don’t forget to press the stop button when you’re not listening.

In regards to revenue paid to the artists Spotify claims that 70% is paid towards royalties. I assume that by the time these royalties reach the musician it’s either a very small percentage or nothing at all depending on their contract. The Wikipedia page on Spotify provides a number of criticisms from high profile artist. A couple of notable examples are that a musician would require 4 millions listens a month to make US minimum wage and that what you a likely to earn in 6 months is equivalent to what a busker could make in a day.

My short experience with Spotify had certainly opened my mind a little more to the idea of streaming music, overall the end user experience is very good and I really liked being able to think of some nostalgic songs and being able to listen within seconds. As someone that hates annoying advertisements and wants to support independent musicians that I listen to I think my use of Spotify will be limited to moments of nostalgia or for being able to satisfy random play request from friends.