After years of tech-blog hype, months of negotiations with record labels, and weeks of it's-coming-soon promises, Europe's immensely popular music service Spotify went live in the U.S. on Thursday. For the free version of Spotify, you need an invitation to sign up — people willing to shell out $5 or $10 a month don't have to wait. The first round of invitees has now had a chance to play around with the desktop and mobile versions of the service, which lets you search for artists and albums, compile playlists, and stream almost any widely released song online. Does Spotify live up to the hype?
Spotify deserves all the buzz: Spotify promised to be "the end all, be all solution to our music listening needs in the 21st century," says Adrian Covert at Gizmodo. "And, by the beard of Zeus, they've delivered." At first, the program confused and overwhelmed me, but it got better the more I used it. Now I'm hooked. First, "15 million tracks — more than any other service — are at your disposal" immediately, for free or a pittance. And the "killer feature"? You can integrate your own tunes, too.
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The need to build playlists is a deal-breaker: Here's the thing about Spotify — it's "all about the playlists," says Matthew Miller at ZDNet. If, like me, that's not how you listen to digital music, you may want to stick with Pandora, Slacker, Last.fm, or another music-streaming service. I know I will. I prefer having "music streamed to me randomly," and I just don't see any need "to change how I enjoy music right now."
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It's perfect — for some people: If you're not "a purely lean-back kind of listener" who prefers online radio, then "Spotify is simply the best free music service out there today," says Jon Healey in the Los Angeles Times. That doesn't mean it's perfect: You have to expend effort to sate your "voracious musical appetites" from its massive music buffet. And I'm not sold that tying music-sharing to Facebook is smart. I choose Facebook friends for a variety of reasons that have nothing to do with musical taste. But still, it's easy to see why some people fall hard for Spotify.
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