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iameven.com - WTF, Spotify?

- Even Alander

The decline of the once great service, Spotify.

Before

I used to buy CD's, physical discs containing something like 8 to 12 songs and less than 80 minutes of music. I do like the album format, a compilation that the artist themselves have selected in the order they want you to hear it. And that is one of the reasons I stuck with them for a time, I think. That, and a feeling of ownership. The feeling that this was my music collection.

The thought of renting music, scared me at first. What if the service disappear, or they take down the music I like? The whole concept was quite new to me when I first heard of Spotify. I tested it, quite early, but felt that the application was user hostile and clunky. A lot of the music I searched for wasn't available. It also had annoying ads, since I didn't want to pay.

Then I moved from Norway to Australia, my whole music collection followed along on an external HDD. It worked out, I had music, but I couldn't buy more CD's. After all, I would move back again after a year and a suitcase can only fit so much. The only way to extend my collection was through mp3 shops, like Beatport, Juno Download, and Addictech. That broke a barrier for me. The physical collection didn't make as much sense and I realized that I didn't listen to most of my collection. My taste changes and I get tired of the old stuff.

Now

Spotify, it turns out, is a great deal. I don't need to worry about physical goods. I can ignore music after a while. I get to discover tons of great music without doing transactions. My music collection is in sync at home, in my car and at work. Now I collect play lists instead of albums, and I still get to listen to albums when I want to. The app was even pretty great for a while, which brings me back to the headline.

The line goes something like this; "if it isn't broken, don't fix it". I think this started when they first rolled out the web player, but it could be earlier, when Facebook got integrated. Facebook sort of ruined the friends list and sharing as recommendations went to the Facebook inbox. This wasn't too bad at first, but when the web player turned up, song links stopped working. They used to take you to an information screen about the music which prompted you to open the local application. Now they took you to the web player where you had to log in. If you got the log in wrong you got redirected to another page where they sent you to the home page of the web player. Frustrating? Yes. It sort of reminds me of visiting web pages from a mobile device that redirects you to the home page of the mobile version. They've fixed that, but they still take you to the web player.

server attention span

869 "Server Attention Span" by xkcd

No matter, who shares music through links these days, right? Most people, but friends can recommend by name and you can just search for it, right? Well, no, not if that is an artist name - song name combination. You can only search for one of these, and when you get to the result page, they've removed the filter. They first took it away from the artist pages, because when you're there you obviously want to scan through or listen to all the music? Not really.

You can't filter search results, or sort by categories, like popularity, I mean, who wants to do that? Everyone. And we all know that only one artist get to use an unique title for their song, so that shouldn't be a problem. Well, that isn't true at all.

Are they even using Spotify at Spotify, or have they started using something sane like foobar 2000 and stopped caring? They've stripped down the local app to be more like the web app but have given a good part of the screen in the web app to advertise the local app. "For the full Spotify experience", they claim. But it isn't full, it's frustrating. Let me filter for gods sake!

You want to star music, you say? A quick way to add a song for later or repeated listening. Sounds useful right, yet they removed it, made it a simple play list. They did add something to replace it, collections, but I don't see why we can't have both. Maybe they removed it because it's so hard to search for music now, so we won't need to save it for later.

Here is what they should have been doing according to me and based on absolutely nothing:

Alternatives

I've just tested two alternatives. Wimp which runs as an adobe air application, that is more clunky than Spotify. And rdio, where font rendering is completely broken on windows. Is it really that hard, to make a proper user interface for a music player? Get listing, sorting, searching, filtering and saving right and I would be happy. It doesn't need to look like Winamp, it doesn't need to look fancy at all, it just needs to be useful. A music application runs in the background, it is secondary to whatever you are doing except making play lists.

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