200 Milliseconds

Spotify owes a more direct technical debt to file sharing: The very technology that makes it so fast is borrowed from techniques honed while sharing pirated files. Both Ek and, later, two of his engineers say that once you click a button, anything that happens within 200 milliseconds seems directly under your control. To beat 200 milliseconds, Spotify runs not as a Web service but as an application on your computer.

Spotify Now in the US

It’s pretty good.

First impressions:

  • Much easier to work with and add to a queue than Rdio
  • and FAST searching and responsive playback
  • Man I wish I had a keyboard shortcut for starring the currently playing track
  • Something needs to be starred or added to a playlist for it to appear in my Spotify library?
  • I kind of miss going through my album-based smart playlists

Pretty happy with it so far.

Jesus Is A Raisin, Spotify Is A Unicorn

At a media roundtable, Rdio CEO Drew Lerner said that Spotify is a unicorn in the United States. People have been talking about it for two years, but nobody has seen it.

From Tom Foremski’s report:

I mentioned that I had “seen it” and used it and that it is a very impressive service. It streams almost immediately and it doesn’t have that online “shudder” that all other online streaming services seem to have and that put the listener on edge. And it has a great selection.

That explains Spotify’s stance here:

A year into using the service and I still have Rdio queue anxiety. I wonder if today is going to be the day when I lose the nearly 100 albums in my queue.

“On Spotify” by Ethan Kaplan

The issue for me is how I consume music. I don’t consume music like I consume information. I curate, digest, browse and meander the stacks as it were…What it comes down to is that Spotify democratizes music to such an extent that it becomes just files and audio rather than atomic entities known as albums, artists and genres.

I’m excited for Spotify’s launch in the US, but if you’re at all like this it sounds like you’re still going to be more comfortable in iTunes than any of the streaming services.

$10 a month is great for all you can eat listening, but the problem is that the stacks are easier to browse in iTunes than in streaming services. Genres, smart playlists, ratings…take those things away and you have the current shortcomings of the streaming services. I think that’s enough for music nerds to keep on downloading from torrents than to use something like Spotify.

Yeah, it’s illegal, but it’s competition.

Bob Lefsetz on iCloud, Streaming Services, and Labels

Who in the hell is going to buy a music subscription for even $3 a month when for $25 a year you can have everything you own, even stole, at your fingertips via iCloud. That’s if you scan and match, if you bought the stuff on iTunes, it’s FREE!

…How cheaply they were bought off! $150 million is nothing to Apple, look at its cash hoard! Apple gets an opportunity to dominate with its iPads and iPhones for this paltry payment.

It boggles the mind.

How Spotify Works

From the Wikipedia:

The contents of each client’s cache is summarized in an index which is sent to the Spotify stream hub upon connecting to the service. This index is then used to inform other clients about additional peers they can connect to for fetching streamed data for individual tracks being played. This is accommodated by each client, upon startup, acting as a server listening for incoming connections from other Spotify users, as well as intuitively connecting to other users to exchange cached data as appropriate. There are currently no official details from the developers about how many connections and how much of a user’s upstream bandwidth the Spotify client will use when streaming to other users; the Spotify client offers no way for the user to configure this.

So basically it’s like a music BitTorrent thingy.

In general I think it’s sketchy when companies have their users provide bandwidth for them. Spotify prides themselves on having almost no buffering delays. Maybe this is why.

Spotify Hits 1 Million Paying Users

How impressive is Spotify reaching the one million subscribers mark? It bests the 750,000-plus self-reported customers of U.S. subscription Rhapsody, which has been in business for eight years. Spotify is also ahead of the last known subscriber count for Napster, which reported 761,000 subscribers in its last quarterly filing before it was acquired by Best Buy in 2008. Thumbplay, which was recently acquired by Clear Channel, was reported to have just 20,000 subscribers. The figures for other new services like MOG and Rdio are unknown.

Bob Lefsetz is right.

Rhapsody/Napster/MOG, et al can’t win because they’re not free. The labels won’t allow a free service, that’s how fucked up they are. But if I let you play for free, which is how Spotify works in the countries it’s launched in, would you check it out?

OF COURSE!

And you’d be hooked.

But it would only work on the desktop. You’ve got to pay for it on your mobile. And soon, your mobile will be everything. See where we’re heading?

Financial Times on Apple’s Music Backup in the Cloud

More than a year after buying Lala, a cloud-based digital music service, Apple is now looking to use the cloud mainly to allow users of its iTunes store to back up their collections and access them from any Apple device. One person with knowledge of Apple’s plans said the company did not want to undermine the market that it dominates for paid downloads, likening its plans for the cloud to “insurance”.

This is the kind of thing that makes me think that Apple would never launch a subscription program. Why limit yourself to $10 a month when you could get multiples of that?

But things are changing.

Spotify Close To Launch in the United States

The NY Post reports that Spotify now has US deals with Sony and another major label.

The Luxembourg-based music service is days away from signing a deal with is Sony Music, according to a person familiar with the discussions.

“Spotify is launching in the US, for sure,” one music executive said. “They’ve got the deals now.”

A Spotify spokesman told The Post, “Negotiations are progressing well, but [we have] nothing to confirm at this stage.”

Business Insider is skeptical, adding:

Spotify has been close with Sony for a while. The real hold up is Warner and UMG. Until it has all the labels on board, we’re not expecting much.

If there’s one reason why Spotify could succeed while up against Rhapsody, Mog, and Rdio it’s their desktop app. Nobody else has one like it.

2011 could be a wild ride.