The world is changing. Products are being replaced by services, transactions are being replaced by relationships, and functions are being replaced by experiences. This is quite evident to me in my dealings with movies and music.
Back in the day I used to watch movies by renting VHS tapes. Each movie rental cost $3 which at the time was a decent amount of money, so much so, that you would really hate it if you rented a bad movie. In addition you would never take a chance on renting a movie you were unsure of because of the cost involved. Then along comes Netflix. Instead of paying for each movie individually, you pay a monthly fee and watch as many movies as you want. As such you will certainly give lesser known or "not sure if I am going to like it" movies a chance, since if they turn out badly, you simply return them, and the next movie in your queue takes its place at no additional cost. With the advent of streaming movies, even the return of the movie disc is becoming obsolete. For discs I do rent, they lack special content like deleted scenes or alternate endings. I am not sure whose idea this is. Perhaps it is the movie studios who want to entice you to buy the movie instead of renting it so you get the extras? Perhaps it is Netflix who wants the experience of viewing via disc to equal that of streaming the movie instead? When you think about it, you don't want to own the movie, you just want to be able to watch it.
Back in the day I also used to buy albums and CDs. Music was different from movies. Most movies you watch only once. With music you listen so many times that the words become committed to memory. So renting music never really entered the equation, but the concept of eliminating the media certainly did. When you think about it, you don't want to own an album or CD, you want to hear the songs when you want to. Along comes iTunes and makes this a reality. No more media.
I have the following devices:
|DELL XPS laptop||personal||9,302 songs|
|iPod Shuffle||personal||300 songs|
|HP EliteBook laptop||work|
|iPad 2||personal/work||9,302 songs|
|iPhone 4GS||personal/work||9,302 songs|
Now along comes a service called Spotify. I am late to the party as many of my friends and family already use this service. Here's the deal with Spotify. There is a premium level of the service where you pay $9.99 per month and can listen to all of the music in their repository. You can stream the music to all of your devices as long as you use one device at a time.I am trying a free 30-day trial and have noticed a few things I don't yet understand.
There are many songs to choose from. Like iTunes, I can make play lists. The lists can include songs I own (local files) as well as songs I don't own (streamed from the Spotify servers).
When I search for music to play, I find the same album more than once even though I don't own it. Why does it do this? This does not happen when I look for movies on Netflix or music on iTunes. I am now having trouble reproducing this, so maybe that was a one-time thing. It happened when I looked for songs by Peter Frampton and again when I looked for songs by Sting. Both of those were on the same day I first started using Spotify.
I am able to listen to music just fine at work (using my HP EliteBook) or at home (using my DELL XPS) since my laptops are connected to the internet via a wireless network. Unlike with iTunes, I don't have to sync my devices to a master PC that has all of my purchased music. Microsoft Windows is supported just fine. All of my devices are Spotify-capable, except for the iPod Shuffle, which can only obtain songs by syncing to my PC.
I am able to retain my iPad as my musical juke box. Right now it has all of my iTunes music on it and is connected to a Bose SoundDock unit. The iPad will stream songs from Spotify over the wireless network just as if the songs were stored as files on the device itself. For songs on the iPad because it was synced from my home PC, Spotify will also play them.
On Saturday I tried to listen to streamed music using just my phone while raking up leaves and pulling weeds in the garden. My iPhone 4GS stopped playing the first song I tried to listen to because the server believed "another device is already using Spotify." Even though my iPad was not actively playing anything at the time, the fact that the Spotify app was open on the device made the server believe it was in use. I went inside and exited the application. The song on my iPhone resumed playing but as soon as I left the garage, I was out of range to reach my wireless router, so the service stopped again with an error message "Unable to complete song." I then turned off my phone's WiFi, and the song resumed playing using the AT&T 4G service. I found this to be horrible. I could not get through an entire song without some type of interruption. There were long pauses between songs - much like what would happen when "buffering..." video in the early days of YouTube. This is probably a limitation of the AT&T network, and not Spotify's fault, but it does impact my overall experience. Spotify has some sort of "store songs locally" offline mode that I need to investigate.
So far from what I can tell, Spotify does not record any music history. I do not think it records the last time I listened to each song. Typically I use this to create an annual analysis (2009, 2010, 2011) and inject variety by avoiding listening to songs I see that I have recently heard. Although it does create an XML file with listening history, by default, Spotify shares what I am listening to on Facebook. I have never heard a Justin Bieber song, but if I wanted to see what all of the fuss is about, my Facebook status would make me appear to be a fan. There is a Private Session mode to avoid this.
So at this point I am still feeling Spotify out. In the long run, I know this is the way to go. I just want to hear music when I want to hear music. Much like not wanting to own movies, I don't want to own little files in the same way I don't want to own Blu-Ray movies or compact discs.
Services are alive in the lab.