So I’ve recently been looking into a music service to better fit my needs. I’m a huge fan on Pandora and use it all the time. It usually is exactly what I want because I like turning the music on and forgetting about it while I work or do something. But sometimes I like a bit more customization than just accepting whatever Pandora decides to throw at me. And sometimes I really, really want to listen to that particular song or album and it’s not so possible with the Pandora model. On my laptop, sure I can use Grooveshark, but it’s really on my phone when I’m out that I want that sometimes. Further, I have a bunch of files from way back when which are somewhat incomplete and all over the place and I want to be able to listen to the whole album if I want to, even though I don’t have the files downloaded. So it just makes sense for me. And it has to work on both my iPhone and Droid (so, sadly Grooveshark is out for me.. I don’t really want to jailbreak).
So, I decided to take a look at Spotify after it was launched last week. I work on Linux almost exclusively, so immediately there were some disadvantages to Spotify. Sure, there’s a beta Linux client. However, it’s not open to the free accounts because they haven’t figured out how to implement ads correctly yet (it is beta after all, so it’s understandable), which is a shame. And the Windows client runs somewhat decently in Wine, although it’s nowhere as smooth as I wish it was. Also it crashed every time I tried to run it until I realized that it was the Facebook/People tab that was breaking. So, no social features as of yet on Linux it seems!
However, regarding the music itself, I’m fairly happy. However, it definitely is harder to extrapolate from a song or artist on Spotify unfortunately. Unless you know what you’re looking for, you’ll probably be fairly lost I think. I like that I can just play the “radio” from an artist’s page, but it keeps randomly stopping after songs! Not sure if that’s just a bug in running the Windows client on a Linux box or what, but it’s annoying. The music quality is pretty nice, nothing much to complain about there. I haven’t been able to really test out the mobile app because I’m still on a free account, which is sad because that’s really going to be the breaking point for me.
At the same time, I’ve also started my 7-day free trial with Rdio. I immediately like that there’s a web interface! Awesome, I can control it from any computer, including my CR-48, which basically has no hope of running Spotify :(. The web interface takes some getting used to, but after a day or so, I think I’m getting the hang of it. I like that I don’t need to use Facebook in order to the get the social features. It’s pretty nice and I’ve been checking out some playlists from people on there, which is a pleasant experience. The player on the left sometimes shifts when I click on a link, which is annoying, but otherwise it’s pretty well put together. The only downside I see so far is that I wish it wouldn’t take so long between songs! I’m not sure if they do any kind of prefetching the next song, but that would be something I’d really appreciate. Not fun to wait sometimes 3-5 seconds or more between songs. I also wish I could shuffle across my entire queue; that is, shuffle in songs from Artist A’s radio with Artist B’s radio too. The mobile app is also very smooth and nice to use, although I really kinda miss not being able to get album information from the player by hitting the top right icon. Actually, it sometimes just brings up a blank screen if I’m in a radio! Which is boring. Also, there’s no way for me to add a song to my collection from the player either! (You can do it from going to the History and doing it, but that’s just lame and stuff..). I like that the audio stops when a call/notification comes and then continues afterwards. I wonder if they support stopping when you set an alarm to turn off the iPod after X minutes (I know Pandora does this). Anyway, apart from that, it’s going really well so far. I still have to keep trying it out, but I’m leaning towards Rdio at this point due mostly to the web interface and ease of use in the UI. Oh and I did get the Adobe Air desktop mini-app working in Linux too, but it doesn’t seem to work when the Rdio tab is closed..
Finally, I’d just like to say that I wish there were some notion of Genres, which I can’t seem to find in either of these services. Sometimes I just care about genre and not really about the artist as much and I wish I could use this to do that. Of course, I understand that this a better use-case for Pandora, but I prefer not switching between services as much. Or maybe I just want to see the hot artists in a particular genre instead of overall. Anyway, those are my initial impressions. After this week is up, I’ll probably make a decision as to which one to pursue a paid account with.