For over a decade, iTunes was my music hub. No longer.
I finally tried Spotify Premium for the first time last month at the behest of my colleague Ben Gilbert, who also ditched his music collection in favour of Spotify. And unless Apple’s upcoming streaming service is truly novel and remarkable, I can’t see myself returning to iTunes.
iTunes, to me, doesn’t really symbolise music, but rather years of painstaking work on my part. Since I was a young teenager with a clickwheel iPod, I’d spent countless hours refining my iTunes library, adding and deleting music, correcting song titles and album names, and adding artwork to every album. And it frustrated me so many times: I had to rebuild my iTunes library from scratch at least twice when I bought new computers and hard drives, which forced me to drag and drop files and recreate old playlists. That old Apple mantra, “it just works,” has not applied to iTunes for quite some time.
Ben assured me this was a key selling point for Spotify: It would be less about organising files and more about discovering new music and being able to listen to it anywhere. And with the company’s current promotional offer — 3 months of Spotify Premium for $US0.99 — I felt it deserved a shot.
I approached Spotify like a typical iTunes user: I tried to recreate my iTunes library in Spotify, instead of trying something completely new. Baby steps, I thought.
First, the playlists. I’ve spent years refining my iTunes mixes for commuting and the gym, so I tried to build “new and improved” versions of those playlists in Spotify. Unfortunately, some songs were unavailable in Spotify — Dr. Dre’s famous album “The Chronic” is nowhere to be found — but as I went about reassembling those playlists, I was happy to discover a ton of other songs I probably wouldn’t have come across otherwise.
For example, my “Rap Anthology” playlist has existed since I was about 12 or 13, when my brother Greg introduced me to the genre during a ski trip to Massachusetts. That playlist remained static until last month, when I found a ton of new songs while poring through Spotify’s curated playlists like “The Gold School” and “Hip-Hop Classics.” My anthology has since doubled from 15 songs to 31 songs.
Here are some other reasons why I find Spotify so valuable:
- Unlike iTunes, which encourages you to collect the music you like and listen to it again and again, Spotify urges you to explore and discover new things. Curated playlists act as tour guides to specific music genres, styles and moods.
- You can listen to almost any song at any time with Spotify, including those random songs that get stuck in your head on some mornings but aren’t generally part of your music collection. Spotify makes it easier to go with the flow; with iTunes, you can preview these songs, but you’d have to buy them outright if you want them on all your devices, even if it’s just for a day or two. (Or, y’know, pirate those songs or watch them on YouTube.)
- Spotify has a better system for getting music on and off your devices. On iTunes, you have to buy a song through iTunes if you want it to show up on all your other devices — otherwise, you have to sync those devices with a cord or wirelessly in the same room. On Spotify, however, I can listen to music on any device and store it for “offline listening” at any point. So long as I’m connected to the internet, adding entire playlists and albums to my library takes seconds, and I can remove it worry-free at any time.
I should note that I haven’t even really explored the world of straight up streaming music directly from Spotify on a regular basis, which I know many people do. I save everything for offline listening right now so I can have access to it whenever I want.
There are plenty of other reasons why I love Spotify now, but it all boils down to one simple fact: It feels like Spotify truly loves and cares about music.
From the way Spotify is built, where the desktop and mobile interfaces feel unique and intuitive in their own right, to the countless curated playlists for every possible emotion and genre, I feel like I’m in good hands with Spotify.
Every feature feels like it’s there for the user’s benefit, not for the sake of the artists or even Spotify the company. And it has social features, too — you can see what other friends are listening to and share your activities with others — but all these functions can be turned on and off for a truly personal music experience.
Apple will unveil its Spotify rival at next Monday’s Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC), so it will be interesting to see how the company aims to put its $US3 billion purchase of Beats to good use. But unless Apple offers a cheaper and better solution than Spotify that encompasses its entire library, I plan on sticking with Spotify for the foreseeable future.