16 March 2010

Beethoven by Numbers

One of the reasons I am so excited by Spotify is that it is asymptotically approaching an online library of All Music. Even in its necessarily incomplete state, it offers amazing possibilities. For example, one of the key advantages of having all this stuff on tap is that it's possible to create playlists that mix and match in interesting ways.

Here's a great example: a playlist of Beethoven's works ordered by opus number. Now, I already have the Brilliant Classics boxed set of Beethoven's complete works on CD, but that's rather different. In particular, I can't move through the works by opus number easily.

Why might I want to do that? Well, it's an interesting journey through Beethoven's works - not strictly chronological, but historical in terms of what came out when. In particular, it lets me see at a glance all those odd little works that usually get overlooked - the opus 42, 105, 128 etc. that rarely pop up.

The other great thing about services like Spotify is that they let people share in interesting ways by passing on their playlists. It's a level above simply sharing the files themselves, and adds a richness to listening that is not otherwise easy to replicate. It's a hint of a world where all content is freely available online, and we can share and build on each other's insanely stimulating mashups.

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ulyssestone said...

Thanks, it's also a great fun to make these playlists. I discovered the Eroica Variations and many other interesting works during the process.

Anonymous said...

This is great but ...

Spotify downloads music in a DRMed ogg format. Only pro accounts can store the music, so it's possible to play offline. The android app only allows pro accounts for this reason.

The playlist is tied to Spotify, it's not an open format, that could be shared with say imeem or any other future service. So though it allows people to share their playlists it's if anything more tied to the service than an MS OOXML document is to MS word.

What you therefore have is a way to share data between people which is limited by the whims of the service. The playlist belongs to Spotify and presumably they do not hold themselves responsible for accidental deletion or for the playlist lasting longer than the company.

To me, though there may seem to be a social networking sheen to the service it's as closed as anything Apple have produced.

On a side note, it's currently impossible to get free Spotify accounts without being recommended by a Spotify subscriber. Presumably the intent is to increase the percentage of subscribers and make the business model seem more sustainable. So anyone who doesn't already have an account might be out of luck unless they are willing to shell out cash or have a friend with a pro account. Right now I know of 3 people who'd like an account, one of whom might really enjoy that playlist but they can't get one.

Glyn Moody said...

Those are all fair points.

I suppose I see Spotify as the first indication of what *might* be done, not as the be-all and end-all.

Yes, you're right, the playlist needs to be in an open format, compatible with other services. But since this stuff has only just started - and the music recording companies are *already* trying to kill, it there's a long way to go.

I'm not quite sure how free accounts are "recommended", but if I can do this for your Beethoven-loving friend, I will. Let me know what the system is.

Anonymous said...

I think that the trouble is that often the one first to market prominence distorts the market. I'm thinking of Apple with iTunes here. Even a company as strong as Amazon has trouble playing catchup. Amazon might be able to help a change the market (removal of DRM and individual pricing for instance) but there are still plenty of people I know locked into iTunes because they've purchased the music there before the DRM was removed.

This being the problem, if Spotify becomes extremely dominant, what's to stop them being the next iTunes and altering the market in ways we can only stab at predicting right now. Imagine shared playlists on Spotify ready PMPs. Suddenly a Spotify ready PMP has an added benefit to the customers. The more playlists (data) that Spotify controls the less chance a competitor can come in to the market.

Thanks for the offer but if you got me an invite, I'd feel bad for giving it to the Beethoven lover and not the other two people. Besides your invites are limited:


I enjoyed your tweet on Talk Talk. I downloaded Dan Bull's album from his website (it's a free download). It was cool, so I bought the CD.

Glyn Moody said...

You're right, which suggests we need to start applying some pressure to Spotify to open up. I'll get working on it...

And I've checked: I have precisely zero invites to give, anyway...sorry.