Spotify is wonderful, but it has five problems

spotify-logo-ed.jpgIt’s no secret that I love, adore, and worship Spotify. It’s far and away my favourite piece of software that’s emerged over the last year. The reason I love it so much is its simplicity, and the way it does nearly everything exactly right. You can see exactly why I love it from my original writeup here.

Yesterday, Spotify removed its invitation-only status in the UK. It’s been possible to sign up without an invite, via a bit of URL trickery, for a little while, but now it’s open to anyone. Go get your sisters, brothers, parents and neighbors signed up – they’ll love it. However, Spotify, for all its awesomeness, isn’t quite perfect. Here’s five reasons why.

One: Spotify’s catalogue is getting increasingly iffy
At launch, Spotify had an incredible catalogue. It had every obscure artist you could think of, as well as every massive one. Having that vast music library at your fingertips meant that the only limit was your imagination.

Alas, it proved too good to be true. Spotify didn’t have the rights to stream most of the stuff it was streaming in all countries, and so it’s had to put restrictions in place, preventing people from accessing certain artists and songs.

To start with, only the usual digital holdouts, like Metallica, AC/DC and the Beatles, were missing but, over time, more and more songs have disappeared from my playlists. Including all the amazing Swedish indie-pop records that I love. It’s getting to be a regular occurrence that I’ll click an artist and find absolutely nothing available, and it’s starting to irritate me.

Two: You can’t see who has added tracks to a collaborate playlist
In the office, we use a collaborative playlist to queue up songs that everyone wants to hear. In fact, I wrote a tutorial on how to do it yourself here. So far, so democratic.

However, the problem comes when someone anonymously rickrolls the office. There’s no way of telling who added what to a playlist. As a result, you can’t track down the secret Steps fan, or reward whoever queued up Sigur Rós.

A simple column addition of “contributor” would fix this problem very easily. It’d also be nice to be able to ban certain users from editing your playlists. Or maybe even create friends-only lists. In which case…

Three: I want some friends
It would be lovely to be able to recruit a friends list in Spotify. I know it’s not a social network, but a basic system of seeing what your friends are playing, sending them IMs and inviting them to contribute to a private playlist would be very welcome.

I envisage a friends panel a bit like Steam‘s, which just shows a username, whatever the person is currently playing, and perhaps a link to their Last.fm profile if it’s tied to the Spotify account. It would be nice, too, to be able to listen to what someone else is listening, so Spotify DJs could emerge.

Four: Spotify should be able to play local tracks, too
This ties in to the catalogue issue. I’ve got a tonne of tracks on my PC that aren’t available on Spotify. I can understand not being able to add them to collaborative playlists, but why can’t I listen to them through the software?

Occasionally, too, when I have network problems, it’d be nice if the software could track whether or not I’ve got a local copy and play from that instead. But of course, local playback is fraught with incompatibility, slowdowns, album art problems and DRM, so I’m prepared to wait for this one.

Five: Better radio functionality
Most of all, though, Spotify needs a better “radio” function. I like the genre and year selection very much, but I’d be nice to drill down even further – picking subgenres and related artists, much like Pandora and Last.fm.

Then, some functionality to modify that radio playback with “like this” and “don’t like this” buttons would be enormously welcome. In fact, why not just integrate Last.fm playback, via the API, and have it all done automatically? That would be ‘win’ all round.

BONUS SIX: Accept debit cards!
Okay, this isn’t a proper problem, but I want a Premium subscription. I actively WANT to give Spotify my money. But I can’t, because Visa and Mastercard are the only cards accepted on the site. Where’s Switch, or Paypal? Where are my gift vouchers? Spotify is losing my cash.

Conclusions
Do you have any major problems with Spotify that I haven’t listed above? Share them in the comments. Oh, and don’t get me wrong – Spotify is the best digital music service out there – I just want it to be EVEN BETTER.

Spotify

By Duncan Geere | February 11th, 2009





Duncan GeereSpotify is wonderful, but it has five problems
  • http://www.catwalkqueen.tv Gemma

    I’d argue that it’s fairly easy out out the secret Steps fan…

  • http://www.spotify.com Andres

    Hi Duncan,

    Thanks for the post and the great feedback, some great suggestion there and we’ll be sure to try and take them into account for the future.

    Regards,
    Andres
    Spotify

  • alanpmartin

    Problems 4 and 5 are the big ones for me… so far I haven’t had much problem with the artists dwindling – the same obscure artists I’ve been looking for have been missing since I first signed up.

    But being able to search local tracks as well would solve a lot of problems, and I can’t see it being that difficult to code in.

    And of course the radio is hilariously inaccurate. :)

  • http://blog.amparker.net aaron

    I’d definitely be up for proper social features (friend lists, profile, wallposts, etc.) even if it’s via integration with other networks such as Facebook or better integration with Last.Fm. Playing local tracks is also something I’d welcome, it’s annoying having to switch between Spotify and iTunes. Music recommendations are another thing I’d love to see.

    Having said that, it is an incredible service which I use almost daily now, and I can’t wait to see how Spotify develops in the future.

  • http://www.bluejumpers.com/filip FilipHnizdo

    Having a list of contributors on the collaborative playlists would be great, especially if a click on a username revealed their playlists (if they want them to be revealed). None of us want another social networking site but simple username links, listening now, link to last.fm page and such would be brilliant. You could also add to people’s recommendations with a “you might like this” though this could easily lead to annoying messages and spam so it’s probably a bad idea.

    I really love the idea that you can search for genres in the search bar but the fact that this list of genres is not published anywhere makes it hard for this feature to be anything more than hit or miss. It would also be great if we could search for music by record label. The year based search is also great but not as useful as it could be. It’s probably just a case of tagging more albums but having a list of electro pop from between 1996 and 1998 or such would be amazing.

    A quick way to specify if you are searching for an album, single or artist also seems to be missing.

    Linked to those suggestions, huge improvements need to be made to the recommendations. The same recommendations are popping up every time I load up the software (three of these, sadly, are now missing from the database so are completely pointless) and the similar artists links also need a lot of help. A last.fm or amazon type (anonymous) “people who listen to this also listen to this” would be a million times better.

    On a minor note a little button that hides your playlists would be great as I have so many and they get in the way on the left as I have to scroll down to drag to a new one etc.

    Summary: Better searches, better recommendations, possible (but limited) social networking/friends.

    Otherwise it’s a stellar piece of software with an amazing catalogue.

  • niki

    you’ve hit the nail on the head with all your points i think, duncan.

    also, something i’d like them to explore in the future is to do with playlists. i know there’s a few sites out there which attempt to enable people to share playlists – but i don’t find them very helpful and they tend to lump stuff into genres, sometimes wrongly. it’d be useful to maybe see what playlists the song you’re listening to at the moment are on, and then go from there. or something. i don’t know… i just want better playlist facilities!

  • niki

    oh yes i also second filip’s record label search idea!

  • Tommo

    I agree – Spotify is great. I feel optimistic that they will be able to get back a lot of the music they’ve had to restrict. Let’s be realistic – services like iTunes are going to find it difficult to become the standard for delivery of digital music all the time the cost is so high. More often than not, I want to listen to a track and then think of another and listen to that, and not have to pay 79p a time for the privilege. I’d sooner go to seeqpod or hypem or even youtube than pay nearly a quid for a few minutes of music that I probably have on CD somewhere anyway. What surprises me in all the coverage of Spotify is that no-one seems to mention Napster, who for a few years have provided unrestricted access to their entire catalogue for download to your pc – and even certain mp3 players – for a monthly fee. If you’re prepared to pay for Spotify you should look into it. The advantage of Spotify for me is that it doesn’t rely on microsoft DRM so is available for mac and linux. Yes there are lots of features that could be added to the software, but everyone you ask will want something different. At the moment it’s clean and simple which will encourage the less technologically adept masses to use it, and I’m sure it’s success or failure will depend on the size of it’s user base.

  • alex

    and spotify doesnt have the album motorizer from motorhead and a few other amazing albums

  • riley

    whenever i start a song on spotify, it fast- forwards through the first part of the song, whether its the first ten seconds or three quarters of the song. does anyone have a solution for this problems

    • musicmad

      I get same problem. Has anyone a fix?

      • luctay

        I have the same problem on my old desktop but not on my more powerful laptop. I had assumed to was connected with memory/cpu issues. Its a tad annoying.

    • Antiquity

      It sounds as if you are both having hardware acceleration problems. A remedy to such a problem is described in the Spotify FAQ, at http://www.spotify.com/en/help/faq/#fast-forward. In short: to solve this problem, enable Hardware Acceleration in the system preferences by going to Edit > Preferences > uncheck “Enable hardware acceleration”. Hope this helps!

  • Brom

    Just a minor cosmetic request here, just for the sake of it:

    When I share links to Spotify songs on the web, I’d like the thumbnail to be the album cover for that song. On Facebook, for instance. It could also be a mix of the Spotify logo and the album art.

  • Jande

    Fairly irritating is it won’t close down. Disappears off screen but continues to play, meaning if I play music from a different source I have to axe the internet connection to switch Spotify off!

    • http://www.spotify.com/en/help/faq/#fast-forward Antiquity

      Jande: Almost every music program functions in that way. To close Spotify down in Windows, right-click on its notification area icon (in the bottom right-hand side of the screen) and click “exit”. To close Spotify down in Mac OS X, press command + Q (as you would do when quitting any application).

      • Joe

        Actually, no. It does not close for me through the red X in the top right corner or by right-click close. The only way to exit is through the file > exit method. Frustrating.

  • todd

    Re: Spotify not playing consecutive tracks…

    recently, i’ve been experiencing spotify playing one track then going ‘offline’ which means that it won’t play a whole album without me having to click the next song. I’ve alerted spotify, but seems like it’s gone down a dark whole. It does sound as tho this is not a new new thing – or that spotify is singling me out – but i have to admit, i’m getting pretty hacked off with it and will probably be ditching it in the not to distant future. Anyone have this problem? anyone know how to fix said problem?

    • Anonymous

      If anyone has found out how to make it play consecutive tracks I would love to know that answer.

  • Samuel

    I’ve been using Visa debit cards for years. That is in the UK though, maybe it’s different for other countries.

  • hannah

    my only music source is spotify and I cannot get it off the offline mode on my pc . . . . any suggestions

  • http://BT Peter

    I have been debited TWICE on different dates each month since February 2010. I have contacted Spotify at least 3 times since then, without result.I must be running 2 accounts. My bank says everything is in order, and no one has access to my card or computer. Would it be best to cancel my subscription to sort this out? I would have thought it a simple matter for Spotify accounts to deal with this.

  • http://patrickdoddsphotography.co.uk Patrick Dodds

    The only things you haven’t mentioned are:
    1. It doesn’t, despite what they tell you, work on Android. It won’t sync, it says there isn’t enough space on your card for the tracks when their clearly is, it tells you you’ve put it on more than 3 devices when you haven’t, it demands that you have an internet connection when all you want to do is play the 3 tracks out of 211 that it has deigned to sync and have offline, and it stutters and pauses for no good reason whatever mode you have it.
    2. Apart from the above, which make it unusable, it is great.

  • James Farrel

    Could not play Kiss of Life by Gene Loves Jezebel. Cannot figure out how to sort by one artist by popularity. Search seems to require exact match. I would like to be able to do advanced searches with multiple fields. Does it now work on Android?

  • James Farrel

    Could not play Kiss of Life by Gene Loves Jezebel. Cannot figure out how to sort by one artist by popularity. Search seems to require exact match. I would like to be able to do advanced searches with multiple fields. Does it now work on Android?

  • James Farrel

    This site is missing A LOT of songs. Don’t Worry Baby by Los Lobos, Most of John Tesh Tour De France music, Ordinary World by Naimee Coleman just to name a few.

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  • Strawberrymilkgoddess

    Spotify won't let me play any songs in any of my lists. Any ideas on how to fix that?

  • Strawberrymilkgoddess

    Spotify won’t let me play any songs in any of my lists. Any ideas on how to fix that?

  • http://www.facebook.com/chibuzor.nwokonkor Chib Nwokonkor

    Spotify mobile streaming is horribly poor. Even on ultra high quality on my Galaxy Note, songs speed up and slow down quite badly. I had the same problem on my previous SII and my HTC using friend noticed the same problem. I hear the iPhone version is much better, even though the Android version has been overhauled. It is so annoying and as a result I cancelled my premium subscription last month.

  • http://www.facebook.com/chibuzor.nwokonkor Chib Nwokonkor

    Spotify mobile streaming is horribly poor. Even on ultra high quality on my Galaxy Note, songs speed up and slow down quite badly. I had the same problem on my previous SII and my HTC using friend noticed the same problem. I hear the iPhone version is much better, even though the Android version has been overhauled. It is so annoying and as a result I cancelled my premium subscription last month.

  • wrathgar11

    Spotify mobile streaming is horribly poor. Even on ultra high quality on my Galaxy Note, songs speed up and slow down quite badly. I had the same problem on my previous SII and my HTC using friend noticed the same problem. I hear the iPhone version is much better, even though the Android version has been overhauled. It is so annoying and as a result I cancelled my premium subscription last month.

  • juan

    Spotify is terrible, you're essentially paying for YouTube. You can't put music you've downloaded onto your iPod. Waste of money.

  • juan

    Spotify is terrible, you’re essentially paying for YouTube. You can’t put music you’ve downloaded onto your iPod. Waste of money.