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This week, Spotify released to US customers. This service is pretty cool in theory: you get to listen to pretty much any song you can search for (not everything ever recorded is available, but still) and listen to whatever you want. You can build play lists to save for later and share with friends on the service or post links to Twitter or Facebook for others to enjoy. One of the cooler features is the ability to collaborate on a play list with your friends on the service. Any song on the service is eligible for addition to a play list. It’s much like having the world’s library of music at your fingertips to use as you see fit, so long as you have an account with Spotify.

The Spotify app on your desktop takes the place of your iTunes or WMP app and automatically loads up all of your existing play lists (which you can then choose to list on the service if you’d like). If you have a list you’d worked on for a while, this lets you, presumably, share it with the world to enjoy. Spotify lets them load your list and hear the music through the service without having to own the songs themselves.

Two things that are deal breakers for me.

  1. Spotify uses Facebook for its social graph. So to connect with friends, they have to use both Spotify and Facebook. Also, they have to connect Spotify with Facebook before you can find your friends on the service easily (you also have to connect the accounts). That’s a lot of “have tos” just to connect with people I likely know pretty well.
  2. Even if you connect to Facebook, finding other Spotify users that share your tastes (or could expand your musical tastes) is almost impossible. Since Spotify relies on Facebook for its social graph, if you don’t know them on Facebook, you aren’t going to randomly bump into them on Spotify. Further, there isn’t a play list directory built into the system of publicly shared lists, so you can’t easily find popular play list creators to follow. There are web sites that try to fill this gap, and nicely, but integration with the app is practically required these days. Spotify does show new releases and top lists of songs and artists, so that could be finding new music depending on what you already listen to.

Which brings me to Pandora. I can share what I’m listening to, but the system does a spooky great job of finding music that I really enjoy. A few thumbs up, a couple of thumbs down, and the service is playing a station that is pretty much what I want (even if I’ve never heard that song before). Sure, I can’t select the next song myself, but that’s how I find new music most of the time.

Both services offer free accounts (invites required for now on Spotify) and paid accounts. Spotify charges $4.99/month for unlimited use on the desktop app and $9.99 to add mobile devices to your experience and an offline mode for those times when you don’t have an internet connection. Pandora charges $36/year for ad-free playing and unlimited skips. Essentially, $3/month. You get the mobile experience with a free account, too.

Spotify has the potential to really take over how we listen to music, but if I’m going to pay, Pandora is the better deal for now. Please correct me if I got anything of the above wrong, too. It’s based on a few days of usage on Spotify and I’ve used Pandora for a while now.

Since both are free, I’m not actually paying for either just yet. Maybe one day, though.

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