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The Internet has effected nearly every aspect of society, yet few have been more effected than the music industry. A little more than a decade ago, the music scene was dominated by record stores. The process file sharing began was finished by online distributors like iTunes, and today, almost the whole music industry revolves around the Internet. Even then, the net continues to push this evolution, with Pandora Radio offering customizable streaming music to the interested, and YouTube having all but killed off MTV.

So when my editor at the Dudeletter told me about Spotify, my ears perked up. For those of you reading this, like myself prior to last week, who have never even heard of Spotify, fear not for I shall provide an explanation and enlightenment. Active in parts of Europe since 2008, it just recently hit US shores last month. Friends of mine from Europe all but sing the praises of Spotify, and courtesy of an invitation from my editor, I at long last got a chance to see what the fuss was about.

For those of you who have ever used an online music distributor like Windows Media Player or iTunes before, Spotify is not too different from other distributors, but it sets itself apart in three major ways. The first of is the very user friendly design and controls, allowing you to integrate all of your music on your computer, as well as create custom playlists of them. And your choice in creating those play lists are not limited to your own music; Spotify boasts a music library of over 15 million songs, and adds ten thousand more daily. Best of all, unlike iTunes and a lot of other music services, you can listen to whole songs and albums for free, only with brief commercials randomly interspaced between them. Better yet, for less than ten dollars a month, it’s commercial free and includes bonus features and enhanced sound quality.

That’s not to say it’s not without it’s issues. It is heavily reliant on the Internet, and while that really is no problem, it does occasionally skip or freeze during a song, which as you can imagine is quite frustrating. There have been some claims that it hurts independent artists and labels, though I am of the opinion that claim seems rather circumstantial, as Spotify is no different than Pandora Radio or YouTube as far as it’s approach toward indie artists, and even provides free advertising and a wider audience for them. The claim that it affects classical music does have some merit however, as the slight pauses between tracks does effect many classical works, and the search function for classic works is less than impressive.

Overall though, I am deeply impressed with Spotify. For a free program, it is leagues above most other similar online distributors, and aside from maybe iTunes, it is the best I’ve used. Monthly rates are very low, and even if you choose to only use the free service, the program is phenomenal. If they manage to fix the few minor problems I’ve discovered, and find a way to keep the program funded and the library growing, Spotify has the potential to be a real game changer in the online music business. For now however, it remains a very solid music program, and one I am very pleased with. I highly urge you to give Spotify a try, you’ll be glad you did.

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