I’d been using music-streaming service Spotify for a month or so by February 2009 and was amazed at what it could do and its potential for the future. So I made some predictions about what I thought Spotify would do next, based on some thoughts and rumours and a bit of wishful thinking. Ten months later, here’s a recap of those forecasts and a look at how well I did.
Here’s what I expected to see from Spotify in 2009:
The easiest prediction, it’s staggering how much more music Spotify has now. Back in February, Spotify had around 2 million tracks available in the UK. They’ve now just broken the 6 million track barrier, adding an average of 380,000 new tracks every month!
When I started using Spotify it had just launched in the UK and was already available in Sweden, Spain, Norway, Finland, and France. This is still the case: Spotify has not expanded into any other European market. There are strong rumours that it will arrive in Germany (and possible Austria too) at the beginning of next year, but it seems that America is now the main target for expansion.
A prototype demo video was exclusively leaked on this blog back in April: the official announcement came in July, graciously approved by Apple in August, and released in September.
The libspotify C API package was released at the start of April with a promise of opening up the Spotify platform to developers. Unfortunately is was so limited and constrained by red tape that it wasn’t much use to anyone. An update limped out in August but it was the release of the Metadata API at the end of October that finally opened up Spotify’s potential to developers. As Spotibot developer Andy Smith said, the Metadata API is “everything that libspotify failed to be.” The plethora of new Spotify-related webapps that have appeared since its release are testament to this.
Spotify’s Achilles’ heel back then is still its main weakness, despite continued assertions from the company that social aspects were key to its plans. Ten months later and it’s still a gaping hole in the Spotify experience. Log in to Spotify and you’re on your own: no friends lists, no way to communicate easily, no sharing. Sure there’s the half-hearted Share To > Facebook and Share To > Twitter right-click options, but these are about as basic as possible and take you out of the Spotify client. The Twitter share doesn’t even bother to shorten the URL for you!
Elias Carlsson (who writes the excellent dance-oriented Spotify site Are You Spotified?) recently blogged about his despair at the lack of a Spotify social network and clear, visual updates. Of course Spotify’s core-competency is streaming music, not building social networking platforms. Integrating social features elegantly is obviously quite a challenge and not something they can really afford to get wrong, as key to the success of Spotify is the simplicity of its user interface. Mess that up and it could be Game Over, man!
At the Copyright Law vs. Market Economics talk I attended a couple of months ago, Spotify’s Director of Content Niklas Ivarsson said that “more social features are planned.” Here’s hoping this becomes a reality soon!
Now at version 0.3.22, Spotify seem to be taking a Google approach to software release numbering. There’s no version 1 client yet so Spotify is technically still in beta.
I thought the frequency of adverts would increase once a sizable audience was hooked, but this does not seem to have happened (you may sometimes think there are more ads than usual, but this is just the occasional ad-serving glitch). Of course Spotify now has pop-up ads that appear after a period of inactivity, but my prediction of more audio adverts per hour thankfully did not come true.
This did indeed become a goal of Spotify to release in America by the end of the year, however circumstances have conspired against them and the US release has now been pushed back to 2010.
At one point I feared Spotify Mobile would be released on iPhone only, but was relieved and delighted when the Android version was made available at same time. Of course, if was probably ready much earlier but I suspect Spotify wanted to release them in tandem and had to wait for Apple Empire to approve the iPhone version.
Back in February, Spotify seemed to have many remix tracks that weren’t properly labeled: the track names on an EP were all the same, without any mention of the remix name. Thankfully this has now been fixed and mislabeled track names are now a thing of the past.
So How Did I Do?
Totaling up my predictions it looks like I got 5 out of 10 correct, with a “sort of correct” for a couple of others. Not too bad! But what did I miss? Here’s a list of the other new features we saw arrive in Spotify in 2009:
- High Bitrate – Premium subscribers can now benefit from 320kbps hi-quality audio.
- Offline Syncing – Premium subscribers can sync tracks offline both on their mobile and desktop versions of Spotify.
- Buy Buttons – One-click options to buy the MP3 from 7digital.
- Label Search – An invaluable new feature that lets you search for tracks released by a specific record label.
- Spotify on Symbian – Nokia users rejoice!
- Spotify on 3 – Spotify signed deals with mobile operator 3 in the UK to bundle Spotify premium with Android Hero handsets.
- PayPal Payments and Gift eCards – Multiple payment and gift options make trying out premium easier than ever
Those were my predictions: what did you hope for or expect from Spotify in 2009?