Mind the Gap! Gapless Playback on Spotify

UPDATE Feb 2012: Spotify now has gapless playback!

 

 

 

Below is the original post, written when gapless playback seemed like an impossible dream…

 

Gapless playback is the uninterrupted playback of consecutive audio tracks without intervening silence or clicks where the song changes. It’s pretty common on a lot of albums. But gapless playback has been missing from Spotify since the beginning. For two years now, a growing army of Spotify users have been requesting this feature via Spotify’s getsatisfaction forum: it’s the most requested idea by far, with close to 1,000 requests. Spotify claimed that they were “seriously looking into gapless playback” about 9 months ago. So why is this request so popular, and what sort of issues might be preventing Spotify from implementing it?

Back in the day, if you were to put on a vinyl record you’d hear that some songs merge and segue together to form continous music. More recently, if you listened to that album on CD the songs would still be gapless. Popular music playing apps like iTunes, Windows Media Player and Winamp can also handle gapless playback. But not Spotify.

Listen to, for example, Shpongle’s album “Nothing Lasts… But Nothing is Lost,” where ingenious joins between tracks are integral to the listening experience. But on Spotify there’s always a little gap between each song. Since the songs are so short (it’s a 20-track album) all these breaks can take away from the enjoyment of the music. Listen to a live album, or a DJ-mixed album, or any number of classical albums and the problem’s the same.

On the gapless playback thread on getsatisfaction, there are a lot of vocal users venting their frustration. It frequently descends into flames and sarcasm but users like Dean, Kimmo, Radian and a few others manage to keep it civil and express their views clearly (mostly). Acclaimed music producer Gareth Jones (who has produced bands like Depeche Mode, Erasure and Interpol) also added to the discussion:

We are only asking that the music should be presented as the artist intended. Many times in the mastering studio we do leave gaps, sometimes we don’t. Those of us in favour of gapless playback merely wish to experience the artists’ intention.”

So why hasn’t gapless playback been implemented in Spotify yet?

Spotify music is encoded in Ogg Vorbis format, which does support gapless playback. So it’s probably not due to file format issues. It may be that additional metadata is required to describe the length of the gap, and perhaps Spotify’s mechanism to convert the FLAC files received from record labels into Ogg Vorbis format cannot handle the extra metadata.

There are reports that gapless playback works on Spotify for SONOS and Squeezebox. If true, then it would seem that the problem lies with the Spotify clients, not the source music files.

But it’s possible that it’s just not worth Spotify’s effort. Most of the users complaining about the lack of gapless playback could probably be described as “audiophiles.” Amongst Spotify’s vast userbase, these discerning music lovers are just a tiny minority amongst the hoards who think 128kbps music sounds just fine. Besides, they say the album is dead now and we mostly just listen to singles and individual tracks anyway, so where’s the incentive for Spotify to invest resources into fixing gapless playback for albums?

Perhaps there are other commercial reasons not to implement gapless playback: the gap might be required by Spotify Free to trigger the audio ads. There were even rumours that the Spotify client deliberately cross-fades tracks in and out to facilitate the ads.  If the lack of gapless playback was due to audio ad requirements, I could see how Spotify might be reluctant to reveal this as it could be thought of as unfairly limiting paying user’s enjoyment.

Gapless playback may still be coming soon though. A Spotify rep said a couple of months ago that “the popularity of the [gapless playback] thread will have an influence on product development.” And Spotify CEO Daniel Ek himself, in response to a question on Spotify’s lack of gapless playback said on Quora that:

If it is a popular feature request we will add it… We look at and carefully evaluate all of the feature requests people have, but never comment on a timeline. If anything we should have been better communicating that we are looking at this idea.

The thread on getsatisfaction is now tagged as “The company has this under consideration.

So while it’s being considered, perhaps you might want to have a listen to one of these albums:

 

  • Hal

    Adverts mean they might have to code it twice. Once for gapless (paying subscribers), two for the “gapfull” (who gets fed adverts).
    It took some time for iTunes to get this as well (if I remember correctly).

  • Pingback: Quora()

  • 8a22a

    Some mixed albums have an extra track which is the full mix.

  • Geoff

    I’ve been one of the many premium subscribers asking for this feature. We know that technically it can’t be beyond the Spotify team – so there has to be some other reason. OK, ignore us – that’s your right …. but don’t expect any loyalty because we’ll be off as soon as we can. It’s just rank hypocacy for Daniel Elks to say that they listen to feature requests …. when clearly they dont.

  • Stephen

    No, they do listen. It’s just that they don’t do anything about what they hear (other than maybe laugh about it in private). Or maybe it’s just because there aren’t any gaps in the constant stream of requests ….

  • Pingback: Another Ten Top Spotify Tips! | Pansentient League - a Spotify Blog()

  • Andrew Sharpe

    A recent post suggests it could be possible to achieve gapless play using libspotify. If anyone knows, how, there would be a lot of grateful people out there!!

  • What I find even more annoying is that tracks which start with no gap before the first beat often have the first beat cut out, or Spotify does a fast fade into the track. I find this really annoying. Its as the song needs to be cut with half a second of silence at the start for them to operate properly in the Spotify client.

  • Pingback: Quora()

  • Pingback: Ten Things You Thought Were Missing from Spotify (But Aren’t Really) | Pansentient League - a Spotify Blog()

  • Im sure that there’s a valid reason why they haven’t supported it yet. Rollouts and adding users and data migration and a slew of other things as they ramp up the US market is probably on their top priority, for now.

  • Anonymous

    As a UK lawyer I’m beginning to wonder whether what is required here is a class action for breach of contract and/or partial failure of consideration.  We are paying for music, whether in the form of individual songs, movements, tracks, variations, whatever.  But we are not getting the entire piece we have paid to hear.  It applies to “mixed” popular albums, opera, piano variations etc etc.  If all premium subscribers claim their money back for the last x years maybe that would give Spotify and their lawyers pause.  I am certainly not aware of any term or condition making it clear that we are only entitled to hear part of or even “most of” any particular piece of music.  As many have commented on Spotify, this might be easier to swallow if only Spotify were to say “we can’t fix it” or even “we can’t be bothered to fix it”, but instead there is silence and has been for about three years now.

  • I’ve no idea if there’s any breach of contract but would be interested to hear if you pursue this! 
    In the 7 months since I wrote this article, another 40o odd Spotify users have also requested this feature making it the Number One requested idea on the getsatisfaction forum. Of course for many it’s not a missing feature at all, rather a bug in the implementation.

  • Anonymous

    The Warranty clause of the terms and conditions says this:  “The Spotify Software Application and the Spotify Service is provided on an “as is” and “as available” basis. To the fullest extent possible under applicable law, Spotify gives no warranty, express or implied, as to the quality, content and availability or fitness for a specific purpose of the Spotify Software Application or the Spotify Service.”  That looks like a defence, although it might fall foul of the UK Unfair Contract Terms Act – where would you draw the line between losing half a second at each end of a track and losing, say, 10 seconds?  Would both be reasonable, or neither?  If it is unreasonable the warranty exclusion would not be enforceable.

  • I can confirm, on squeezebox, with the 3rd party Triode plugin, spotify is Gapless.  Perfectly so, because Ogg Vorbis supports this without problem.

  • For the non-hardware solution seeking users – google “Fidelify”, a third party spotify player effort, which is gapless and supports bit-perfect (well, from the point vorbis is decoded 🙂 playback towards any WASAPI or ASIO soundcard.

  • Rich Lanb

    I think it’s NOT the lack of gapless playback as much as the quick ramping up of volume at the beginning of each track: this causes an audible gap that resembles an actual short interval of silence.  Why do I believe this? Because MANY songs in my collection begin this way: they quickly fade up from nothing, CUTTING OFF THE VERY BEGINNING OF LOTS OF SONGS when double-clicked on, NOT just when coming out of another track!  Drives me nuts! Go play “Look Sharp” by Joe Jackson: the transient on the first snare is gone. Or “The Book of Morris Johnson” by Zee Avi or “Night In My Veins” by The Pretenders.

  • Rich Lamb

    P.S. I’m basically agreeing with Danny Shepherd.  Glad someone else has noticed.

  • Vurtual

    Some kind person has linked me to 
    http://www.fidelify.net/  from the GetSatifaction thread, which is a libspotify based gapless player for spotify,

  • Thanks, hopefully the “complete rewrite” of Fidelify will be released soon.

  • Duckmanbill

    There are too many lawyers in the world if you are seriously considering going after such a petty thing.

  • Rich Lamb

    I couldn’t disagree more.  Until this is fixed, Spotify will continue to be doing a disservice to the music and to its customers.  As far as I’m concerned, there are too FEW lawyers out there until this thing gets rectified.  Gapless playback is the #1 “bug” that when removed would bring the service from “pretty good” to “awesome.”  If music can’t flow, it’s pretty unmusical!  I want to hear the beginnings of ALL the songs!  I want to hear a segue if there is supposed to be one!

  • I’m not seriously considering it, I just pointed out the possibility.  But I think you are in a minority here, Einstein.  I think Spotify’s refusal to address this issue has been nothing short of disgraceful and its promises that it is addressing it downright dishonest.  At the same time, you are probably right to say that there are too many lawyers in the world!

    For my part I have now left Spotify, so goodbye.

  • It is all very well to suggest that only audiophiles care about this issue because most users only listen to individual tracks, but that is really a non sequitur.  My point has always been that you are just not getting the whole track – so in the event (for the sake of argument) that you log in to listen to just one Beethoven piano bagatelle or just one Bach piano variation you cannot help noticing that a bit of the actual music is missing.  And before you try to suggest that I am just like some addled Fast Show character with antiquated musical preferences, when I originally moaned about this some years ago I drew attention to the fact that this problem spoils the enjoyment of albums like the Blue Oyster Cult’s (live) On Your Feet or On Your Knees…

    Erm, OK so maybe I am like a cartoonishly gnarled old geezer because that album was issued about 35 years ago, but you get my point.  And they were pretty good at the Hammersmith Odeon in 1975 (or 76), supported by the nascent Motorhead.

  • Precisely – in other words a bit of the actual music that you have paid for is missing.

  • thediscoking1

    U are spot on . Is this not a breach of contract? As a paying premium customer it infuriates me ! C’mon spotify we are not asking for the earth? Make it available for premium paying customers only. I pay £10 a month and expect to hear the albums as artists intended .

  • In an earlier post I identified a possible defence that might be available to Spotify in the event of a claim for breach of contract – see my reply to Jer White 2 months ago.  It is not particularly attractive – it is basically saying “take it or leave it” – but it is hardly surprising that Spotify has its own smart lawyers.

  • In an earlier post I identified a possible defence that might be available to Spotify in the event of a claim for breach of contract – see my reply to Jer White 2 months ago.  It is not particularly attractive – it is basically saying “take it or leave it” – but it is hardly surprising that Spotify has its own smart lawyers.

  • Kaz

    I teach fitness class’s and would love to have no gaps to keep the class engaged! Please Spotify, I’m a premium user! Make it happen! I’d love it and tell the world about you!!!

  © 2016 Jer White / Pansentient League.
Runs on WordPress. Theme by Theme Junkie