There are many things I believe set Spotify apart from the competition. Chief of which is that Spotify focuses on the music and leaves many of the frills to 3rd parties. Whereas other music subscription services try to bake in as many bells and whistles as possible, Spotify’s open programing interface allows anyone to build apps and websites to compliment the service. This way Spotify can concentrate on what they do best – delivering the music – while benefiting from the vast community of external developers. As Spotify CEO Daniel Ek recently said:
“We just focus on music. I think ultimately companies that do one thing and try to do it really well often succeed much better than companies that try to do 50 things at once.”
So here are ten “complaints” I’ve seen from new users of Spotify who are more used to services that try to provide everything but the kitchen sink. For each one, I point you to an available solution. The list also includes a few other issues that sometimes come up when discussing Spotify vs. Your Former Favorite Music App. For these, I offer some workarounds or alternatives.
1. There’s no radio or recommendation service
There is now! Spotify launched in the USA without the radio feature enjoyed by European users. But the latest update (0.5.2.84) has now enabled the Artist Radio tab on artist pages. Your Spotify client should update automatically as Spotify roll out the change, but if you can’t wait simply go to the website and download Spotify again manually.
That said, there are many Spotify community sites that provide much better recommendation services than the in-built radio. My current favorites are:
- Spotibot – type in an artist name, get a custom playlist of similar music. More here…
- truShuffle - auto-generates a playlist based on what you listen to. More here…
- spotrecord - gives album recommendations based on your Last.fm account. More here…
2. The What’s New section in Spotify only lists a few albums
Spotify add on average over 10,000 new tracks to their catalog every day. That’s a lot of music, so it’s no wonder they only spotlight the most popular artists. But there are many 3rd-party new-release notification services, and many can be tailored to tell you about only the artists you like. My top three are:
- My own New on Spotify page, which lists all the new releases and lets you search by genre
- SpotiMail – emails you whenever there’s a new release from a favorite artist. More here…
- Spofm – custom list of new releases on Spotify, based on your Last.fm account
3. There’s no lyrics feature
UPDATE: There is now, thanks to the Spotify App TuneWiki!
There are several apps and Spotify plugins that give you on-demand lyrics to the music in Spotify. We’re featuring these in an upcoming article, but for now have a look at:
- Lyrify - Windows add-on that finds lyrics for songs on Spotify
- ListDJ - blends with the Spotify client to give you the lyrics of the current playing track
- ListeningNow – browser-based lyric plugin for Spotify
4. The search syntax is too obscure
To find something on Spotify, all you do is type the artist or song name into the search box and view the results. Like Google Search, there are some more advanced search features but you need to know the keywords and syntax. I find it mostly adequate, and great for listing, say, remixes that a band I like has done for other bands (search for bandname -artist:bandname). If you’d rather use an app, try Spotify Super Search instead (disclaimer: I was involved with SSS’s development). This lets you build a search query using dropdown menus and has a neat History of previous searches.
5. There’s no album ratings or user comments
Many artist and album pages have a review section as provided by All Music Guide and Wikipedia (tip for bands: if you don’t have a biog in Spotify, add a page in Wikipedia for Spotify to source), but you can’t add your own “This album rocks” or “This album sucks” comments. You can “star” an album, but that’s only for you and not graded. I use Last.fm if I really want to comment on an album, but for reviews and ratings try these Spotify-friendly sites:
- Spotimy – lists ratings and reviews from 22 different sources, including All Music, BBC, the Guardian, NME, and The Skinny
- Pitchify - collects reviews from Pitchfork and Drowned In Sound
- biblify - searches the web every night for the latest album reviews
Also check out Lastify (not to be confused with last.ify). It adds Last.fm integration to Spotify so you can “love”, tag, and “ban” what you’re listening to (Mac OS X only).
6. The genres are screwed up or just not very helpful
Spotify gets its genre information from the record labels that supply the tracks. These are sometimes a bit vague, inconsistent, and random. Unfortunately there’s not a lot you can do about that. The cloud-sourced tags in Last.fm are much more useful and it’s those that are used for the searchable New on Spotify page. Spotify Classical Playlists has some excellent tips on searching for classical music, and many of the Spotify playlist sharing sites have genre tags and categories different from the internal genres.
7. My favorite band isn’t on Spotify!
Some artists (or their record labels) don’t want their music on streaming services like Spotify. Some even discriminate based on your country (for example, Oasis are not on Spotify in the UK but they are everywhere else). I keep a track of some of the missing artists here. You can also check new site Spotiwish to note missing albums you wish Spotify would carry.
The main tip I have for you though is to check again every month or so. Spotify is constantly signing new deals with labels and the labels themselves often realize they’re missing the action and add their content. For example, Warp Records recently added heaps from their back-catalog, as did American industrial label Metropolis Records. You’ll also find albums will be removed for a few weeks to make way for new re-mastered versions. And I’ve seen labels remove a band’s catalog from Spotify because the artist has a forthcoming new album out. These usually reappear on Spotify a few months later, so be sure to check your missing favorites again every once in a while. But while you’re waiting, why not try:
8. I have Spotify Premium but some songs don’t sound high quality
UPDATE: as good as the whole catalog is now in high quality!
You’ve probably read that Spotify Premium gives you 320kbps streaming. This is true to a degree, but unfortunately not every song is at this high bitrate. Spotify readily admit this but claim that the most-popular and most listened-to music in their 20 million catalog is in high quality. So, if your tastes are mainstream you’ve nothing to worry about. But if you’re into more obscure music and have a good audiophile ear, you might notice some songs don’t sound quite as good as others.
I currently listen to Spotify mostly on my mobile (where all songs are at 160kbps q5 bitrate) so this isn’t that much of a problem for me personally. One tip though is to make sure you’re listening to the most popular version of the song, since there are often multiple copies from alternate albums, compilations, remasters etc. The ones with the most “popularity bars” are more likely to be the high-bitrate versions.
9. There are gaps between the songs
UPDATE: Gapless playback was enabled in Spotify recently!
Gapless playback is where there isn’t a bit of silence between songs and different tracks merge seamlessly together. This is most commonly used on live albums, DJ mix albums and some classical music. Spotify doesn’t support gapless playback yet, but there are a few workarounds and things to consider. To mimimize the gap, try offline syncing the album before listening. That way the gap will be as short as possible. And if you’re into dance music, check to see whether there’s a one-track version of the full album. For example, track 31 on 30 Best Trance Albums Ever is a 74 minute Full DJ Mix. Try searching for “continuous” or “dj mix” for others.
10. Roberta from Spotify
Actually, I think Roberta is missing from Spotify… oh well.