Spotify just released a major update for its iPhone and iPad applications that features a fully-operational radio station. Upon first impression, this update rocks!
While I've tested and flirted with countless music discovery apps and services, for at least the last four years Pandora is the one I've kept going back to. Having spent thousands of dollars on CDs and cassette tapes during my formative years, I typically don't pay for new music any more aside from the must-have purchase on iTunes.
The lack of any price tag or financial commitment is what has drawn me to apps like Pandora, Slacker and others over the years, as they all offer quality experiences without having to pay a dime. This is also why I've avoided Spotify, as the service to date has been severely limited on mobile devices if you don't pay a monthly subscription.
With Spotify Radio, also available online and eventually via Android devices, I now have reason to take an expanded test drive. Who knows, maybe I might even pony up for a subscription one day.
In the meantime, let's take a quick survey of who wins and who loses now that Spotify is available as a free web radio service.
Songza: This app and streaming radio service made some noise earlier this month with a neat update that incorporates human curation into its music discovery algorithm. The result is that Songza broadcasts topical playlists designed to suit the mood you might be in at any point in time. Songza more than other services that I've tried recently will expose me to songs that I want to listen to that I may not have previously heard before.
Band of the Day: While not all of the bands I'm exposed to by this app are my cup of tea, it is the best showcase for newer artists. I think of it as a Minor League of sort for the more mainstream services. Discover a new act on Band of the Day, and create a radio station around that band later on Spotify or Pandora or whatever. It works both ways. Hear a track from a new and interesting band you've never been exposed to before? Learn more with Band of the Day.
Music Recognition Apps: With a more segmented playing field, there is no reason why apps like Shazam and SoundHound can't get into the radio space. Why not go that last mile and not only identify and market whatever song you hear in the wild, but also create a station around that particular track or artist?
Existing Internet Radio Stations: Pandora and Slacker have the most to lose here. Will their early landgrab, and pre-installed presence on alternate devices and operating systems be enough to thwart Spotify's encroachment into their space? Stay tuned?
Music Subscription Services: This includes Rhapsody, Rdio and MOG among others. While all of these services are competitive with Spotify, many consumers have been reluctant to kick the tires of Europe's most recent invasion as there is resistance to pay more than one monthly music bill. Now there is an opportunity to sample the impressive library and interface Spotify offers and see if it's worth making a permanent switch.
Terrestrial Radio: I'd say yet another nail in the coffin that will encompass over-the-air radio stations, but I've been wrong before. Once services like Spotify, Pandora and others gain critical mass in new automobiles, I think we'll be able to announce the official "he gone" of this resilient industry.