Spotify: Life Without iTunes


This week’s arrival of Spotify in the App Store (right now limited to UK, Sweden, France, Spain, Norway and Finland stores) could be the ideal opportunity for us all to throw iTunes in the trash and experience the freedom that Spotify has to offer.

Speculation was rife as to whether Spotify would even make it into the App Store. However, Apple’s (s aapl) somewhat unexpected approval of the all-you-can-eat music service means that iPhone and iPod touch users can now listen to anything and (almost) everything, wherever they may be.

For the moment, Spotify is available exclusively in Europe. Released initially for both Mac and PC, the desktop version of Spotify looks and functions quite similarly to iTunes, except with one major difference: everything in the store is free.

Users of Spotify are granted the freedom to cherry pick their favorite tracks, nibbling on morsels of music and sampling the latest flavors, and the tools to legally share them too. You’re able to select any song and instantly generate a URL linking back to the full track, making sharing music a breeze.

The Spotify iPhone app has changed everything. I’m no longer tied to its desktop application. With the iPhone app, I’m able to download and listen to thousands of tracks on the go, which gets me to thinking, is it time I threw iTunes in the trash?

Playlists Versus Libraries

Shifting over from iTunes to Spotify has been a more difficult transition than I expected. Making use of the iTunes “keep my music folder organized” option, my own iTunes library is stored on an external HD where each track is properly named, tagged, numbered and even dated. If I could, I’d wear a top hat and monocle while showing guests around my immaculately maintained iTunes library.


When I’m at home, it’s all about the album experience. I prefer to consume music as the artist originally intended, whether it be the epic tones of Pink Floyd’s Dark Side Of The Moon and Sigur Rós’s Ágætis Byrjun, or the bloops and glitches of Kraftwerk’s Computer World and Aphex Twin’s Chosen Lords.

Out and about however I don’t even tend to listen to music anymore. Over the past couple of years I’ve succumbed to the joys of podcasts via iTunes, subscribing to The Bugle, Answer Me This and Totally Rad Show amongst many others. As a result of this, I’ve increasingly felt as though I’m losing touch with my music collection.

The Album Is Dead

Listening with Spotify is an entirely different experience, though. Like many Europeans who are lucky enough to have a Spotify invite, or affluent enough to pay for a €9.99 premium account, I’ve begun to focus on consuming and sharing music exclusively via playlists.


It’s been a tough transition over to Spotify for me, specifically because there’s no iTunes-style music library. With Spotify, the album is dead, felled by his younger and more agile counterpart, the playlist.

Without the personal music library, the heart of iTunes, there’s none of the satisfaction of flicking through your collection in Cover Flow. And with Spotify managing its vast selection of tracks, never again will you glow with pride after correctly tagging, naming and selecting cover art for your latest procurement.

The App Effect

The Spotify iPhone app doesn’t attempt to ape iTunes or the iPod, rather it plays to its own strengths. In effect, the app further establishes Spotify as an entirely new platform for discovering new music. Although the app is available for free, the service can only be accessed on iPhone by premium subscribers.

The €9.99 monthly subscription fee (equating to roughly $14.50) is worth it though. You’re granted unlimited access to Spotify’s growing library, consisting of almost 4 million tracks. And while there are occasional disappointments in both the mainstream and esoteric departments (there’s currently no Immaculate Collection and very little Boards of Canada), more frequently you’ll find yourself overwhelmed at the breadth and depth of what’s on offer.


Imagine having a free-pass to access everything in the iTunes Music Store. It’s just like that. In the past day I’ve tried a little bit of The Breeders, delved into some classic Radiohead, sampled the delight’s of Jason Schwartzman’s Coconut Records, and, via Bob Dylan’s Theme Time Radio Hour collection, discovered the joys of Gene Harris, Roy Brown and J.B. Lenoir. It feels liberating and exciting.

Using the desktop app, you’re able to design elaborate and lengthy mixes or, as I do, build playlists out of individual albums. You can then wirelessly sync your playlists to the iPhone app. And here’s the best bit: all of the tracks that are synced to the iPhone are actually downloaded to the device, you can take them with you wherever you go and listen offline.

Life Without iTunes?

The freedom that Spotify offers encourages you to spend more time digging deep, inevitably discovering mountains of new music. No longer can I derive pleasure from pruning my tracks and tending to my albums, but then who cares? With Spotify, I spend more time actually listening to music.

It’s not quite time for me to throw iTunes in the trash though. While I imagine Spotify will have podcasts covered in due course, until they do, iTunes is all but essential. Plus there’s all the albums and artists in my collection that just aren’t available in Spotify, meaning I won’t be wiping my iTunes library just yet.

Until Spotify integrates seriously expands its library and integrates podcast subscriptions, iTunes will be afforded a stay of execution. In the meantime, I’ll be leading a dual life, enjoying podcasts and a few select albums via iTunes, while exploring the vastness that is everything else with Spotify.

While Spotify is currently only available in Europe, stateside readers should be able to try the service soon as Spotify is pegged to arrive in the U.S. before the end of 2009.