It’s not often it happens, but occasionally an application will come along that simply forces you to sit back and mutter ‘wow’ in sheer amazement. Google Earth was probably the last application that prompted this reaction from me until this week when I started playing with a free application called ‘Spotify’.

You’d be forgiven for not having heard of Spotify just yet but it has changed the way that I (and probably you) listen to music not only today but possibly forever. It has been in development since 2006 only recently have members of the public been allowed to open free accounts.

Essentially, you download and install a tiny 2.5mb application from which will then give you immediate and free access to practically every piece of music ever released. Simply type the name of any artist and you will be presented with a list of every song and album in the incredibly comprehensive database. When I say any artist, I really do mean ANY artist; I tested a colleague today who started reeling off some random, old, Japanese electro pop band and sure enough Spotify came back in half a second with their entire catalogue. Simply double click your chosen album or song and it’ll immediately begin playing; the speed and quality at which the service operates is phenomenal as the second you finish clicking you’ll hear DAB digital radio quality playing. If you have chosen to play an album then it will be played in its entirety - even hidden or bonus tracks have been faithfully copied across.

Of course, at this point we naturally assume that such a service must be illegal but such an assumption couldn’t be further from the truth; Spotify has the blessing off all the biggest players, including EMI, Universal, Sony BMG and Warner. It represents, in many ways, what the music industry should have done half a decade ago when instead they were chasing 14 year old boys who downloaded torrent files and pushing unpopular and potentially unfair digital rights management (DRM) technologies on to the law abiding public.

Of course, there has to be some money to be made somewhere and rather predictably this comes through advertising – a banner graces the right hand side of the application and approximately every 15-20 minutes a single 20 second advert will be played. This advertising is non intrusive and a sweet relief compared with commercial radio that nowadays appears to play two songs followed by a 20 second jingle, three minutes of DJ wittering, five minutes of adverts, another 20 second jingle, then two more songs. Most importantly, unlike traditional radio, you’re listening to the music that you want to listen to; my working day no longer has the obligatory four minute ‘grin and bear it’ track that you are forced to listen to.

Although you wouldn’t have thought it, sometimes when faced with a choice of practically any album in the world your mind becomes blank. If this happens simply ask the application to pick the music for you by either choosing an artist that you like (in which case it will try to guess others that you’ll like based on the preferences of other users) or specify a genre (for example ‘Alternative or Rock between the years of 1980 and 2000’.

I have only been using Spotify for a week but already the idea of parting with hard earned cash and making a purchase online and waiting for delivery or heading in to town to locate a CD is alien to me. Give me the name of any album and I’ll be listening to it completely legally and free of charge before you’ve had time to fetch your coat.


About the Author - Chris Holgate works for Refresh Cartridges who supply a wide range of printer cartridges at the UK’s lowest prices.