Sometimes being a blogger doesn’t suck. The folks at Spotify‘s PR agency noted my previous post on their opening in Hong Kong and invited me for lunch with Sriram Krishnan, Spotify’s Head of New Markets Asia Pacific, the man behind Spotify’s recent launch in Hong Kong as well as Singapore and Malaysia. I should also mention that in addition to lunch, I was given three months of Spotify’s premium service for free, so take the rest of what I’m writing with as many grains of salt as you’d like.
First let me mention that my comment about the Chinese-only landing page for Hong Kong was noted and Sriram told me that the engineering team will be changing the landing page soon to make language selection easier.
We talked about the Hong Kong launch and I was surprised to find out that clearing the rights for the music here was not a major issue, that most copyright holders “want their music to be available everywhere.” It’s not universally true so there are going to be some things available in the US or UK that are not available here. On the other hand, I’m told they’ve got the bases covered for Hong Kong stars for the local market.
While he wouldn’t reveal any numbers, he did say that they’re signing up new users in Hong Kong much faster than they’d anticipated. I asked about conversion rates – from free users to paying ones. Globally Spotify has 24 million users and 6 million of them are paying subscribers.
So far there is nothing I’ve searched for that I haven’t found there, and if you know me, you know I search for some fairly left field stuff. Bonzo Dog Band? Yep – every album is there. Van Der Graaf Generator? All.
I told him that I thought I’d have two main ways to use the service. The first would be that when I’m away from home and reading something and some group or song comes to mind and I think, “Oh, I’d like to hear that song but it’s not on my iPhone,” I could then dial it up on Spotify and hear it almost instantly.
A variation on that – I open up the April 27th issue of NME. On page 2 there’s an ad for a group called New Killer Shoes which proclaims them to be “the hottest new rock band of 2013.” Flip over to Spotify and it has two singles by them and a second later they’re playing.
The second use for me would be when I’m too tired or distracted to select something to listen to, I could bring up one of their “radio stations,” mostly sorted by genres, and just go with that. I tried the Blues station and the first thing that came up was some classic Muddy Waters. Check. Then I went to Reggae and no surprise that the first thing I heard was Bob Marley, but there was plenty of other classic reggae tracks from other artists to follow.
Sriram told me that once I install the desktop version of Spotify, I could stream every song in my iTunes library (and I’ve got 92,209 at the moment). Then he started describing some of the other features to me, especially the social ones.
Here’s an example. One album I’ve been listening to recently is the Cosimo Matassa Story. Cosimo Matassa owned the studio in New Orleans where everyone recorded and was the engineer for classic tracks by Fats Domino, Lloyd Price, T-Bone Walker, Little Richard, Bobby Charles – the list goes on. I looked on Spotify and found a Cosimo Matassa playlist. Instantly it was streaming to my PC at work. And with another couple of clicks I was able to share the playlist on Twitter and Facebook.
So you can create your own playlists and then share them. You can follow specific artists. You can also follow other people or just follow playlists – which can be either created and maintained by a single person or can be collaborative. In other words, I could create a “60s psychedelic” playlist and open it up and other people can add tracks to it. This last bit leaves me a bit dubious – the Internet is a playground after all.
And aside from the streaming radio, when you select an artist, you will also receive recommendations for “related artists.” Are the recommendations any good? I don’t know yet. I brought up current fave Laura Mvula and there are 20 related artists listed, 18 of which are new to me.
I’m intrigued by the fact that I can share a playlist right here on the blog and that you can play it, for free, right here from my blog. However, I’ve tried using their Embed page and right now either I’m doing something wrong or it’s not as simple within WordPress as they make it sound.
(I tried just pasting the embed code here but all I got when publishing the post was the embed code, no player. Finally I downloaded a 3rd party plugin and jumped through a few more flaming hoops to get this to work.)
So here’s a song for you, a very random choice on my part:
(The player will not show up in RSS feeds, you’ll have to visit my site to get it.) Note that when you click on the play button, I believe you will be prompted to sign up for Spotify and download the player. But if I can get this working easily, it will be a nice way to legally share music with you. Meanwhile, for Spotify it’s a cheap way to acquire more users.
Negatives? Well, in my case, iTunes runs so slowly on my desktop PC (likely due to the size of my library) that it’s annoying. Spotify by default integrates with your iTunes library (and also Windows Media Library) and it then inherited iTunes’ sluggish speed. So I “disengaged” it from my iTunes library, which sped it up a lot – but the trade-off is that I won’t be able to stream songs from my home library when I’m away from home.
Positives? Many. Finally a legal streaming music service in Hong Kong with a vast library that offers a large number of features, many of which are available in the free model. And the price for the premium model is right, too – HK$48 per month (US$6.50) is less than the cost of a single CD for unlimited music. Yes, right now I’ve got the service for free. But I’m pretty sure that when my three months is up, I’m going to continue using it.