The Best App.
Updated: Mar 7, 2020
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I'm here today to declare my undying love for the best app of all time. That's right everyone - let's give it up for the Settings app! (Note to Stu - I think this is me stealing your joke again... at least I credited you this time!) If it's not apparent from the thumbnail for this entry, I'm obviously talking about Spotify.
To me, Spotify is the greatest example of advances in technology changing an industry for the better. Before the days of streaming music, I, along with millions of others, primarily used iTunes to listen to and manage my favourite tunes. CDs and online purchases alike were arranged neatly in a grid, and I would ensure that every album in my collection had the right album artwork assigned to it. At the time, I couldn't imagine anything other than buying albums this way, and using iTunes as my hub of music purchases.
Until one fateful day, in 2011, when my Dad showed me a new exciting app he'd installed on his computer. Rather than housing an online storefront to browse and download songs, you instead had instant access to Spotify's entire library from the get-go, and streamed them. I wasn't too impressed, as I am typically something of a collector, preferring to physically own my movies, video games and so on where possible. Despite this, I decided to give it a go. After all, it was free at the time and I figured out that if you skipped to the next track right before a song finished, you wouldn't get any ads (Spotify soon caught onto this trick though, much to my dismay).
At first, I reluctantly used Spotify to "test" music before buying it. I'd listen to an album that I was on the fence about, or maybe I'd be a bit more adventurous and try a new band out. Eventually though, it became increasingly clear to me that buying CDs was both more expensive and more convoluted than simply paying for a Premium Spotify subscription. It must have been late 2012 by the time I'd caved in, and bade my iTunes collection farewell, moving over to Spotify as my source of auditory pleasure, both on my PC and on my phone. For me, it is the best app for consuming music, and there are three main reasons for this:
A lot of what have become my favourite bands were discoveries I made in Spotify. The "Related Artists/Fans Also Listen To" feature is the app's way of making fairly safe suggestions of other bands you may be into. Like Kasabian? Fans of Kasabian also listen to the Kaiser Chiefs, Razorlight, The Libertines and Franz Ferdinand.
Another avenue for discovering new songs and artists are the "Daily Mix" and "Your Discover Weekly", automated playlists that use an algorithm which incorporates your listening history to throw a myriad of tunes - both old and new - your way. These both evolve and update themselves as your listening habits change the more you listen, the more accurate the suggestions tend to become.
Playlists & Customisation
I mentioned earlier that I was an avid Album Art geek with iTunes, and the same is true for Spotify. If you are the creator of a playlist, you can upload custom "playlist artwork" to give your playlist a nice finishing touch. Aaaand I may have created playlist artwork for pretty much of all of my.... 90+ playlists in Spotify. I may have a problem. Unlike other streaming services for other media forms like Netflix or Playstation Now, Spotify houses a fairly robust playlist and folder creation system for you to arrange your music however you see fit. You may not own the music in the same way that you did with iTunes or CDs, but it feels a lot more personalised than a simple "Watch List" offered by the likes of Netflix.
I'm not really old enough to remember the heyday of cassettes and mixtapes, but I will say that creating a playlist for someone to listen to on Spotify does seem to be the digital equivalent in 2019. You can also make collaborative playlists which is pretty fun, and there have been a few houseparties I've been to where a playlist has been created beforehand for people to unload their favourites onto.
Data & Analytics
Arguably Spotify's crowning achievement, its "Wrapped" feature at the end of each year is a very nicely presented breakdown of your listening habits over the course of the past year. Stats such as the total number of minutes spent listening, genre breakdown and spread of countries that your music covers are all pretty neat tidbits to know. The sheer amount of listening data that Spotify must have to catalogue of its 248 million users is simply astounding. This data is accessible to you at any time too, and you can easily use third-party apps such as Festify to view your latest top hits and artists.
Spotify has had its controversies, namely bombarding users with Drake in the least subtle advertisement of all time, and Taylor Swift's standoff over royalties, but there is no denying that I have discovered artists that I would have otherwise never have known about without Spotify. I try to support my favourite artists by going to gigs where I can, and up-and-coming musicians stand much more of a chance of being found on Spotify than fighting for the ever-decreasing, limited shelf space of HMV. As of December 2019, Spotify employ over 3,600 people, and have 248 million users, almost half of which are premium subscribers. It is the largest music streaming service, standing head and shoulders above the competition in my eyes.