iTunes likeness

Comrade iTunes, this is Spotify

iTunes likenessThe first iPod, iPhone or iPad is a joy. Plugging-in to iTunes to upload your own music ripped from CD or add a credit card to buy music, apps and even movies. Doing so crowns the iTunes account as le grande fromage, the great dictator, one iTunes to rule them all. It works well – for one person.

Your second iDevice means you sync with the current iTunes dictator or you rebel and create a second iTunes account on another computer. But beware comrade.

Buying content like music, apps, movies, audiobooks etc. in iTunes binds the purchase to the iTunes account. You can’t sync across different iTunes libraries.

In my family this means we have one iTunes politburo opened in 2003 which contains:

  • Key photography albums & slideshows
  • My vinyl and CD collection
  • iTunes music including Amazon purchases
  • Movies and TV shows
  • Audiobooks, Podcasts, PDFs and iBooks ((An iBook bought on iPhone, stored in iTunes but not viewable from iTunes on the desktop!))

I decided to sync all devices with one iTunes library because it meant greater sharing of purchased media on many devices ((One iTunes with apps is very useful where the children can share games etc)) and simplified backup . iTunes has command and control of our family of iPhones, iPods, Airport express and Apple TV.

The issue is every device owner has to use the same computer (mine) when updating playlists and apps. So I make the changes because I don’t want young children running amok in a 1-click purchase environment.

PS3 &  Apple TV remotesSo please comrade iTunes, let me buy music and let my family sync it onto their device from a different computer in our house? Also:

  1. Simplify transfer of camera media between devices and iTunes. Nothing is intuitive here.
  2. Cut the iTunes USB umbilical cord for synchronising, at least for music.
  3. Fix the rental source problems with Apple TV and iTunes.
  4. Allow transfer of photographs and movies captured on a device to computer wirelessly.
  5. Shake the dandruff out of iTunes, its begining to feel like a Sony remote control.


Spotify subscription music


Jet White's Spotify website
This blog post is in part-response to discussions I’ve had with Jer White. He is a technical writer based in Edinburgh by day and creator of the worlds biggest Blog on Spotify. Which is the worlds largest paid music subscription service. It has been growing new features and benefits so I consulted Jer on how Soptify may work in a family setting. See his blog post here of my dilemmas.

I took the free 7-day trial of Spotify Premium, playing-down my reservations of subscription music. It is working on all computers and iDevices and works very.  While writing this I heard it was Bob Dylan’s 70th birthday. Fired-up Spotify and bang! now listening to a live Dylan recording from 1961. Not only did I want Spotify to stand in front of comrade iTunes tanks, I wanted freedom from managing the families devices. Does it ?  …almost.

spotify freedom logoWith a daughter off to France for a week she turned excitement to 11. The prospect of bathing in Spotify’s 14m+ tracks and cherry-picking music for her iPod nano was teenage heaven. Sadly for her iPod devices will only sync owned and not subscription music. Spotify joy for her elder brother however.  Using the Spotify app on his iPod Touch he sideloaded (or cached) a playlist to his device over WiFi for listening on his paper round. I repeat: music streaming and syncing over-the-air.

I Spotified my iPhone. Watching a WiFi sync of music brought a smile. My son and I used different macs too :mrgreen: Take Glasnost and Peristroika comrade iTunes.

Spotify unlimited gives desktop access for £5/month. Spotify Premium provides desktop and mobile access for £10/month. ((includes over the air stream or sync of music)) Spotify does not break the iron curtain fully, some wrinkles in an Apple world:

  • Spotify app paused playback when iPhone was docked in my TomTom car cradle and the screensaver kicked in. Road-tested an update today and this appears fixed.
  • Cannot send music to an Apple TV (Rev 1) from either an iPhone or Spotify on the desktop which is unfortunate. Sometimes its good to rock-out to the same tune coming from various audio devices around the house. Soptify app on iPhone worked with a few drop-outs to AirPort Express.
  • Spotify desktop app has no option to stream music to your AirPlay devices eg. AirPort, Apple TV.
  • Only one device or computer streaming music at a time .
  • Built-in discovery features appear good, but run out of steam fast e.g. the What’s New slider, repeats albums and has a myopic view of its 14m tracks.

iTunes or Spotify

The Spotify trial changed my view about music subscription. Its keenly priced, has a good range of tracks and integrates well into an Apple world. Consider a movie rental at £3-5 per 3 hours experience, or buy a DVD for £10 and watch it three times. Now consider 30 days of unlimited music choice out of 14m tracks for £5-10 ! For a music lover its very good value and restores joy and serendipity to music discovery. Be sure to checkout Jer White’s blog to discover tips, tools and updates to the Spotify library on The Pansentient League.

Spotify has set the bar for subscription music and over-the-air iDevice syncing. Can Apple democratise iTunes, cut the USB sync cable and offer music rental over the ethercloud ?

Any experiences positive or negative in integrating Spotify into your world ? Please add your comments below.






7 responses to “Comrade iTunes, this is Spotify”

  1. Alisdair Binning

    Nice piece John, and it sounds like we both want Apple to cut that USB cable! Roll on iCloud 😉

  2. Apple’s pricing would likely position 2x Spotify’s monthly. Whatever arrives iPhones can become truly cordless.

  3. Be interested to hear if you have a follow up now that iCloud has been announced.

  4. I have been waiting for the details to shake free especially around account management in iTunes cloud or at ground level. iCloud does address some big issues around tethering and sideloading of media. iTunes match is a convenience factor and good value for $25/year, but again I want more detail on the service ie. the search and match algorithms ie. I want total transparency even though 99.9% of my library is legit.
    Two disappointments, no streaming ability or subscriptions Oh and heaven knows when the Backward Phonographic Infirmary gets around the table to ink deals for the UK. iCloud before the Olympics ?

    So I still reckon Spotify reigns supreme in service and and value (from £5), while it syncs to devices over-the-air today. Three improvements needed from Spotify:

    1. Improve music discoverability on the desktop and app its awful.
    2. Sort out buggy iPhone app Air-sharing with AirPort & add Apple TV Rev1. Add a layer to Desktop app.
    3. Bug-fix the iPhone app, crashes occasionally.

    Are you a big Spotify fan ?

    ~ John

  5. Gary

    Old post but was curious..    (hopefully I didn’t miss this in the article..)    I know streaming can only occur on one device at once.. but what if you use offline caching of a playlist..   1. can you do different playlist caches per device and 2. can you play them simultaneously?  My kids need to stream less (though i expect that to increase as they enjoy it more)..  but would be nice to just add tracks to a playlist for them and cache it..    this would replace the constant “dad can you buy XYZ and sync it to my iPhone?”    

    1. Thanks for posting Gary, (ahem) you can have different devices sync different playlists and play simultaneously. To do this do two things. Firstly download the playlist to the device, then go into offline/private mode in the Spotify app. We have used this as a family and I think you can do this across three or four devices. So it is perfect for families.

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