Describing it as a "next-generation" relaunch, Spotify has unveiled its new look, ahead of its U.S. launch. Fans of Facebook and iTunes might notice some similarities with the music streaming service's facelift, but founder and CEO Daniel Ek told the BBC that, despite being a next-gen service, some of Spotify's new features are definitely retro.
"It's almost like going back to the record shop or being at your friend's house," Ek said of the new ability to browse a friends' music collection. "At the same time, you can create playlists which are like mix tapes used to be 20 years ago, so you can do this super-fast."
The main changes are in the social network-ification of the site, which now allows you to connect to Facebook within Spotify, and share tracks with any of your Facebook contacts who are using the Spotify app via the Inbox folder. New users can be added at the click of a button, and there's a popularity count for playlists.
Any music on your computer can now be connected to the Spotify stream via an import link, and any missing track details will be filled in via a connection with Gracenote software's database (the same one used by iTunes to fill-in-the-blanks). There's also a wireless sync feature, a filter bar, automatic track replacement, and—very iTunes, this—a system that enables you to rate your music using stars.
Although Spotify's launch this side of the Atlantic seems to be dragging on and on, this relaunch has set it slightly apart from its already-established competitors, such as MOG and Rhapsody, which yesterday offered offline music via an iPhone app. The firm is by far the best-known streaming service in Europe, and around 7 million people have signed up, most of them through a free, ad-supported version, although there is a $15-a-month subscription model.
Many music industry insiders are critical of Spotify, claiming that its royalty payments to artists are, frankly, underpants. Ek, however, sees the relaunch as being at the vanguard of 21st-century music. "I think this is a massive step towards the next-generation music industry where it's about access to music and not about ownership any more," he said.
Tell that to the pop stars.