Graham Reid | | 2 min read
The hills – and elevators, supermarkets and doctors' waiting rooms – are alive with the sound of music. Yet despite being assailed by often unwanted Muzak, most of us still want music in our lives. And more of it judging by the success of iTunes, iPods and the download culture. You can add to that list a new player in the New Zealand market, Spotify, which brings you essential music you never knew you wanted.
If the name is unfamiliar, it won't be for long. Spotify, launched in New Zealand this week, is an online streaming system which allows you access to millions of pieces of music – many millions in fact – for a monthly fee less than you pay for a cocktail.
You can't download, but imagine your iPod pumped full of plutonium and primed to explode.
You want Beethoven's Ninth Symphony? I counted about 30 different versions. Something more obscure, like Seventies band Gentle Giant? Looked like their complete works to me, certainly more than you probably knew existed.
And the “related artists” tag allowed me to discover three albums by Beardfish (recent prog-rock) as well as dive back into bands like Caravan, Magma, Renaissance and Coliseum whom I hadn't thought about for years.
You want the White Stripes? All present and correct – as well as Karaoke Hits of the White Stripes, the Vitamin String Quartet's tribute album . . .
You get the picture: Spotify is a black hole which sucks you in. In a good way.
Recently I discovered the terrifically trippy album Gentle Stream by The Amazing which has been released locally. They're out of Stockholm and have tapped in to a Byrds/Astral Weeks/psychedelic vibe. Spotify took me to their two previous albums, and I can't tell you how far into Californian and Swedish psychedelia I got by hitting the “related artists” link.
But I also spotted an English band I'd forgotten, the Amazing Blondel from the Seventies who played medieval instruments alongside guitars and anticipated Fleet Foxes by decades. (Couldn't see their England album, but with 10 others to choose from that might be picky.)
Spotify lets you settle arguments (“No, Aunt Eggma Blowtorch appeared on Neutral Milk Hotel's 1995 EP Everything Is, not on the '96 album On Avery Island”) and you can create playlists to share or for an evening at home, while working on the computer or just a lost weekend. The apps will let you travel with them also.
I'm liking the random factor. A friend turned me on to Shabazz Palaces – an astonishingly inventive hip-hop outfit signed to indie label Sub Pop out of Seattle – and the journey took me to araabMUZIK, WU LYF, Youth Lagoon, Lil B . . .
Cyndi Lauper to Edith Piaf? Easy. Billie Holiday to the Boswell Sisters (1925-36)? Click of a mouse. New Zealand acts? More and more being added as deal are signed.
I'm told because of Spotify – founded in Stockholm less than four years ago and now in about a dozen countries, with various subscription options – digital and CD sales have increased in every territory it has opened. I can see that.
A friend not much interested in recent music came over and started with what he knew – “Strawberry Alarm Clock, just to see if they've got it.” Yep – and ended up discovering Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti albums. He moved up five decades in 15 minutes.
That's how this hooks you.
If you have a great pool of music at home Spotify is the ocean.
Dive in, the water's deep but fine.