Spotify Gains Ground in U.S. – Since the launch of its U.S. music streaming service last month, Swedish-originated Spotify is gaining ground against competitors such as Pandora, Last.fm, Rhapsody and others. It now offers selected music from a wide range of major and independent record labels, including Sony, EMI, Warner Music Group and Universal. It was originally launched in 2008 in Sweden (currently based in London) and is currently available in six other European countries as well as the U.S. It is cross-platform, and runs on both iOS and Android mobile devices as well as Windows Mobile, S60, webOS and Sonos. Music can be browsed by artist, album, label, genre or playlist as well as by direct searches. Desktop computer users can purchase selected material via partner retailers. Users can register either for free accounts or paid subscriptions with ads and some extra features such as higher bitrate streams and offline access to music. Mobile devices require a paid Premium subscription, and subscriptions are restricted to those with either credit/debit cards or PayPal accounts.
Spotify has had some ups and downs. For a time their free service was by invitation only. In 2009 they had a security flaw in their service in which private account information—including email addresses and passwords—were potentially exposed. In March of this year it had a hacker attack which exploited Java to place malicious code on victims’ computers. In April they announced they would drastically cut the amount of music a free member could listen to starting May 1 to only 10 hours streaming per month. (Free Pandora allows 40 hours.) In addition, a user can only listen to a particular track a maximum of five times. (But who would want to?) Since its U.S. launch, Spotify is now valued at $1 billion U.S.
Onkyo Expands Net Radio Services – Onkyo now offers more Internet radio options for its networked AV receivers, has added Aupeo! Personal Radio, and is expanding Last.fm service to more models. All the 2011 networked receivers will include both Aupeo! and Last.fm, and selected receivers will also offer Spotify. Aupeo! offers 12 music channels and user-selected “stations” that can be customized. Users can search for a particular artist on Artist Radio, or use the Mood Selector to match the music style to their mood at the moment. Last.fm is a music recommendation service helping listeners to discover new music by analyzing the tunes they play most often, which ones they like the most, how much they’ve played an artists, and which friends have similar tastes.
NAD Digital Media Tuner – We have a new audio component in the mix. The NAD C 446 Digital Media Tuner (at $800) is its first networked audio component—connecting to a variety of new music sources. It has an analog FM/AM tuner, an Internet radio, ability to stream music from networked PCs, Macs, and NAS drives with Universal Plug-and-Play(UPnP) and DLNA standards, Ethernet port, and embedded Wi-Fi. USB connection offers music playback from a connected iPod or iPhone dock. It decodes MP3, FLAC, WMA, WAV and AAC music formats; other features include 192K/24-bit DAC, an RS-232 serial interface port for integration with home automation systems, and the ability to convert analog FM/AM to a S/PDIF digital output. (It does not play optical discs.)