One of my earliest posts on this blog was about last.fm. I like the last.fm community, its events notifications and its suggestions for music it thinks I will like. However, unless you subscribe, you cannot chose the music you want to listen to. However, I've argued before, and I'll say it again, this is a strength of last.fm. I've heard all sorts of new music that I would not have encountered if I was choosing what to listen to. However, sometimes more control is good... and that's where Spotify comes in.
Spotify doesn't seem to have the sophistication of last.fm in choosing music it thinks you will like but you can listen to a "radio station" of artists that it thinks are similar to one you choose. It doesn't have the powerful community building tools of last.fm but it does have the facility to share playlists, for example here's a list of happy songs I started on Comic Relief day - a list that was extended by additions from other people. Both services are legal sources of Internet streamed music that reward the artists they stream. Both can be listened to free but have subscription options that give extra facilities/options should you want them. Another major difference is that Spotify play occasional (very occasional) adverts before songs and every so often, an advert will pop up in the Spotify player. The subscription options will remove the adverts but to be honest, they are short and infrequent and I have no problem with them - significantly better than commercial radio with the added bonus that you choose all the music.
For me, the most impressive aspect of Spotify is the huge range of music it has on offer. Big record companies as well as many independents are on board and new music is added on a regular basis (for example Spotify Music catalogue updated with 2,850 releases was announced yesterday). They also sometimes offer pre-release listens, for example I was able to listen to the new U2 album before it was on sale. Also it is a great way to listen to new releases (such as The Ballad Of John Henry) while waiting for pay day. :-) I especially like the shared playlist idea although t still lacks a couple of features I'd like to see - specifically, I'd like to know who adds to shared lists and have some way of interacting with them (for example to be able to explain why I've added a particular track).
Spotify is a fantastic service for the music fan and I expect it to get better as they add more music and more features.
Please share your opinions on Spotify and your playlists in the comments.