Friday, 20 March 2009

Tuning out: Is Spotify eating up YOUR bandwith?

'Free' advert supported streaming service Spotify launched in October 2008, and has quickly become the most talked about music application across online and print platforms.

It arrived with substantial media coverage in the UK on 10th February this year, and support shows no sign of diminishing as user numbers increase (as of 2nd March Spotify boasted 1 million users from Western Europe and the UK) and record labels sign up their artists for streaming (tracks are added daily to the existing four million).

Spotify's easy on the eye design and functionality has gained many followers. And despite muso's complaining about the depth of Spotify's current catalogue and a security scare earlier this month, the application has challenged your average music fan as to the merits of their 'gathering dust' CD collection.

However, this week it emerged that Spotify's high quality streaming service appears not as cute as it looks. One member of the Record of the Day forum complained of receiving a letter from their Internet Service Provider stating they'd used up their monthly 12 gigabyte bandwith allowance from two weeks of Spotify streaming. It seems that listening to music on Spotify eats the same amount of bandwith your normal song download would, meaning that 'all day' consumption will bite significantly into household or business ISP bandwith quotas.

Spotify currently broadcasts its library from peer-to-peer networks alongside a central server, a system that can infringe on an individuals browser use, separate streaming or downloads. Spotify chiefs have described their current system as "naive", but hope to fine tune its impact on browsing applications.

Many ISP's make their business models tuned to frequent downloaders; the more bandwith they individually use on a monthly basis, the greater leverage ISP's have on increasing price plans. It's been suggested that ISP's could switch from monthly inclusive packages to metered bandwith charges (you pick a price plan with a specific usage limit) to correspond with the rise in popularity of streaming media online. But many new listeners drawn in by the lure of Spotify are unaware of streaming's dent into their daily browsing, internet usage and ultimately, their own pockets.

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  1. Why is it surprising that streaming a song takes up as much as downloading one? How do you think you're listinening to it, you're downloading it?

  2. This was a blog for music fans, not computer geeks and its something i didn't know, cheers alistair.

  3. Dear Anon,

    The point I was trying to make in the post is that streaming services have generally been portrayed in the media / PR'd as a FREE and ARTIST SUPPORTING alternative to illegal downloads.

    However, streaming bandwith usage is rarely picked out in 'future of music' type discussions and is an issue I felt needed highlighting.

    I feel there is a general view of streaming as 'free, easy and taking a small space' and potentially ISP's could exploit customers who are not aware of their bandwith use.

    And Dave, I could probably be described as a music computer geek!

    Open door to everyone...

  4. Thought Spotify was fantastic service, no realise its a bit rubbish. Big Bandwith not a Big Solution.

  5. Spotify caches music. Increase the cache size.