A stream of streamings

I’m a last.fm fan. I love its ability to not only stream music without needing a dedicated client installed (yes a flash application I think suits a purpose) and I think it’s ability to provide music I might also like is amazingly nice. I’m a “random it all” kind of guy when I listen to my local music collection in most situations as well. It is not specifly well suited for listening on exact the songs you want, as if you select a specific song it won’t even play the full-length version of it.

Lately there’s been a lot of buzz in Swedish tech media about spotify, which is a similar idea (at the moment still an on invitation-only thing in Sweden). They stream music, but only to a proprietary Windows or Mac client and currently they offer free listening with ads (embedded in the audio and visible in the client) or 99 SEK (== 9 Euros == 11 USD) per month. The client is highly focused on specific songs or artists and it has nothing in the way of “random artitists I generally like and similar ones”. I’m not too thrilled.

Spotify offers its service in several places, and I hear in the UK it’s not even invitation-only (which of course is useful for the more forward-thinking hacking kind of guys who thus use a UK based proxy to reach them). There’s however no sign of a Linux client. We’re forced to run their windows client with Wine.

I’ve gotten the impression that Pandora is a similar concept to play with if you happen to be based in the US. I’m in Sweden and Pandora just shows me a “We are deeply, deeply sorry to say that due to licensing constraints, we can no longer allow access to Pandora for listeners located outside of the U.S.”

The other day despotify.se showed up. A bunch of clever hackers reverse engineered the Spotify protocol and stream and offer a full unofficial open sourced ncurses/libvorbis/pulse-audio/gstreamer/expat/zlib/openssl-based player! Reading the code shows that these guys certainly had to crack some hard nuts, but the activity in their IRC channel seems fierce and the code is rather clean so I expect it to turn out to eventually become a fine player if Spotify just doesn’t decide to play hard ball with them. Unfortunately, despotify hasn’t yet been able to produce a single sound for me since it has just died on assert()s on basically any attempts I’ve tried. The interface is also a bit… strange and not the easiest to figure out. (It should be noted that the despotify client still requires you who have an actual spotify account.)

It’ll be interesting to see how Spotify, or perhaps the big media companies owning all the music rights, will act on this initiative. This client does open up abilities for new fancy features. How about ripping the stream? How about re-distributing the stream like as a proxy? And of course it being open, it does open up for adding features I want to add.

Update: just hours after I posted this, Spotify closed access to their service using the despotify client as long as you’re not a “premium” (paying) user…