• 2016/12/20

Spotify: User Experience Beats Up Music Experience

This morning I woke up and much like every morning I put some music on while I had breakfast. I knew exactly what I wanted to listen to, so I opened Spotify and searched for “Gimme Shelter”. To my surprise I got an error message, my subscription payment wasn’t processed so my account was frozen. I still wanted to hear the Rolling Stone anthem so I went back to the source, got my original vinyl for “Let it Bleed”, slid the record out and it was perfect. Finally I hooked up my record player and moved the needle to track 1.

While I listened to the clear sound of the guitar, with no digital compression whatsoever I started to look at the album’s cover. As a good designer, I have always been into album covers and I think the vinyl format is the best way to feature album art. You can appreciate the cover art in a way that is just not possible on a streaming service where the image is reduced to 200x200px.

After four and a half minutes the next track started but I kept thinking to myself (with both indignation and some nostalgia) why Spotify? Why Streaming, OGG Vorvis, and MP3?
How is it that we, as a modern advanced society, have allowed music to be streamed in such low quality and fidelity?

To look at the situation in a more objective and professional manner I compiled a list of reasons that justify Spotify as a streaming service. A list I have titled: User Experience Beats Music Experience

1. Catalogues

With only a few clicks we have access to one of the biggest online music catalogs in the world, which includes a great variety of artists and music styles. We also have access to curated content that has been carefully selected for different playlists (some are of course better than others)

2. Albums

For someone who loves albums, it’s comforting to be able to visualize the artist’s album. For me, it takes me back to a time where I would go to my local record shop and listen to albums for hours. Today I can do the same thing from the comfort of my own couch.

3. Discover Weekly Playlist

If you are an active user, Spotify transforms itself into a totally different kind of platform. Its algorithm considers the user’s actions (saved albums, followed an artist, original playlists). the level of engagement with active users is quite high.

4. Collaborative Playlists

This feature can be very useful when creating playlists with friend or with your “music soulmate”

5. Private Sessions

For those ties when you want to blast Bon Jovi but you don’t want anyone to find out. When in “private” mode nothing you listen to will appear in any feed.

6. Musician Playlists

Music flows around the world and we all conform our music identity by combining different music sources and influences. Spotify has this supercool feature. You can access famous musicians’ public playlists, so you can follow and listen to the music they love. For example, I love this short playlist from Nick Cave:

7. Listen Offline

One of the best features is being able to listen to your favorite music without any internet connection. For people like me, that is….

8. Browse> Party Playlists

When you have no time to program music for your party, if you can’t afford a DJ, or even if you have a friend with great taste in party music… With this mode, you can select the music that better suits your party from different playlists from all kinds of moods.


For all radio lovers out there. Spotify gives you access to a variety of radio stations, grouped by categories. An ideal feature when you feel like listening to jazz the entire day!

10. Low-Quality Audio

Unfortunately, it’s not all a bed of roses on Spotify. In fact, the audio quality is perhaps the biggest issue of this otherwise great platform (especially for those of us who value sound quality). While Spotify uses Ogg Vorbis compression, which is a little better than MP3, this format still compromises when it comes to quality.

Fortunately, Spotify allows users to choose the Kbps to stream, so if you value your hearing I recommend you stick to 320kbps (extreme quality).

And if you are looking for a streaming service with better quality I recommend Tidal, which offers Hi-Fi streaming. Although it’s catalog and features are not as complete as Spotify.