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Is Spotify's Debut Too Late to Matter?

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MISSED THE BOAT
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For years, Spotify has been whetting the appetites of stateside music fans by remaining exclusive to Europe. The streaming, on-demand music service has long been a sensation overseas, but had been held up by studio negotiations in the States. (No surprise there.) But after finalizing a deal with the last holdout, Warner Music Group, Spotify has finally made its American debut.

However, it might be too late for Spotify to really matter now.

Spotify allows users to stream unlimited music on demand and create and share playlists. Users can import MP3s they already own, as well as build a friend circle. The free version is ad-supported, but a subscription option for $4.99/month eliminate those ads and a $9.99/month option gives access to exclusive content and adds the ability to stream to smartphones. A smart, solid service -- one that's sure to occupy fans for hours.

Too bad we've already made do without it.

In the years without Spotify, US music fans have adopted a wide variety of services to complete their music-listening needs.

Pandora, of course, for streaming tracks according to mood. Last.fm for building music friend circles where one could discover and recommend new music. Hype Machine for searching through music blogs to find specific and more obscure MP3s from indie artists -- and for a random selection sorted by amazingly specific genre, there's Shuffler.fm. Most terrestrial radio stations stream their content live online. Heck, even a search on YouTube and a quick-and-dirty playlist makes for a simple compilation -- with the actual music videos, when available!

But it's the recent developments in online music that really overshadow Spotify's US launch.

Amazon's Cloud Drive and Google Music place your entire music library online, available to stream to any device -- the latter service doing so for free. While not offering true streaming, iTunes in the Cloud is still able to access your music library virtually anywhere and will be deeply integrated into iOS 5. Each service isn't 100% perfect, but they nevertheless provide access to your music at a time when MP3s are so cheap and easy to find.

And as for a new music service which turns everything on its head, there's Turntable.fm. Gaining more users everyday, Turntable.fm creates a virtual chat room which allows five users to DJ a room. Their avatars stand behind five turntables and take turns streaming a preselected playlist to everyone who enters the room. (For tracks not on Turntable.fm's servers, DJs can simply upload the tune they wish to play from their computer.) Users then rate the songs "Lame" or "Awesome," which ranks up the DJ. It's incredibly fun -- and extremely addicting -- and is sure to make year-end lists of 2011's best new products.

However, above all, Spotify's debut doesn't really matter because of one service: Grooveshark.

Grooveshark basically provides the exact same functions as Spotify -- streaming music on-demand by creating your own playlist -- for years now. The service is available for Android, iPhone (jailbroken-only), BlackBerry, even Palm and Nokia devices. And as of May, sports 35 million registered users.

At this point, without offering up anything revolutionary, Spotify just seems superfluous in 2011.

(See also: Apple Screws Honest iTunes Customers and Grooveshark Defends Itself When Google and Apple Wouldn't)

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