Spotify Falls Short for Those With Their Own Music Collections

Posted on May 3, 2016 by Paul Thurrott in Xbox One, Android, iOS, Windows Phones, Music + Videos, Groove Music, Windows 10 with 0 Comments

Spotify Falls Short for Those With Their Own Music Collections

While Spotify is arguably the most popular full-featured music subscription service in the world, it lacks one key feature for those with their own music collections: Spotify offers no way to upload your own music to the service.

I (re)discovered this omission during a recent examination of the leading music services. As you may know, I regularly move from service to service (in this case, or from device to device, app to app, and so on) to make sure I’m up-to-date on how they compare. Here, I was curious to see whether moving to Spotify made sense. Because, well, Groove.

I’ve been using Groove (with Music Pass) since it was called Zune, and while I like it overall, the mobile app versions on Android and iPhone are laughably bad and in need of a complete re-write. On Windows 10 Mobile, this isn’t an issue, as the Groove client app is excellent.

Indeed, looking just at the overall service, Groove is mostly very good, despite the many complaints I see online. What Groove is missing is good music discoverability functionality via Internet radio stations and hand-curated playlists. This is where services like Spotify, Google Play Music, and Apple Music excel.

But Groove provides one feature I consider a necessity, and this will be true for anyone with a large music collection that’s been ripped from CD and/or purchased from various services over the years: It lets you upload that music to OneDrive and then access it on the go—over the air—from the cloud from Groove.

This is important because none of the music subscription services have complete music collections. So while most of the music I want to listen to is available in any of the major full-featured services—they all boast collections of 30 to 40 million these days—some isn’t.

There are a variety of reasons for this shortcoming, but “why” won’t help us solve the problem. If you are really into music, and are particular about having access to some music, you need a way to combine your own music with the cloud-based collection found in whatever service you’re using.

Again, Groove does this, via OneDrive. Apple Music offers it too, though you have to pay an additional $25 per year for iTunes Match. And Google Play Music offers what is perhaps the most liberal (i.e. best) version of this feature: It lets you just upload an obscene amount of music to your cloud collection. (Note that you need to pay for a subscription with all of these services to use both your own music, when available, and the cloud collection.)

Spotify, alas, does not provide this feature. I’m actually quite surprised by this, given how popular it is, and initially assumed I was missing something. But no: Spotify will recognize any music that’s on the device you’re currently using. But if you make a playlist that contains that local music, it will not be available from the web or from other instances of Spotify on your PCs, tablets and phones. (Unless you go through the arduous task of copying the music around, I guess.)

That is unacceptable.

So I can’t use Spotify, and neither can many other music lovers who wish to combine their own music with the voluminous cloud-based collections offered by the big services. What to do?

If you’re sticking with the Microsoft stack across the board—Windows 10 on PCs and tablets, Windows 10 Mobile on a smart phone, and/or Xbox—Groove really isn’t a terrible choice, though you’ll want to augment it with a second service for music discovery. I use Pandora, but there are a variety of free and paid Internet radio choices.

If you’re using Android or iPhone, Google Play Music is the best choice, and is the direction I’m going at the moment. On Windows 10, I use Chrome to pin the Google Play Music web app to my taskbar, and it’s just a good as a native app. There’s no offline support on the web, of course, but I use devices on the go, and listen to music offline on my phone. Google Play Music offers everything Groove and Spotify does, all in one place.

(I actually like Apple Music’s music discoverability functionality, and even the app—which is available on both Android and iOS—is pretty good. But I refuse to use iTunes on the PC, and Apple offers no web interface to Apple Music. So it’s a non-starter for me.)

I’d be happy to stick with Groove, by the way. But Microsoft needs to improve—no, replace—the Android and iOS apps. They really are that bad.

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