back to article Old Napster guy’s fan letter to Spotify upstart

The original Napster was the greatest digital music service we’ve ever seen – and, into the bargain, was the first global social network. Choosing to close it, rather than financially exploit it, is something many people in the music business have regretted ever since. They had a new world of consumers in the palm of their hand …


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  1. James Hughes 1

    Native on Linux?

    Thought it ran under Wine myself - maybe I just have an old version.

    1. Yann BZH

      There's a native linux version, but it only works for paying subscribers.

      As I use the free version, I still use Wine. A minor compromise.

      1. vic 4

        native linux version crashes a fair bit

        wine is still the better option.

  2. mraak

    Spotify's gone for me

    After 2 years of paying the, instead of fixing the bugs, and making an iPad player, they decide to do the idiotic thing of requiring FB account to use it. Idiots.

    1. Alex Walsh

      I'm using it and I've not got it linked to facebook. What are you doing wrong?

  3. sylvania

    Abusive, joined to smear

    one thing spotify is best at: marketing to journalists who provide it heaps of free publicity. requiring a standalone native windows binary is a *good* thing? really? grooveshark has been providing exactly the same service, for free, with no country-based restrictions, and runs directly in your browser, but you dont see endless "grooveshark is cool" articles everywhere. but then grooveshark didnt give this article's author a free subscription did they, so he doesnt feel the need to repay the feeling of "privilege" he has received from spotify by spouting endless articles about how great it is...

    1. Andrew Orlowski (Written by Reg staff)


      I've never received a freebie from Spotify.


    2. vic 4

      spotify is actually good

      I've had a paid for account for about 2 years now and I'm still very happy with it, might change if they try forcinging me to get a facebook account.

      > requiring a standalone native windows binary is a *good* thing?

      WIth you on that one, although native apps do tend to be easier to use with a keyboard only (by native I mean not browser based).

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "Directly in your browser...."

      You actually think that's a good thing?

      Yuck. The main reason I've stuck with spotify against all the others is that it is a stand-alone client, that can be minimised and also integrated for quick access into the taskbar.

      Technically, having a standalone rather than a browser-flash-kludge makes it MUCH faster and more efficient, even though I have to run it through WINE.

  4. Spindreams


    All I can think of when I read this is that c*nt Justin Timberlake with his feminine voice and camp persona. Totally spoils it for me.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      Spend much time in closets?

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Spotify isn't as good as Napster was for searching. The Spotify UI is horrible if you search for a generic album title, such as 'Trance'. The search results in the top right of the app are limited to a handful of results, and even the main window isn't much better as it just shows every track on a handful of albums.

    What I loved about Napster and also Audio Galaxy until its demise, and what I still love about Soulseek, is that I could discover new music easily because the search results were so vast. With Soulseek I can find specific artists or tracks / albums easily enough, but I don't find myself discovering new music - not because the catalogue isn't varied, but because the GUI isn't any good.

    Maybe I'm doing it wrong and there is a better way of finding stuff, but if there is then it's not well advertised.

  6. liquorvicar

    Spotify on Linux

    There is a "preview" version of Spotify that runs natively on Linux without Wine:

    I've been using it for a few months now with some success.

    1. Smeghead

      For subscribers only

      As per the preview page you linked to:

      "As we haven’t found a reliable way to display ads yet, this version is only available to Spotify Premium and Unlimited subscribers."

      For the rest of us, running under Wine works just fine. I'm just glad that they finally launched over here in the States - no more mucking about with Tor SOCKS proxies required (I signed up yonks ago via a proxy and just filled out my Parents' postcode to set up an account).

  7. Mr Shouty

    The Natives are restless

    Er.. There has been a linux native client for well over a year; it might only be open to 'premium' subscribers, but I've been one of those for nearly two years, largely thanks to the iphone app which works great in the car on the dull drives into work.. Oh and the one I had on my old Nokia before that.

    So - PC, Mac, Linux, JesusPhone, Android, Nokias - I'd say they covered most of their bases with that one. PROBLEM?

    I happily pay a tenner a month for my legitimate access to 13 million+ tracks. It's an album a month, which assuming Spotify continues to operate - means I now no longer have to add to my creaking CD tower (which has been gathering dust for some time) - the freetards just want something for nothing. Stream from youtube if you don't like it.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      something for nothing

      and i happily pay nothing a month for my legitimate access to 13 million+ tracks... on grooveshark. but i guess i'm just a "freetard" eh?

      1. noad

        free stuff

        I was an enthusiastic user of Napster so I can be flexible when it suits me and was sad when it ended, but are you convinced Grooveshark is as legally and morally legitimate (as in getting money to musicians from people who choose to enjoy their stuff) as Spotify?

        Sure, they offer club dance tracks and request feedback, but they also offer Nirvana (without entering it as a search term).

        Also, their selection is more limited than Spotify/Napster/Pandora.

      2. tath

        Don't be obtuse, you take the free option and suffer adverts, how is this different/worse to Spotify?

        Some people pay to get rid of the adverts and get extra features on Spotify AND Grooveshark, with the added bonus of supporting a model for the industry that may actually work, and some people don't... Just because you're one of the ones that don't, there's no need to boast.

        You don't work for grooveshark do you?

        1. noad

          I don't work for Grooveshark/Spotify/Napster/Pandora or any music or IT business.

          Don't remember hearing ads on Grooveshark (last listened a few weeks ago), so to me it comes across as a limited selection with no money changing hands; I enjoyed it but didn't see a route to get money to musicians (not a massive priority but not zero either). I do remember ads on Spotify and did choose to pay to get rid of them (a few weeks ago), and as it was about a year ago I joined, was getting squeezed.

          I do use various music sources and [inc. non/] payment styles. I've used all of the sites in the first line, mostly not paying. Not sure what the boast is?

          I think I don't understand your point?

          1. vic 4
            IT Angle

            I don't work for ... or IT business.

            Wow, does that mean you read el reg for fun!

            1. Criminny Rickets

              IT Business Optional

              Actually, yes, some of us do read El Reg for fun. I used to be in the IT industry, but have not for a few years now. That does not mean I can't still keep up on the biz or keep enjoying El Reg just because I am not in the IT industry. To paraphrase Charlton Heston, you'll make me stop reading El Reg when you pry it out of my cold dead hands!

  8. Version 1.0 Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    Napster worked

    I've pretty much abandoned looking for new music since Napster was dragged into the fast lane and pushed in front of a truck. These days I let my kid do it for me and listen to what she suggests - I raised her right I think.

    Napster did two things for me - it allowed me to find MP3's of music that I already owned (all since sadly deleted by a Musicmatch directory initialization cockup) and it let me find new music - kinda like Google does for websites. But these days, with the big labels pushing the wheel, music "search" is a waste of time ... how the hell does Michael Hurley or a band like The Global Village Trucking Company get discovered these days?

    A great and thoughtful article Andrew - Thanks!

  9. noad
    Thumb Up


    Is there something that offers Pandora-like suggestions and also allows you to play the track you want, not a close miss? With a Spotify range (not impressed with its radio), convenience and subscription model? Not that using the two together is such a big hassle.

  10. Dick Emery

    If you want new music discovery use Soundcloud (albeit is a bit geared towards electronic music).

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Napster still exists, and provides a very similar service to Spotify. I'm not sure what the great differentiator is that makes Spotify so much better, or even simply different. In terms of cost, availability of tracks etc they're very similar. Napster has a fat client, but also a web app. Spotify has no web app.

    What am i missing ...?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      the missing piece

      spotify has an army of PR people to "encourage" journalists to write free advertising articles like this one.

    2. noad


      I just had a look at them again. I slightly favour my money going to whoever bought the Napster name in recognition of the goodolddays. They claim to have 15 million tracks against Spotify's 13 million; probably not an important distinction. For £5/month Napster stream at 128, Spotify at 160 (and it stings to know that 320 is most likely available at double the price), and that is an important differentiator.

  12. Luna Tick

    "But it also offered a voyeuristic rifling through other people’s linen drawers, something Spotify punters have objected to recently."

    The difference being, back then one would go thru someone's drawers not knowing, nor sharing whose linens they were sniffing. It was about things you found, not where you found them, nor advertising to the world what it was.

    Napster was fantastic. It let me find some of the most obscure things I used to listen to way back when and zero-in on "someone's" stash to find some amazing new things.

    I haven't been "discovering" music for a while now. There are either too many strings attached; it's way too expensive; or things are laden with commercials which I loathe and categorically refuse to listen to anymore.

  13. david 12 Silver badge

    Nothing comes close...

    Nothing comes close to the variaty, volume and convinience of Napster. We had to block Napster to stop users soaking up our download bandwidth, and the music they were downloading (as seen when we examined their HD) was all stuff they were not getting on the radio or TV or films, and couldn't buy in the shops. Thousands of MB of alternate, new, special interest stuff, or just back catalog that was never very popular in the first place. Back when GB's was a lot of download and a lot of disk space.

    I'm sure there were also people downloading popular music they could have bought on CD, but on the evidence I saw, that was the least of it. I look at those titles now, and that stuff is NOT available on iTunes.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @vic 4 RE: IT optional

    At risk of being derided massively I am a former Aircraft Engineer, mumble mumble other things for a while (including ISO9001/2000 QA stuff for a computer manufacturer), still run OS/2 on my personal machine and I am currently running a welding and blacksmithing business, and yes I still read El Reg as often as I can.

    I also miss Napster because I used to be able to find the "live" treasures, those wonderful bootleg recordings from sound checks or other sources that never made it onto albums of any description, but showed the artist playing with someone elses songs (Zappa sound checks are amongst my most favorite).

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