Spotify offers free streaming music; how does it compare to Deezer?

June 16th, 2009

We Love Spotify
Creative Commons License photo: Jon Åslund

About a year ago, I introduced Deezer to readers of this blog – one of the websites which pioneered the whole model of free streamed music – music which was advertising supported. Paul Ricard of Deezer summed up the streaming business model very concisely in an interview with this blog:

“free of charge and legally, all kinds of music, from rock to hip-hop, jazz, electro and world music… While at the same time, artists and rights owners receive a share of advertising revenue”

I listed Deezer as the number one website to listen to free music. But how have things changed in the year since? Is Deezer still top dog for streaming music?

One challenger comes in the form of Spotify. Unlike Deezer, you need to download a separate programme – you can’t tune in with just your web browser. The programme is obviously designed to resemble iTunes as closely as possible – it’s neat, fast and just works. Although it is annoying having to download an additional programme, it does allow Spotify to achieve things that Deezer can’t do with a browser-based website: for example multimedia keyboard support, Last.fm scrobbling and a spotify: protocol which allows you to directly link your friends to songs you like.

The sound quality on Spotify is fantastic. It sounds better than Deezer and the songs load more quickly too. But it does come at the cost of additional bandwidth. Spotify uses peer-to-peer technology. When your computer is on and Spotify is open, your computer is being used to share and distribute music to other Spotify users. If you’re on a capped internet package, that could get costly. From my own observations, it uploads at approx 1kbps so it probably won’t clog up the tubes though.

Hands in the air - in concert
Creative Commons License photo: marfis75

Spotify’s library contains 6 million tracks (3 million tracks for UK listeners). It’s a pretty decent library but there are some significant omissions such as Pink Floyd. There are songs available on Deezer but not available on Spotify; and vice versa.

Advertising. Spotify includes periodic audio adverts between songs as well as banner adverts within the programme. You wouldn’t think the audio adverts were any worse than listening to the radio – but they are. At least on the radio you have a variety of adverts. Grown men have been driven to insanity by hearing a message from “Jonathan from Spotify” several dozen times each working day. Again, and again. And again. Spotify also have technology that forces you to listen to the adverts. Don’t try muting your speakers or turning the volume down – it won’t work. Deezer features banner adverts on it’s website. They’re not intrusive at all – they won’t bother you when you’ve just got music on in the background.

Overall, Spotify is a very decent offering. It’s got a fairly good selection of music in a good quality and the programme is more pleasant to use than Deezer. But there are some significant downsides – the main one being repetitive adverts. Don’t let me understate just how much of a downside that is – advertising I can deal with, but not the same adverts every 10 minutes. The P2P nature of the programme is also controversial – both the BBC and Channel 4 have moved from P2P to browser for their video-on-demand offerings. It seems somehow strange to move from a browser-based offering in Deezer to a P2P-based offering in Spotify.

I’m personally still using Deezer as my primary on-demand music service, with Spotify as a backup for the songs which aren’t available in the Deezer library. Your own milage may vary. Let us know what you think.

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About Ken

Ken Lo

My passion is helping people to get the most out of their mobile phone. I've been blogging at Ken's Tech Tips since 2005.

Aside from writing about mobile technology, my interests are in software development, digital marketing and physics. Outside of the blog, I work with numerous technology companies helping them to explain their product and helping them to market it to consumers. Please get in touch for more information.

Your Comments

We'd love to hear your thoughts and any questions you may have. So far, we've received 7 comments from readers. You can add your own comment here.

  1. spanishgirl11 said:

    Well one of the few differences that I can see is the library. Spotify has a much wider library regarding international (non english speaking) singers. I tried a few searches in Deezer and they didn't work.
    You say the p2p can consume my bandwith but as a non connoisseur in technological issues I can say that I never had any problems having spotify open and browsing the web.

  2. Emily said:

    I’ve been on Deezer for quite a while – free Deezer – never minded banner adverts and the like, but in the last few days they seem to have started introducing audio-adverts which pop up (the same one, in fact) literally every few songs. You can silence them. But it is a real step backwards. I’d wondered about switching to Spotify, but sounds like they have the same problem and I live in Belgium which is not one of their countries…sooner they can sort out the territoriality issues the better!

  3. DF said:

    Deezer is not a comparable service to Spotify.

    Spotify works because it is really responsive, with Deezer it is really slow to load up.

    Spotify is quicker to load and search music than iTunes so I don’t use iTunes any more.

  4. Carlos said:

    First time I heard about Spotify I thought more or less like Fernando: it didn’t seem to bring real advantages but when I began to use it… now I only use Spotify.
    Quality of sound, ease of use and hight availability makes the difference. And maybe the non-web based interface can be a key og this success. Soptify is used as an application while Deezer works as a sofisticated website, but ultimately a website.

    However, I agree that the library will be the most important factor.

  5. Fernando said:

    I’m from Argentina, Spotify has not been launched here yet. Nevertheless, having done some reading about it, I can say that I can’t see real advantages that will make me replace Deezer as my main on demand music site.
    The main disadvantages are audio advertising and having to download software if you will be using Spotify from another computer. Those two items are important enough (not to mention senseless P2P) to choose Deezer over Spotify.
    The things you can do with Spotify and can’t do on Deezer are really no big deal, they don’t represent something critical. for example:
    multimedia keyboard support: no big deal.
    Last.fm scrobbling: interesting but not decisive.
    and a spotify: protocol which allows you to directly link your friends to songs you like: good idea, but not critical for overall performance.
    The only thing that can be a real step ahead is sound quality, but that may also depend on speakers being used. If speakers are not good, this will not be something you’ll notice. Actually Deezer sounds fantastic on my great Kinyo Speakers. Maybe Spotify sounds a lot better, but I’m more than satisfied with Deezer’s quality actually so I don’t know how much improvement I’ll notice when I listen to Spotify.
    What can be considered the most important factor is the library. I haven’t had access to Spotify yet but know that big artist have denied to share their songs. One month ago Deezer had a big big library which could be completed by uploading mp3’s that could not be shared but could be added to personal playlists. Now, since Deezer V3 was launched, a lot of titles are not avaiable. I thought this situation could be temporal, due to V3 launching adjustments, but it has been a month now and still no news. Hope the situation goes back to normal cause I don’t know what to do now…
    Regard from the end of the world. I wave my ‘hand of God’ to you all. Bye!

  6. Janne said:

    I also think that Spotify will win the race due to its wider music selection and user friendlines. And 10 pounds per month isn’t really a bad price to get rid of the Spotify ads.

  7. Hans said:

    Deezer really sucks and you can’t compare them with Spotify. When Spotify launches on all mobile phones no one will use Deezer any more.

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