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Spotify登陆美国,欲再掀音乐热潮

JP Mangalindan 2011年07月20日

多年来最具创新精神的在线音乐服务最终登陆美国。本文告诉你为何它的到来如此令人兴奋。(提示:对美国的免费用户而言,该服务没有限定每月最大收听量。)

    不错,是美国,Spotify终于登录美国。

    7月14日早晨,在近2年半的承诺和期待之后,这项音乐流服务终于在美国开设分号;该公司已然承诺,它将彻底改变美国听众的音乐消费方式。

    目前,该服务仅限于邀请方式,但据美国有线新闻网(CNN)报道,未来几周内,它就将向所有用户开放。有幸获得使用邀请的用户中有许多人在本次正式发布前就已完成了预注册,现在他们可以直接登录该网站了。自公司首席执行官丹尼尔•艾克2008年10月推出该服务以来,1,000多万名欧洲用户一直享受着该网站带来的丰富功能。现在,美国用户也能体验同样的乐趣。

    两年多来,Spotify简单、合法、“无限量”的音乐服务在欧洲部分地区掀起了热潮。它提供的创新的、自由化的模式,让用户得以免费收听1,500多万首歌曲。这与狂想曲公司(Rhapsody)等竞争对手需要按月预付使用费的做法形成了鲜明的对照。在美国,Spotify将提供三个层次的服务:包含页面广告的免费服务,但与现行欧洲版不同的是,目前每月收听量暂不封顶;不含页面广告的服务,收费4.99美元;以及9.99美元的“最佳服务计划”,采用该计划的用户可以下载歌曲并将之存储在移动设备上。

    “我们希望Spotify能带给用户一种感觉,世界上一切音乐唾手可得。”艾克最近接受《财富》(Fortune)采访时称。

    艾克此言不假,Spotify速度奇快,与苹果公司(Apple)的iTunes相比,也要干脆得多。后者要求用户提前付费,然后等待下载歌曲,之后才能完整地收听整首歌曲。而Spotify用户,无论是使用免费服务的,还是支付10美元享受最佳服务计划的,都无需等候:直接点击中意的歌曲或者专辑,音乐马上就能从“云”里 “飘”出来。

    对艾克来说,由广告支持的免费服务同样重要。他坚信,允许用户无需支付分文就能打开公司全部音乐目录,这种做法会吸引着他们收听并搜索更多的歌曲、专辑、艺术家,最终沉迷其中而自愿选择“最佳服务计划”。迄今为止,这种做法收效颇佳。目前,Spotify共有1,000多万用户,其中75万是付费客户,而且大量付费用户始终是该服务的忠实拥趸。

    迄今我本人使用Spotify的最佳服务计划已有两周了,我很容易理解为什么会出现上述结果。Spotify用户界面干净且容易上手,即使对我这样的科技菜鸟来说也不例外;而且,艾克承诺,Spotify将提供超爽的用户体验,这话一点不假。无论通过WiFi还是3G连接到网络,歌曲当即就能开始下载。如果你在桌面应用中创建了音乐播放列表,系统会自动将之添加到你的移动设备中(反之亦然),而且当你添加或删除歌曲时,这两类设备之间亦能保持同步。此外,对于像我这样的人来说,无需为每首歌单独付费就能离线收听这种做法(即:将歌曲存储在移动设备上)简直妙不可言。我基本依靠公共交通出行,每天听到的全是美国电报电话公司(AT&T)的节目,而其收听效果又令人不敢恭维。Spotify页面上“人”(People)这个工具条内存放的是我在Facebook上的好友,非常好用了。有了它,我就可以收听那些朋友的全部播放列表中的内容,发现我喜欢的新歌,然后再分享给其他用户。此外,由于Spotify目前对美国的免费用户未限定最大收听数量,我猜许多免费用户也会发现大量自己喜欢的内容。(Spotify首席内容官员兼北美市场总监肯尼斯•帕克斯表示,该公司不希望由于限定免费收听数量而影响用户的体验,而且他们愿意等上半年,再决定何时以及是否设定最大收听量。)

    Spotify在欧洲深受欢迎,最近又宣布与Facebook建立了合作伙伴关系。因此,它也有理由对其美国业务满怀信心:据报道,该公司预计在登陆美国的第一年里,美国用户数有望达到5,000万。

    由于狂想曲和初创公司Rdio等众多相近的服务已经在美国市场站稳脚跟,Spotify面临的最大问题将是:它是否能在美国国内吸引大量用户?其雄心勃勃的用户规模是否能达到?

    但是,值得注意的是,某项服务在竞争中领先(或者位居第二),并不意味着对迟到者来说,就不再存在良性竞争的空间了。以社交领域为例,Facebook以7.5亿名活跃用户数继续遥遥领先,稳居社交网络领域的霸主地位,但Google +的用户数也增长迅速:据第三方机构估计,自上个月发布之后,其用户数已破千万大关;这说明,至少在IT领域,一如Spotify的经历,人们对于某些服务的特性不仅持开放态度,而且兴趣浓厚。

    译者:大海

    Yes, America, Spotify is finally here.

    After nearly two-and-a-half years of promises and speculation, the music streaming service opened up shop in the U.S earlier this morning and already promises to potentially transform the way U.S. listeners consume music.

    Currently, the service will be invite-only, but as CNN reports, will open itself up to all users in the coming weeks. The select number of lucky users, many of whom pre-registered prior to the launch and can log in now, will find many of the same features some 10 million European users have been enjoying since co-founder and CEO Daniel Ek launched the service back in October 2008.

    The simple, legal "all-you-can-eat" music service has made waves in parts of Europe with an innovative freemium model that lets users listen to over 15 million tracks for free -- a stark contrast to competitors like Rhapsody that require upfront monthly paid subscriptions. Spotify in the U.S. will offer three distinct tiers: a free ad-supported service, which unlike the current European version will not enforce a monthly listening cap for now, a $4.99 ad-free version, and a $9.99 "Premium" plan that that also lets users stream and store songs to mobile devices.

    "The essential feeling we wanted to create was to have all of the world's music available at your fingertips," Ek told Fortune recently.

    To that end, Spotify is wicked fast, and snappier than Apple's (AAPL) iTunes which asks users pay upfront and wait to download tracks before they can listen to them in their entirety. Spotify users, whether they're paying $0 or $10, don't have to wait: click on the song or album, and it streams instantly from "the cloud."

    Also important to Ek was that free, ad-supported tier. In opening up the company's entire music catalog to users without them having to pay a cent, he believes they'll listen to and discover more songs, albums, and artists and eventually get so hooked they'll want to go "Premium." That seems to be the case so far. To date, Spotify reaches more than 10 million users -- 750,000 of which are paying customers -- and many of them remain fiercely loyal advocates of the service.

    I've used Spotify's Premium service for two weeks now, and it's not hard to see why. The interface is clean and easy-to-pick up -- even for an easily-confused tech guy like myself -- and Ek's promise of a snappy user experience is accurate. Songs stream instantly whether over WiFi or 3G. If you create a music playlist on the desktop app, it's automatically added to your mobile device (and vice versa), and stays synchronized when you add or drop songs. And the ability to make songs available for listening offline (read: store them on your mobile device) without having to purchase each and every track individually is great for someone like me who relies a lot on public transportation or just runs into crappy AT&T reception all the time. The "People" sidebar, populated by my Facebook friends, has actually proven handy, letting me listen to entire playlists of theirs, find new tracks I like, and share them with other users. And with no listening cap currently for U.S. users of the free tier, I imagine that many others will find lots to like, too. (According to Kenneth Parks, Spotify's Chief Content Officer & Managing Director for North America, the company didn't want a listening cap to limit user engagement and may wait six months to decide about when and whether to enforce such a cap.)

    Spotify's European popularity, along with a recently-announced partnership with Facebook, could also explain why it's so optimistic about its U.S. operations: the company reportedly expects to reach 50 million American users in its first year here.

    With a number of similar services like Rhapsody and startup Rdio already entrenched in the U.S., the big question moving forward will be whether Spotify gains significant traction domestically and if that extremely ambitious userbase goal is realistic.

    But it's worth noting that just because a service is first (or even second) to the race doesn't necessarily mean there isn't room for healthy competition from a late entrant. In the social space, Facebook remains far and away the social networking champ with some 750 million active users, but Google +'s (GOOG) rapidly growing userbase -- an estimated 10 million and counting by one third-party estimate -- since last month's launch proves people, at least when it comes to tech, will be open to and interested in features from services like Spotify done right.

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