In an event somewhat akin to taking to a stage to show an audience an empty bag (cat long since departed), Daniel Ek confirmed at a press event this afternoon what, thanks to the Wall Street Journal, everyone watching already knew: Spotify is becoming a platform for third-party applications. Spotify's founder demonstrated several of the first wave of apps, including contributions from Rolling Stone, Last.fm, Tunewiki and Songkick.
Ek confirmed that, for now, apps would only be accessible within the desktop client, though he added that Spotify is "platform agnostic" which suggests apps could hit mobile clients in the future. Ek dismissed the suggestion that Spotify apps could roam free on the web, however.
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In a Q&A session following the announcement, Ek confirmed that apps would be available to subscribers and non-paying users alike, and that everyone will be free to develop apps, though they will be subject to approval. To access apps, Spotify users will simply navigate to a new section in the left-hand navigation sidebar. The apps themselves fill the entirety of the central window where the contents of playlists and search results normally appear.
The Rolling Stone app was the first to be demonstrated. It provides a window to the magazine's reviews, as well as playlists by staff and guest artists. Its compelling feature is the ability to play a song or album while reading its review, from within the review itself. When Rolling Stone's Jann Wenner took to the stage he was keen to impress upon the audience the value of a learned guide when there are 15 million songs (with 10,000 more every day) to choose from.
For those of you already familiar with the work of Adele, R.E.M. and Jay-Z, the apps offered by Pitchfork or The Guardian may be more to your liking, and we presume they'll offer similar functionality. If more of the music press chooses Spotify as a content delivery system, and more listeners choose to consume music writing and recommendations through such apps, it may encourage artists and labels that have turned their back on Spotify to think again.
The contributions from Last.fm, Tunewiki and Songkick were rather more convincing, but will hold no surprises to those familiar with their services. However, the ability to access their functionality from within Spotify, and have them integrate seamlessly with Spotify's music catalog is both impressive and compelling.
Last.fm users will be able to review all their scrobbled listening statistics from within Spotify, and play music direct from their recent stats and history. Less clear is whether the app will include the ability to listen to Last.fm artist and tag radio, but if this feature is included, Spotify may become a one stop shop for many more listeners than it is already. The Last.fm app would effectively supersede Spotify's own rather wanting radio features over night.
The Tunewiki app displays lyrics for whatever song is currently playing and, impressively, highlights the line currently being sung. Karaoke-haters be warned, the ability to block or ban apps outright from your Spotify account was not covered at the event.
Perhaps most exciting for diehard music fans was Songkick's app, which will highlight when live gigs by your favorite artists come to your neck of the woods, and, needless to say, sell you tickets.
Ek explained that Spotify developers were also using the platform to extend the software's social functionality, with the added ability to have preferred friends, and to play tracks from their recently listening.
Overall, the message of the event was clear: Spotify is the best thing to happen to music since Antonio Stradivari walloped some spruce and catgut together and the sooner everyone realizes the sooner we'll live in a piracy-free Utopia. The rest of us are free to disagree, but it feels as if Spotify just became rather harder to ignore.