The biggest on-demand music subscription in the world, Spotify, has thrown down a gauntlet against the leading protocol for playing music from apps in the home, Apple AirPlay.
For many, Apple AirPlay has become the default method for sending music from an app to speakers in your house, wirelessly. Even Android people are doing it every which way, and a friend of ours figured out how to do it in a car.
Spotify announced on Tuesday Spotify Connect, which works similarly to Apple AirPlay, but does more, if you’re a Spotify user. And unlike Apple, Spotify won’t charge speaker manufacturers for using it (more on that below).
One advantage Spotify enjoys over Apple is that it runs its own cloud-based music subscription, which tens of millions people already use on computers and various devices. This means that, using nothing but your phone, an internet connection, and any of the myriad speakers in your life, you’ll be able to move seamlessly through your life with a continuous stream of music from a catalog of millions of songs following you around, if you so desire.
And why wouldn’t you? You can always hit pause, if you want it to stop, because anything with Spotify installed on it will be able to control the music played on anything with Spotify Connect installed on it. That will mean WiFi-compatible speakers from Argon, Bang & Olufsen, Denon, Hama, Marantz, Philips, Pioneer, Revo, Teufel, and Yamaha.
As for the playback controls, Spotify is working on adding those to its iOS app “in the coming months.” Versions for Android, Mac, and PC are also in the works.
The thing is, Spotify’s apps already support AirPlay, and plenty of manufacturers have been making speakers that work with that for years. But by building its own AirPlay-like service, Spotify can keep the music flowing directly to any supported speaker or speakers, allowing the user to control all of that within the Spotify app — essentially “owning” the experience, no AirPlay required.
The direct nature of this connection will let you play all of the music on Spotify on speakers, and control it with the Spotify apps, without literally receiving the stream on your phone and then sending it to the speakers, which drains battery and can even heat up your phone.
In addition to fixing that issue and letting Spotify “own” the connection, there’s the issue of the fees paid by the speaker manufacturers. It costs a lot to be included in any “made for Apple”-type program — by one account, manufacturers have to pay Apple $4 every time they sell a set of speakers that works with AirPlay.
Spotify’s fee for the same will be nonexistent, Evolver.fm has confirmed with a Spotify spokesman. So, by offering an alternative to AirPlay, Spotify — also a fairly recognizable brand — might be able to bring more manufacturers, instead of sitting there hoping manufacturers feel like paying Apple to let music fans connect Spotify to speakers.
In other words, this looks like a good idea for at least three reasons.