I remember a number of years ago that “Internet Radio” was all the rage. Without having to spend upwards of £300 on a new “digital” radio, you could easily tune into radio from around the world. I remember spending warm, sunny summer’s days living in the cottage with live radio from the Bahama’s blasting out into the garden ;o)

But then Internet radio started to die. The music industry, as if noticing these services for the first time, decided that they wanted a bigger slice of the pie. They got that bigger slice, but in the process killed many of the smaller radio stations that provided the attraction in the first place.

It’s been a couple of years, and I’d moved on to the likes of iTunes for my music. I heard of websites such as Last.FM, but they didn’t grab my interest. I’ve grown used to the convenience and simplicity of iTunes that navigating advert-ridden websites didn’t appeal to me in the slightest.

Then I discovered Spotify.

Spotify is one of those services that you never knew you needed until you try it. From what I can tell it’s been around for a little while (although it’s still in beta), but I’ve been living under a museum rock for the good part of a year.

The best way I can describe Spotify is as “radio turned on it’s head”. The basic idea is that Spotify’s servers will stream you music – but you get to choose the playlist. Better yet, the client software takes it’s lead from iTunes, so it’s clean and easy to navigate. Once you’ve got what you want, you simply close Spotify, and it continues to play from the system tray.

The service is fast: tracks play as quickly as previews do in the iTunes Store. What’s more, the quality is superb (far better than the Internet radio stations of yesteryear, and noticeably better than Last.FM).

As with all commercial radio services, Spotify is ad supported. You’ll see the odd advert cropping up in the UI, but nothing intrusive. And every so often there’s a commercial break you have to listen to. Personally, I think that’s a pretty good deal given the amount of music they give you access to.

Could this be the iTunes model of the future? Do we really need to physically own our music? It’s got me thinking ;o)

PS: Is it really too much to ask that this should work on our museum network? Nghh!