Spotify could win the music war. They are due to launch in the US imminently and I think the music-loving youth of America will be thrilled with what they find. Here's why:
1) Spotify has hit on an interface and offering that facilitates the discovery of music new to a user. This is it's killer benefit for me. People can use it to sample music for free. We know that the most prolific music pirates are also often the most prolific purchasers of music. They buy the stuff they really love. Spotify gives music lovers the tools to sample everything then buy (or rent) the stuff they love. It services music lovers in the way they want to consume music. Legally. This should make it unbeatable.
2) After a lot of tweaks (there may be more to come) Spotify seems to have got it's Freemium offer right. Just enough free music to get you hooked on the Open service, enough benefits and features behind the pay wall to motivate you to whip out your credit card. The ads on the free side are just annoying enough to be tolerable but to wish them gone. The limited number of times that you can play one song means that you have to buy or rent the stuff you love.
3) iTunes and amazon are both music shops. Spotify makes them look like the digital equivalent of a record shop with shrink wrapped CD's and the odd set of headphones hanging there for you to stand and listen to sample tracks. We are SO done with that way of discovering music.
4) Though you set up friends lists Spotify they are not trying to invent their own social network (cf Ping) - they are facilitating integration into Facebook and Twitter. The opinion formers that I follow on Twitter all use Spotify promiscuously to share their likes and playlists.
5) For the pay service they have the pricing right. In the UK the two bands are £4.99 per month for the Unlimited package and £9.99 per month for the Premium. About an hour or two's work or chores per month for a teenager gets them access to an almost infinitely large music collection. I'd have washed my Dad's car for that and he would have been happy with that deal too.
6) It's cool. Somehow they have got that right too. It looks like it's been created by music fans by music fans, not engineers, accountants and marketeers.
7) Although its Swedish it's working in the UK and frankly, music-wise, most good things start in the UK so if it didn't work here it wouldn't work anywhere.
So now it's all about execution. iTunes has a huge head start but Spotify can catch them and they should and I hope they do. Nothing against iTunes but they need a serious competitor. The US is in for a treat.