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August 12, 2011

Spotify's Artist Radio is Music Discovery, Pandora Style

While I've been head over heels for Spotify going back two years now thanks to its increasingly deep music library on demand to my laptop and mobile devices, integrated social sharing with friends and high quality sound with practically no buffering, I have seen some pushback from people who, seeing it for the first time, found it great for playing music you found, but not great for finding new music, in the same way that Pandora and Last.fm are known.

But there is a solution. It's called Artist Radio, and the company quietly pushed it out at the end of July without much fanfare. The combination means you can get the musical serendipity you like about Pandora and Last.fm, the social recommendations from friends, and yes, all the music you can eat on your own.

Here's how it works:

1. Search for any artist in Spotify (Examples: Underworld, The Cars, Blink 182)

Searching for Underworld Gives me a Track List

2. Click the artist name in search results.

The Underworld Artist page shows hits, albums... and see that at the top?

This brings you to the dedicated artist page, complete with their Top Hits, Albums, and even lower, compilations where their music appeared. Almost all artists have a short bio, as well as a list of "Related Artists", one fast way to find similar music. But there's more.

Underworld Artist Radio Plays More than Just Underworld...

3. At the top is a tab called "Artist Radio". Artist Radio performs the same way as an artist's channel plays out in Last.fm or Pandora. If you select Underworld as your artist, Spotify will play songs not just by Underworld, but by bands including Orbital, Fluke, DJ Shadow and more. Dr. Dre sets up Snoop Dog, Eminem and N.W.A. Tori Amos plays music from Kate Bush, Bjork, Suzanne Vega and others. You get the idea. Without having to go find more music yourself, Artist Radio streams a set of new tracks to you until you hit the stop button.

As longtime Pandora and Last.fm fans will attest, finding new music from artists that are similar to music you already like is a great way to find new bands, new albums, and keep your music library fresh. Spotify hasn't talked a lot about this for its new US audience, but the combination of related artists, artist radio, and social recommendations probably puts the service ahead of all the others in terms of total offerings. So for me, someone who hasn't paid any money to iTunes music for years (aside from upgrading to iTunes Plus for Google Music) and who just disconnected Sirius XM Radio to save a few bucks, I enjoy letting Spotify play DJ. So if you tried Spotify at first and missed this feature, come back and check it out.