- Garcia's Guide to the Galaxy
- Alternatives Series: Spotify
There are a lot of questionable ethical behaviours going on with big technology companies these days. Hearing horror stories from Meta (formerly Facebook,) Alphabet (Google,) Amazon, Microsoft and Apple has left me with a rather sour taste in my mouth. I’ve personally been stung by bait-and-switch campaigns like when OneDrive revoked large amounts of free storage and LastPass nerfed their free tier subscription. The former was ultimately reversed with a workaround but I was shook; these big companies can make drastic changes to these services I rely on at a whim.
So I’ve been putting effort into finding alternatives not bound by the demands of shareholders who want to see profits increase, or handing over information they can use to sell to marketing firms. I’ve also been thinking about ethical use of technology, and this is the reason I’ve been looking for a Spotify alternative. I’ve been a paying subscriber for many years now and let’s just say I don’t like where my money is going.
Obviously I’m looking for a music streaming service. In addition, I want one that:
The first idea I had was to upload my MP3 collection to my personal cloud, but the primary reason for not going down this route was discoverability. I like to listen to new music before I commit to buying it.
If you know me, you know I harbour a strong dislike of Apple. They are not getting my money.
I’ve been using Google’s services for a long time now but this is another company I’m trying to distance myself from for ethical reasons. I will have follow up articles to talk about my move away from GMail, using an open source implementation of Android, and so on.
Oh boy, where to start Amazon. No thanks.
Tidal specialises in high quality audio. I did sign up for the trial (frustratingly, there’s no way to review the library without signing up,) but found the library only contained a portion of the music I want to listen to. I wrote this one off pretty quickly because of that.
Then I tried Deezer. As part of the onboarding process it offers to import playlists from other services using TuneMyMusic. This service normally incurs a cost after transferring a certain number of tracks but in this case it was completely free. It conveniently let me know which tracks couldn’t be found in the destination service (fortunately it was only a small amount of tracks that I mostly wasn’t really that fussed about.)
This was off to a good start, it seemed that the Deezer library is not far from what Spotify was offering. The first thing I noticed was that the playlists are limited to 2000 tracks each, so my playlists that encompass broad genres were split up. Not ideal, I hope they increase/remove this limit in the future because I was rather fond of just saying "play all my alt-rock tracks, plz."
Deezer’s search leaves a lot to be desired. The algorithm seems to always sort by popularity, so if you type in something quite common, even if it’s the exact name of the band or track, you’ll have to look through the results to find what you’re looking for. Volume between tracks seemed to vary wildly as well, at least until I found the control to turn off normalised audio. That feature works worse than without. All good now.
There is one exceptional feature which I am very grateful for and that is MP3 upload. With this I can include tracks that aren’t available in their library. I promptly uploaded the three albums I was really missing from my collection.
I’ve been using Deezer for about three weeks now and it’s been a mostly pleasant experience. It supports Android Auto and Chromecast. I can continue to discover new music. While it doesn’t have an official native Linux client, there is a pretty good client in AUR and for non-Arch-based distros there is support within Nuvelo Player, and both work quite nicely.
It’s a little rough around the edges but more than serviceable. If you’re looking for a Spotify alternative with a huge music library, many of the same features, and an MP3 upload feature for good measure, I’d definitely recommend giving it a go.
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Last updated Tuesday, 23/May/2023 15:59 AEST