Spotify’s (not so little) little secret

Spotify_logoWhen Spotify first launched I was mightily impressed. A proper Mac client, seemingly unlimited amounts of music that I could listen to for free and unobtrusive adverts. I still love Spotify although as time has progressed some of the shine has worn off. The audio adverts are still thankfully limited to 60 seconds every five or six tracks, but a lot of music seems to have disappeared from the catalogue, and the client now seems to constantly show me banner ads at the bottom and right hand side of the window. Well yes I could pony up £9.99 a month to get rid of the adverts but there’s a bigger problem that’s stoppoing me… performance.

Between about 2pm and 8pm GMT Spotify is unusable. I click on a track, it starts playing for a few seconds then it pauses for about a minute. Then it plays a few seconds more, then pauses again. This cycle is repeated until I get fed up and revert back to listening to my own library of music in iTunes or SongBird. Now I’m not saying this is Spotify’s fault at all. I understand that it streams music to the listener using a variation on P2P technology and that as such it is subject to the vagaries of the internet. My internet connectionm happens to drop from about 6.5Mbps overnight and in the morning to around 1.5-2Mbps in the afternoons. I don’t know who’s fault this is – I am still using British Telecom as my ISP and they aren’t reknowned for their high performance. Then again, the neighbourhood I live in isn’t great either so maybe all my neighbours go online in the afternoons to stream TV shows or surf questionable websites containing top-heavy women and plumbers whose clothes fall off??

Whatever the cause, Spotify is a victim and I can’t use it most afternoons when I’m working from home which pretty much rules me out of paying a monthly premium for a service I can’t enjoy. However, what I have found is that tracks I’ve listened to before and have added to one or other of my playlists will usually play just fine – even during the 2pm-8pm ‘slow’ zone. So Spotify is obviously caching tracks I play which is no surprise.

Wind forward a few months to where I’m looking at another piece of software that claims to be the latest, greatest thing to

The Spotify cache

The Spotify cache

uninstall apps and keep your Mac clutter-free. The imaginatively named CleanMyMac v1.2. Aside from uninstalling apps, CleanMyMac offers a few other housekeeping facilities, one of which is to clear out old caches and I let it do it’s scan to see what it found. Hmmm, it found 4,291Mb of cache files and using the facility to drill down and see what’s there I saw that Spotify had squirreled away no less than 3,652.1Mb of data in Users/~/Library/Caches/com.spotify.client/Storage. Inside were lots of folders containing files with cryptic file names and ranging in size between 400Kb to 2.5Mb. Well it’s not rocket science to guess that they’re music files or pieces of music files that Spotify has ‘downloaded’ whilst I was playing them.

Fortunately, space isn’t at such a premium on my Mac that I need to delete this Spotify cache, and if it means I can still play my playlists without the dreaded play-pause-play effect then it’s a small price to pay. It’s also worth noting that you can actually control the size of this cache from within the Spotify preferences. Now as a little experiment I tried renaming one of these Spotify cache files to have a .mp3 extension to see if it would play in VLC. That really was a longshot and naturally enough VLC had no idea what the file was. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if the files are encrypted or specially mangled in some way that only Spotify understands, by way of appeasing the record labels over copyright etc. But you know how these things work, and I’ll wager that right now some geek-types somewhere are trying to figure out how to take these cache files and turn them in to something that other apps can use.

Ok now I know this wasn’t really a review of Spotify, but if you haven’t already tried it, then where have you been?! I mean, where else would you discover the Buddha Bar version of Pink Floyd’s – Any Colour You Like? Couple that with Shazam on the iPhone… I was watching the film Mr Brooks with Kevin Costner and in the closing scene a really haunting peice of music starts playing. Let Shazam listen to a few seconds of it and moments later I was listening to Vicious Traditions by The Veils.

As for CleanMyMac, I’ll have a closer look at it and maybe report back in another article.