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.

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26 Responses

  1. wow.. it’s a great post, i was looking for this, thank you for the information

  2. Your problem sounds strange. Take away the Spotify program completely, and download / install it again. Still problems? Then mail support@spotify.com and ask them!

  3. Spotify sucks!!

    They have NO customer service, or maybe they’re so overwhelmed with complaints it takes in excess of 4 months to reply.

    £10 a month for something that sucks harder than a limpet, no thanks.

    • how does it suck? it gives free, legal streaming music in millions. its great. what do you need help with anyway? google the problems you have…

  4. You can change the setting to control the cache size. On windows you press ctrl+p probably something similar on a mac.

  5. Hi Robin,

    Does the problem with Spotify happen exactly at the same time each day? We’ve received some reports that certain ISPs are restricting Spotify connections during peak hours, it would be good to find out if something similar is happening with you.

    Bec – If you’re experiencing problems you can contact us via support@spotify.com or visit our forums at http://getsatisfaction.com/spotify where you’ll be sure to get a response.

    Andres
    Spotify

  6. “It’s also worth noting that you can actually control the size of this cache from within the Spotify preferences”

    Obviously an enormous blunder from Spotify if they wanted to keep this a secret then. What fools !!

  7. If you haven’t already, you might want to try Grooveshark: http://listen.grooveshark.com/

    It doesn’t stash a bunch of files on your computer and streaming happens over port 80, so almost nobody blocks/throttles it.

  8. Well they aren’t mp3s, but it’s a nice idea. From their FAQs:
    “We use the Ogg Vorbis q5 codec which streams at approximately 160kb/s. “

  9. Great post!

    I have a similar issue, I live in a rural area and the Broadband is less than 2Meg anyway!

    I’ve heard talk of an offline mode, I hear they’ve implemented this into the iPhone client, I think it would be great if they could do this with the PC/Mac client.

    Also, why no Linux client? A bit odd as the API is only for Linux?!

  10. I’ve never had any of these problems you speak of.

    • This is more to do with my ISP. I supposedly have ‘up to 8Mb’ broadband where I live, but between the hours of about 11am to 11pm everything is incredibly slow. Checking on speedtest.net I often see speeds of 1Mb-1.5Mb, whereas at 3am I can sometimes get as much as 6Mb!

  11. hi, i love spotify, and when im not at uni, im in the country where im lucky to get 512kb!! and tbh it works fine, with no buffering or any thing 😀
    also i run linux, and so it goes through wine, and is probably the best program to work on wine ive eve used!!

  12. I was having exactly the same problem, but after uninstalling Spotify and then reinstalling it all is now well.

    Matt

  13. I tried Spotify because everybody “use” it today.
    The sound quality was horrible. Flat, dull and bad, worse than the worst mp3.
    It was a horrible experience. They will not win customers by giving free crap.
    I have uninstalled spotify and demanded them to erase my account.

    • I don’t know why you had such a bad experience; everyone else seems to think the quality is fine, myself included. Perhaps you should give Spotify a second chance.

  14. Hello,

    If you pay for spotify then you may use offline mode. Then it will cache all the songs in your selected offline playlists. Then you will not suffer any pauses in the music…

  15. @Erik
    You’re talking crap… Spotify is great for online streaming purposes. Sound quality is good. You’re just screaming something because you like that kind of thing.

  16. spotify is the shit! =) i have it on the laptop and on the mobile, listen to stuff in offline mode and it costs almost nothing… great quality sound too =) and finally somebody has started using ogg!

  17. spotify is abosolute shite.
    it used to have adverts every 20 minutes. now its 5 adverts after every two songs. irritating american men going on and on about fucking squeezebox.

  18. Well I think its a grate tool for only 5 € in a month , without any interruption or publicity

    If you cant pay that ……….. , its a big problem , but not spotiffy problem .

    I prefer it to any others like last.fm ……

  19. Its a great service and I’m grateful its free! I just can’t afford the other apps like it. Its like free music on demand! Love it! the free version is worth paying for and when i get the cash ill upgrade to premium for a few months 🙂 THANKS SPOTIFY!

  20. My Spotify wasn’t working on my Mac with OS 10.5 and I followed your advice and trashed the com.spotify cache and tada! It works perfect now. Thanks!

  21. Spotify’s cache management is a bit broken! I don’t think it ever deletes anything until it hits the hard limit. My cache folder was 12 GB! I don’t think I even listened to that much music since I have started using Spotify. Luckily you can set a smaller, fixed limit yourself (and choose a drive/folder for the cache — a good thing if you want to move the cache off an SSD, which you should if you also have HDDs in your system).

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