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Spotify’s Play Button: A disappointing way to embed music into a Web page (Updated)

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A few hours ago, Spotify announced what could be a momentous new feature for the Web: the ability to embed and stream tracks, albums, and playlists into Web sites or blogs or anywhere on the Web. Upon reading the press release, it seems as if any Spotify user can easily embed any track or playlist into a Web page and that music can be streamed directly from the page (a la YouTube). Unfortunately, the Spotify Play Button doesn’t perform as advertised. Instead of offering true embedded music playing, it’s more like a blast from the past. You cannot actually play the music from the Web. 

You can now create embeddable code for music tracks or playlists into a Web page, but it’s not a menu item in the Spotify app or anything simple like that. You have to go to a special Spotify developer page and plug in your info to get embed code. Once it’s on your Web page, anyone can technically listen to it, though it doesn’t play on the page; it has to open up the Spotify app and play it from there. This means that anyone who wants to listen has to get through the barrier of installing Spotify and creating an account.

What would really light up the Web is if Spotify made it so you do not need its app and found a way to embed its ads and music directly into Web pages using Flash or HTML5 or whatever. Embedding needs to be an easier task as well. It should emulate YouTube and other free video sites. Currently, this reminds me more of the pre-YouTube days when videos would play through Windows Media Player or whatever video player you had installed on your machine. For embedded streaming to really take off, it needs to work within the Web, not around it. It can be done, too. Lala (before it was shut down 2 years ago), Pandora, and many services stream music directly from the Web. SoundCloud does it as well. Why not Spotify?

Assuming Web site owners start using this feature, it definitely won’t hurt the state of music on the Web. Spotify has already been pushing the industry forward (or some might say backward) by making music free to listen to and allowing users to share playlists and albums on Facebook. It’s app platform is also interesting and well thought out. I just wish it would have finished this Play Button before releasing it.

Below is my newest Spotify playlist, embedded for your pleasure. You can listen to it if you have the Spotify app and have registered for a free account. To create embed code, head to this developer page

Update: We spoke with a Spotify representative on the phone. Currently, it seems that Spotify needs its desktop client to insert the ads and get the accountability it needs to pay artists. Sadly, this also means that mobile Web users who click on a widget will not be able to play tracks unless they pay $10 per month to subscribe to Spotify premium. However, if you’re a Web site owner, there are ways to modify the embed code to change things like width, etc. Here’s a link to some modified ways to plug it into WordPress. It sounds as if the embed section may be built out better in the future.