You go to a cloud music website. Up comes a box and you search for nearly any song you've ever heard. Can's "Paperhouse" from their album Tago Mago, say. Boom! There it is. You hit play and the music comes out of your speakers. Search for Erma Franklin's "Hold On I'm Coming." Again, there it is. Hit play. The music comes out again. This, you think, this is what the Internet was made for.
Many people trying the cloud music service Spotify, which launched (on an invite-only basis) today here in the United States, are having some version of this experience. Find your favorite song from middle school! Find that country song you hate to admit you like! Find obscure Frank Zappa albums! Find "More Than Words" by Extreme! That's led to a lot of understandable excitement.
I tried out Spotify today and it is impressive, particularly the speed at which it loads and plays music is astounding. But I'm definitely not blown away by the service, especially after hearing so much hype about it for so long.
This is why: my friend Wilson Miner works for RDIO, a competing cloud music service, so more than a year ago, I started listening to music in the cloud. Spotify's service is roughly the same. That is to say, the leap between the non-cloud music experience and the cloud music experience is much bigger than any difference between individual services right now. Once you've used one, you've gotten the big idea.
For me, RDIO works better than Spotify because I have a trusted social network of people whose musical taste I like, so what RDIO recommends to me is universally better than any top 10 list in the world. Spotify allows you to connect with Facebook, but as noted, I left that service a while back. Plus, I think the Spotify desktop app looks dated relative to RDIO's superslick Web app. Why would I switch? I haven't seen a single really compelling reason. If you're a current RDIO subscriber, have you found one? I'm willing to be convinced.
Of course, if you're just floating up into the cloud, there is one big difference between RDIO and Spotify. Both companies charge the same $5 or $10 per month for unlimited, ad-free listening on the desktop and mobile devices, respectively. But only Spotify has a free, ad-supported version, at least for now (if you can manage to snag an invite).