Over two months after its US launch, Spotify has quietly added a radio feature that has been available to European users. Radio is available only on the Spotify desktop client and cannot be accessed on the mobile app.
Spotify's radio feature is not a Pandora-killer - especially because it's confined to the desktop client. And it lacks the attention to detail of radio features in some other subscription services, notably Rhapsody and MOG. But it's a nice additional feature that might someday blossom into something far better.
The radio icon is located at the top-left side of the desktop client, just below the "What's New" section. The radio page has 27 buttons that can be activated to create a customized playlist of songs. There are buttons for 24 genres and three for decades (60s, 70s and 80s). (A tip: leave the decade buttons unselected to get a mix of recent songs.) The user can select any combination by turning a button on and off.
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Spotify's radio doesn't allow for the fine-tuning and personalization of the more popular Internet radio stations (although the artist radio stations offer a more targeted selection of songs). For artist-specific radio there's the "artist radio" function that Spotify added about two weeks after its mid-July US debut. Artist radio is a tab on an artist page that plays the music of a particular artist as well as similar artists.
And it can produce the most curious results. Songs from Steppenwolf and early Van Halen have appeared when the settings asked for electronic and reggae from the '70s. Hard music fans are treated especially well, however. Spotify radio has separate categories for alternative, black metal, death metal, emo, hardcore, heavy metal, punk and rock (yes, separate categories for black metal and death metal).
Spotify radio is unlike a standard Internet radio service such a Pandora. Because Spotify is an on-demand service, the user is able to go forward and back in the playlist and rewind and fast-forward within songs. And Spotify radio users can skip songs at will whereas Internet radio services typical limit free users to six skips per hour per station.