Fixing my favourite music streaming service
A few weeks ago ago I noticed a massive spike in my internet uploads on my ISP’s usage meter website, which is an issue here in New Zealand where we have very limiting data caps. Uploads were upwards of 5 GB a day!?
My initial thinking was that someone had broken into my secure wifi network (which is relatively easy!) and was downloading illegally. After multiple password changes and network checks on Wireshark I concluded that my wifi network was still secure and that the problem was coming from a computer or device I was using personally. I would later determine Spotify to be that problem.
I downloaded internet data network monitoring software NetBalancer (There is similar software for Mac) and used the free trial period to determine that Spotify was indeed uploading massive amounts of data. On the first night of installation alone, I saw that 1GB was uploaded in a hour and a half from Spotify on Windows through my internet connection.
I looked into the issue and found that other users had been experiencing the same problems. The cause is Spotify relying on its uses to distribute it’s extensive music library content around the globe via P2P networking. Spotify uses your internet connection to upload songs direct to other users and you in turn download from other users. While this enables fast song downloads, it is a bit deceptive as Spotify doesn’t look like your usual torrenting software. Furthermore, Spotify doesn’t obviously notify you your connection is being used. You can find information about in the Spotify Terms of Services, but who reads that.
Even premium users who pay for Spotify, are forfeiting their internet connections.
The best solution to this problem I have found is to use the web client of Spotify which does not use your internet connection to upload songs. The visual aesthetics are generally the same, however it does not have the comprehensiveness of the Windows client in terms of how easy and integrated it is to use. For instance, you have to navigate to the tab in your browser to pause tracks when previously I could hover over the program in my taskbar to pause. One thing I found while using the web player is that I don’t seem to get any ads! Not sure if this is a temporary bug but I’ll enjoy it while it’s around. It may be a bug, but it doesn’t bug me.
One recommendation from other users on Spotify forums is to only stream tracks that are not popular as less users will be potentially needing to download them from you at any given time. For less popular tracks Spotify uses their server network for distribution more often and so you won’t need to upload yourself. This was not practical in my situation as I do listen to popular tracks including the top tracks in New Zealand.
In Spotify options there is the ability to limit the cache size where songs are stored on your computer so they can be uploaded to other users. The default value is set at around 10% of hard drive space but you can reduce the cache size or delete it completely. By deleting the cache, you won’t upload any songs at all. The disadvantage of this is that you have to download songs every time you want to listen to them (they won’t be stored on your computer), including your most frequently played songs. As you might be playing the same songs often, this solution could become counter productive as you would be downloading the same songs over and over.
The mobile versions of Spotify on Android and iPhone do not upload tracks. There are drawbacks here as well such as needing a premium subscription to access specific songs not on shuffle and reduced functionality.
Firewall and Limiting
I tried artificially limiting the upload speed of Spotify in NetBalancer to reduce data transfer but this resulted in a slower playing experience, tracks took longer to start and Spotify continued to upload at a rate too high for my liking. Some other users have used advanced firewall solutions to stop P2P via Spotify, but for me using the web interface works and is easy enough for me not to need to go through the hassle.
None of these solutions actually fix the underlying problem of stopping the client version of Spotify from uploading files. You can’t stop uploads completely from Spotify as then the client can’t tell the server what sony you want to download. I recommend the web player for its similarity to the native client. I initially didn’t like it but it grows on you and as I have no ads at the moment I actually like it more.
I was thinking about upgrading to premium, but this is a secretive/concealed move by Spotify to make users distribute their tracks unknowingly on their connections and it doesn’t exactly make me trust them. Technical users will understand how Spotify works, but what about the millions who don’t know their internet is being hijacked. Now that internet in New Zealand is finally transitioning towards unlimited internet, Spotify uploading won’t be an issue and I will use the native client.
Ultimately, it was too a discovery late to save myself from the ISP’s fees, I went over my cap significantly.
That still annoys me Spotify.
|I have attached a Radio New Zealand podcast which covered the issue of Spotify uploads in New Zealand:http://podcast.radionz.co.nz/twu/twu-20140322-1245-spotify_bandwidth-048.mp3|