Spotify, the music streaming service that gained a massive following in Europe, has created a lot of excitement with its launch in the United States. Hailed as the "best music streaming service" in what's been termed a "historic announcement," one would think Spotify was the holy grail of music streaming services.
Sean Parker, a Napster pioneer, says in a note on Facebook: "Spotify promises to get people excited about music again, resulting in the start of a new golden age of music — one in which more people will discover and listen to more music than ever before."
In the past three years, Spotify has grown to more than 10 million registered users with more than 1.6 million paid subscribers across seven countries in Europe.
What Is Spotify?
Spotify is an online music streaming service. As with Rhapsody, Napster or Qriocity, users can search for songs, albums or artists from a library of more than 15 million songs, and play music on demand.
Launched in Sweden in 2008 by Daniel Ek and Martin Lorentzon as a legal alternative to music sharing and piracy, Spotify was successful in securing deals with all the major music labels. The vast library includes a variety of genres and eras but is missing some artists — the Beatles, for instance — and some songs or complete albums. Adele's album, "21," was missing when I searched for it.
Spotify does not play directly from a web browser. A user must download the Spotify player for Mac or PC. The player instantly searches for music on your computer's hard drive. The songs that are found are listed under "local files" and become available to be added to your Spotify music library or playlists along with the Spotify streaming songs.
What is unique about this Spotify sync feature is that it doesn't automatically upload your collection to Spotify. Instead, it only uploads songs that you drag and drop into your library or a playlist. When a song is added to your Spotify library, a link to the song in the Spotify catalogue is created. This link brings up information about the song, artist, album, and suggests similar songs.
With the Spotify app loaded on iPhones or Android phones, you can transfer your music from your computer to your phone over a WiFi network — provided they are on the same network.
Features Vary with Subscription Plans
Spotify offers three subscription plan levels: free, ad-free for $4.99, and the Premium service for $9.99.
The free service is ad-supported and will only play on your computer. You can create playlists, but cannot save songs to a library. In Europe, the free service limits users to 10 hours of listening time, and limits song plays to five times per month. In the first six months of Spotify in the U.S., there will be no listening restrictions, but eventually that is expected to change to a plan similar to the free plan in the Europe.
Note: There were too many requests for free accounts due to the popularity of Spotify prior to its U.S. launch. You must now get an invitation in order to get a free account. It may be possible to get an invitation through one of Spotify's launch partners' sites — Coca-Cola and Sprite, Chevrolet, Motorola, Reebox, Sonos or The Daily. It may also be possible to get one through Klout.com. If you don't want to wait for an invitation, you can subscribe to one of Spotify's paid plans.
Spotify Unlimited costs $4.99 per month and allows users unlimited play on their computer without ads. Note: The ads are not so obtrusive, and during Spotify's initial launch period, there are no limits on the free plan.
Spotify Premium costs $9.99 per month. To listen to music away from your computer, on mobile phones or media streamers, you will need the premium plan. The Premium plan also lets you download your playlists to your mobile phone so you can listen offline. The premium plan also can stream music at 320 kbps for better sound quality.
Spotify's Social Features Make It Special
Other music streaming services offer you the ability to share the music you find and the playlists you create. Spotify's social aspects integrate with the way you are already sharing with your friends. Using Facebook integration, sharing a song or playlist with Facebook friends is as easy as drag-and-dropping to your friend's name in the list. A pop up lets you add a message. Your friend will see that they have an item in their inbox and can drag and drop the shared list to their library.
Your Facebook friends can see your profile if you opt to make it public. They can subscribe to your public playlists, and see what songs you play the most. Spotify understands that you may not want to make everything public. It is very simple to choose whether you want to share a playlist or your other information.
Other music services let you opt to share all or none of your playlists. Spotify lets you turn on or off sharing of each playlist with simple on/off toggles when the playlist is displayed. The love-song-mix playlist you made can be private and shared by drag-and-dropping the list on your sweetheart's name in your Facebook list.
An exciting social feature of Spotify is the ability of creating collaborative playlists. Share a playlist with your friends and make it collaborative so all of your friends can add their song choices to the list.
There are indicators that there will be more Facebook integration in the near future. It is possible that Spotify will be part of Facebook's coming Music Dashboard. Spotify may also work with its advertising partners to offer a way of listening to songs outside of the Dashboard, using navigation or Page tab applications. Another possibility is that users will be able to click on Spotify in a news feed and the song will start playing if the Spotify app is open on the user's computer.