Spotify is a radical platform offering free and legal access to a huge library of music. This is provided free by the use of minimal advertising (and some paid subscriptions). Although users can pay a small fee to remove advertising, users are welcome to leave the advertising in-place and enjoy free access to music from artists like The Killers, Coldplay, as well as Elvis Presley and James Brown, though 2011 saw some limitations introduced to the free offering.
What is Spotify?
In a nutshell, Spotify is an online music streaming service. Like a growing number of distribution applications, Spotify uses peer-to-peer technology to stream music to its' users. This removes the pressure from the streaming servers, and allows users to listen to tracks almost immediately after clicking play (almost no buffering time). In the past, peer-to-peer technologies were associated with illegal file sharing, but Spotify is one of a growing number of applications (e.g. The UK's BBC iPlayer) using peer-to-peer technology for legal purposes.
Spotify is available for free in Sweden, Norway, Finland, the UK, the US (invitation-only beta from July 2011), France, Spain and The Netherlands. Users in Austria, Belgium, Estonia, Germany, Greece, Italy, Poland, Portugal, Romania and Switzerland can use Spotify, but only under the Premium service. The aim is to grow both the free and Premium services into further countries.
Spotify allows users to browse music by song title, artist, album, genre, record label and more, with songs available for immediate listening. Initially, Spotify only supported streaming of music, but a deal with 7Digital now allows users from the UK, France and Spain to buy some tracks for download. In August 2009, Spotify launched an iPhone application, allowing Premium users to access songs while on the move. The iPhone app also allows users to take tracks offline, to help ensure continious play, even when out of signal. This offline feature has also been enabled on the PC version of Spotify, allowing Premium users to make upto 3333 tracks available offline.
Spotify is funded by advertisements and paid subscriptions (optional), and is available in three forms:
Funded by advertisements visible in the application, and audible advertisements played est. for 30 seconds every 20 minutes, but in-between songs. The free option is only available in Sweden, Norway, Finland, the UK, France, Spain, The Netherlands, and in some of those countries an invitation is required.
A 24 hour pass that results in no advertisements (neither visible or audible).
An ongoing monthly subscription (cancellable at any time) that results in no advertisements (visible or audible). The Premium subscription also gives access to some subscription-only tracks (usually pre-release songs/albums), and to concert/gig ticket giveaways. Spotify Premium is available in Austria, Belgium, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, The Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Sweden, Switzerland, Spain, the UK and the US.
Summary: Free, loads of music and streamed!
It's free! (and legally so!)
Choose the free option, and Spotify is completely. Choose a day pass or Premium service and you only pay a subscription, there is no cost per track.
Huge library of music
With regular additions from all genres: Alternative, Blues, Country, Disco, Funk, Hard Rock, Heavy Metal, Hip-Hop, House, Jazz, New Wave, R&B, Pop, Punk, Reggae, Rock, Soul and Techno.
Available as iPhone App
Stream whatever song you want, on the move, with the Spotify iPhone application (for Premium users only)
Spotify can be set to find and play music from your favourite genre and decade. Have an evening of Country music from the 80's if you're that way inclined!
No need to wait for music to download
Stream whatever song you want, whenever you want it. No waiting for downloads.
Share songs and playlists with friends
Send friends a link to your favorite songs, or share playlists with them. You can even create collaborative playlists so you and your friends can all listen to, and update, the same playlist.
Listen even when you're offline
Make upto 3333 tracks available offline on your iPhone or PC, so you don't have to be online to enjoy Spotify! (Premium users only)
Experiment with your music taste
Free access means you can listen to songs you'd never normally listen you. You'll never be without an appropriate song!
For absolute clarity, Spotify is completely legal. Music available on Spotify has been agreed with record companies, and artists are compensated for their work.
Summary: Between songs, rare and targeted (i.e. appropriate)
Let's clear up two things first...adverts are only ever played to those on the free service, and are only played between songs! Some people fear their favourite song will be destroyed with an advert for double glazing! It won't!
In our experience, you will receive a 30 second advert roughly every 20 minutes. This is vastly less than you receive on commercial radio stations. Advertising is also targeted based on the songs you're listening to, this actually means advertising can be of interest...scary!
Advertisements are sometimes visible within the Spotify application (not permanent advert positioning). This is only the case for free users, and adverts appear on the bottom or right hand side of the main view. See examples below.