Good free music can be hard to come by these days, unless you're okay with listening to radio commercials all day long while waiting for your favorite song to come on. If you haven't at least tried Spotify -- a popular music streaming service that offers both free and premium subscriptions -- then you might be missing out on what the future of digital music consumption has to offer.
First of All, What Exactly Is Spotify?
Spotify is a cloud-based music streaming service that was originally launched in Europe and has since expanded to the United States. If Spotify is not available in your country yet, you can sign up on the service's website to be notified if and when it will be available where you are.
The service operates under complete digital rights management (DRM), meaning that Spotify has worked out deals with record labels regarding restrictions to the free use and transfer of digital music. Unlike previous services that built their reputations upon easy and free accessibility to protected intellectual property, Spotify strictly enforces access control to avoid copyright infringement.
To use Spotify, you simply sign up for an account and then download the Spotify desktop application for Mac or Windows, access it from the web, or download one of its mobile apps for iOS, Android or Windows phone. Music can then be streamed directly from the cloud, so you never have to worry about downloading and storing tracks on your computer or mobile device.
What’s Different About Spotify?
Although cloud-based music streaming is nothing new, some other comparable services like Rhapsody and Yahoo! Music tend to fall short of what Spotify has to offer. With Spotify, you can stream millions of music tracks for free from its enormous library that grows every day -- and listen to brand new full albums the same day they're officially released. Streaming music comes directly from some of the biggest record labels including Sony, EMI, Warner, Universal and a number of independent labels.
Spotify's sleek look and easy-to-use interface on both the desktop and mobile is far superior than many of its competitors' platforms. New features are added all the time to Spotify, and the service stays on top of updating its look, feel and overall design for optimal functionality to navigate, customize and listen to music.
Spotify's Main Features
Here are some of the main features you can expect to enjoy when you sign up as a new user:
Listen to over 20 million songs and full albums. Finding music is as easy as searching for the name of the artist, album, song title, label or genre. The number of available music tracks that users can access grows by approximately 10,000 per day.
Create as many playlists as you want. Drag and drop the music of your choice into as many playlists as you like. You can also drag an entire playlist into an email or an instant message window to share it with friends.
Listen from anywhere, with any device. You can create a playlist on your desktop and then take it on the go with you by accessing the Spotify app from your phone.
Listen even while offline. Premium Spotify members can wirelessly sync their music to their smartphones and listen to music even without an Internet connection.
Listen to Spotify music through Last.fm. Last.fm introduced an option that lets its users listen to music through Spotify on its site, as long as the music is found in its catalogue.
Discover new music by listening to Spotify radio. Users have access to a personalized radio stream for discovering tracks that are similar to songs from top artists. You can enjoy listening to random playlists based on what you already like.
Purchase music you like. Users can buy available tracks or complete playlists directly from Spotify. All purchased tracks are downloadable in MP3 format and can quickly be synced up to any mobile device.
Get social with your friends on Spotify. Each user has the opportunity to design a unique profile page on Spotify and connect with friends who also have accounts to see what they're listening to. You can also share what you're listening on Facebook, Twitter or anywhere else.
Import your existing music collection. Any user can import and sync their current music library into their Spotify account directly from iTunes or from any local files stored on a computer, so you don't have to spend hours rebuilding everything on a new platform.
Spotify's Subscription Plans
Spotify offers two main listening plans: free and premium.
The free plan: Spotify’s free plan lets you stream unlimited tracks on shuffle mode, but on an ad-based offering. With the free plan, you get access to Spotify's huge library and the chance to make new playlists, but you can't choose specific songs to listen to any time you want as a free user.
The premium plan: At $9.99 per month, you get complete access to all the main features detailed above along with complete control to choosing and customizing how you listen to your favorite music. Music is also delivered at a higher quality than the free plan and is ad-free. You can even try the premium plan for a full 30 day for free first to see how you like it.
Rdio is arguably the most similar service to Spotify -- another excellent option for music streaming with similar pricing and availability in some countries where Spotify isn't just yet. For more music streaming alternatives, check out these 10 popular apps that offer both free and paid subscription-based listening.