When it comes to the future of digital music consumption, music streaming services like Spotify are slowly starting to replace the way people have traditionally downloaded music over the Internet.
Controversy over downloading music has plagued cyberspace since the day that Napster revolutionized the music industry. Several popular P2P (peer-to-peer) file-sharing services including Napster, OpenNap and Limewire were forced by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) to cease operations due to copyright infringement. As a result, music service websites have had to rethink their operations.
What Is Spotify?
Spotify is a cloud-based music streaming service that was originally launched in Europe and has expanded to the U.S. market. 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.How Cloud-Based Services Work
As P2P file-sharing networks grow to become a thing of the past, the use of cloud-based music services are on the rise. Instead of downloading every single music file independently and saving it to your hard drive, cloud computing services allow you to listen to music stored on a separate system. The music is essentially kept “in the cloud” where you can access it from any computer, laptop, smartphone or tablet device with an Internet connection.
What’s Different About Spotify
Although cloud-based music streaming is nothing new, similar services like Rhapsody, Yahoo! Music and Sony Connect fall short of what Spotify can offer. With Spotify, you can stream over 15 million pieces of music for free from their library. Streaming music comes directly from some of the biggest record labels including Sony, EMI, Warner, Universal and a number of independent labels.
As far as user interface, design and sharing capabilities compare to competing services, Spotify tends to be far more superior. The layout is similar to iTunes and easy to use, which is why several critics and current users are predicting that Spotify may eventually grow large enough that people will begin to replace iTunes with it.
Music library: 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.
Playlist creation: 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.
Mobile and offline listening: Members can wirelessly sync their music to their smartphones and listen to music even without an Internet connection. You can also access the Spotify library online through your phone.
Last.fm integration: Last.fm builds a detailed user profile based on personal tastes in music. Data from a user’s music history generates recommended tracks based on a user’s profile.
Artist radio: Users have access to a dedicated radio stream for discovering tracks that are similar to songs from top artists. A random playlist is created based on specific genres and decades.
Music purchasing: Users can buy available tracks or complete playlists directly from Spotify. Purchased tracks are downloadable in MP3 format and can quickly be synced up to any mobile device.
Social integration: Each user has the opportunity to design a unique profile page on Spotify. Accounts can also be connected to a Facebook account so that any user can share playlists and view other playlists created by friends.
Music importation: Any user can import music into their Spotify account directly from iTunes or from any local files stored on a computer.
How to Start Streaming Music
Spotify offers three unique subscription plans to its users, which include a free open plan, an unlimited plan and a premium plan. The plan variety gives users the opportunity to try out the service for free before committing to an unlimited or premium paid plan.
The plan: Spotify’s free plan limits access to the number of tracks that can be streamed. Free members are allowed to stream a maximum of 10 hours of music per month. Advertisements are displayed on each Spotify desktop application as part of the open plan.
The unlimited plan: An unlimited plan grants users access to an unlimited amount of music without advertisements displayed on the application. Unlimited members can also import their current music collection into Spotify from iTunes or local files. The unlimited plan is $4.99 per month.
The premium plan: Premium members receive all the amenities of the open plan and the unlimited plan with additional features that allow you to store music and playlists on a mobile device and the convenience of listening to music in offline mode. Music is delivered in higher quality with the premium plan, with each file streaming in at 320 kbps. The premium membership plan is available for $9.99 per month.