After years of rumors, Europe’s favorite streaming music service Spotify has launched in the U.S.
What is Spotify?
Spotify is a streaming music service that offers on-demand music streaming. Unlike customizable Internet radio services like Pandora, Spotify allows you to pick and choose exactly what songs you want to listen to. Spotify offers a catalog of over 15 million songs.
There are currently a number of similar services in the U.S., including Rdio, MOG and Rhapsody. What makes Spotify stand out is that it also offers a free, ad-supported version, while most of its competitors only offer short trials before users have to pay.
How Can I Get it?
Spotify is now open for business, but you either need to be deemed an “influencer” to get a free accounts or get a paid account (more details about those below). To see if you qualify for an invite, head over to Klout to see if you qualify.Klout is giving away about 100,000 free accounts this way. Just enter your Twitter or Facebook credentials and Klout will let you know if you qualify.
If you are willing to pay, you can skip the line and get an account at any time. If you want to wait for a free account but didn’t qualify for the Klout promotion, just give Spotify your email address and they will let you know when a space in the U.S. beta opens up.
What’s so Great About it?
A couple of things make Spotify stand out from its competition – besides the free tier. First of all, Spotify features a strong social component. Users can share playlists with friends or subscribe to other users’ public playlists (and see updates to these in real time). MOG offers a similar feature, but it’s severely limited in comparison with Spotify’s implementation. Spotify also integrates with Facebook and lets you discover what your friends are listening to on the service.
Spotify also offers great native clients for both Windows and OS X, as well as mobile clients for virtually all the major platforms, including iPhone, Android, Windows Phone, Symbian and the Palm Pre series.
Spotify uses a peer-to-peer architecture similar to Skype that uses a little bit of space on its users’ computers to cache popular songs and a little bit of every user’s bandwidth to serve these songs to nearby users. Thanks to this, songs play immediately, just like you would expect from your local iTunes library.
Talking about iTunes, Spotify also gives you access to your iTunes library right from its own app, meaning you don’t have to switch back and forth between the two.
Brilliant, But What Does it Cost?
Spotify offers a three-tier pricing structure:
Free: the free version will be limited to 20 hours of use for the first six months after a user signs up. After that, the limit will become 10 hours per month. No song can be listened to more than 5 times.
$5/month (Unlimited): the basic paid plan gives users unlimited, ad-free access to Spotify’s full library on the desktop.
$10/month (Premium): this plan includes full desktop access, as well as mobile access (which includes offline caching on the mobile device) and access to higher quality audio streams at 320 kbps (all songs are encoded in the Ogg Vorbis format). One important perk of this plan is also that you can use the service abroad for more than 14 days. In Europe, Spotify also often allows its premium users to get early access to some albums before they become available to other users.