Spotify, the DRM-based music streaming service originally from Sweden, has finally launched in the U.S. after delays and years of negotiations with top record labels. Spotify has become increasingly popular in Europe, with over 1.6 million paying subscribers and 10 million users overall. Among the many features of Spotify is an interesting way of making music social by allowing users to create and share playlists and songs with their friends. It’s only been available in the U.S. for a few days, but Spotify has already been creating a lot of buzz in the news.
Spotify works by providing users with a way to stream new music, as well as listen to local music already on their computer. It does this with Free, Unlimited, and Premium plans. Spotify Free is a no-cost option that is supported by advertisements and is currently available by invite-only. Users of Spotify Free can stream an unlimited amount of music from the Spotify library to their desktop, but cannot use the mobile application and are occasionally interrupted by advertisements. In addition to streaming music, the desktop application imports music already on your computer so it can be organized and played from the same place. At $4.99 per month, the Spotify Unlimited plan removes all advertisements and allows you to take your music abroad, but still limits you to only using the desktop application to listen. Spotify Premium unlocks everything for $9.99 per month. With the Premium plan you are able to stream music to your desktop or to a mobile application that is available on iOS, Android, Symbian, Windows Phone, and Palm devices. The Premium plan also gives you the ability to play local music in the mobile app, create offline playlists, has enhanced sound quality, exclusive content, and allows you to play Spotify through music systems. For only $9.99 a month and millions of songs to stream, Spotify Premium could be a great option for people who listen to a lot of music.
One of the coolest features of Spotify is its social integration. It’s not necessarily anything new and revolutionary, but it’s a perfect match for Spotify’s streaming services and it works really, really well. Each Spotify user has a profile that they can customize and share with the world. If you link your Facebook profile to Spotify, it automatically pulls in your profile picture and shows you any friends that are already using Spotify. From here, sharing songs and playlists is as simple as dragging and clicking. Sharing a song on Facebook or Twitter is as easy as clicking a button and typing in a short message about the song. To share a song with a specific person, all you have to do is drag the song to their name in the social sidebar. They will then receive a message in their inbox that says you sent them a song. To share an entire playlist, you just drag a slider to make it viewable on your profile. Friends can then check it out and, if they like it, subscribe to it so it’s easily available to them in the future. Under the “What’s New” tab is a constant feed that displays what your friends are listening to or have recently recommended. The “What’s New” tab is a great way to stay on top of the freshest music your friends are listening to. In addition to the feed, user’s profiles show a “top artist” and “top track” list that shows which artists and tracks the user has been listening to the most. All of these interactions combine to make Spotify one of the best social music networks out there. The only issue now is the lack of users, but that’s sure to change once it’s been available in the States for more than just a few days.
Spotify is making its appearance in the U.S. at a critical time when music collections are going through a bit of a transition. With Amazon, Apple, and Google all offering some type of cloud storage services, Spotify is coming in the game with the backing of millions of happy European users. Though Spotify doesn’t give you an actual copy of the song to use as you want, it also doesn’t require hours (days?) of uploading music to the cloud. Only time will tell if Spotify becomes a hit in the U.S. as it has in Europe, but so far I’m pretty much blown away by what it already offers. If you’ve signed up for an Unlimited or Premium account, or are lucky enough to have gotten an invite, tell us what you think in the comments. If you haven’t checked it out yet, Spotify has partnered with Chevy and Klout to get users access to a free account.