Finally, Spotify Hits the U.S.

For those of you from the U.K. and other fortunate regions that have been enjoying Spotify for years, this is a non-event. However, for any readers from the U.S., this is huge news. Get ready to completely neglect Grooveshark, Pandora, Last.fm and any other Internet radio you listen to. Spotify is that good.

What is Spotify? How does it work? How do you get it? Keep reading, we’ve got the answers.

Not So Fast, Invite Only

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Spotify U.S. is invite-only for now

The rumors are true, Spotify has in fact launched in the United States, I know because I’m using the heck out of it. Unfortunately, it’s an invite only affair at the moment so you’ll need to stop by the site and request one or start bugging your more fortunate friends (huge thanks to Orman Clark for hooking me up).

Keep in mind that lots of highly anticipated web services launch exactly like this so don’t sweat it, you’ll no doubt be able to get your hands on Spotify very soon.

The Evolution of Web Radio

The great thing about radio is that it’s sort of organic. You just listen and the DJ takes care of everything. This is also the worst feature of radio. Other than choosing a station, you have almost no control over what you hear.

Pandora was a big evolution of this model, taking a much more interactive route that is amazing for discovering new music based on what you already love. However, your control over what is being played is still quite limited, with only occasional and limited input allowed.

For U.S. residents, the next link in this chain was Grooveshark, which gives you complete freedom to listen to what you want when you want. Don’t get me wrong, Grooveshark is amazing, but it definitely has some issues. For starters, it’s a Flash-based web app, which you may love or hate but isn’t ideal for lots of users. Also, it’s a bit difficult to sift through the content as you’re constantly hit with five or more versions of the same song. It’s close, but having seen and used Spotify previously, I knew that the experience wasn’t what it could be.

Enter Spotify

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Spotify looks like a dark iTunes clone

Spotify is the music service of your dreams. It’s a native app that looks and works a lot like iTunes. Just imagine though that your iTunes library was suddenly stuffed with millions of tracks spanning several decades. Want to check out the album 19 by Adele? Just search for it like you would in iTunes and listen to it… all of it.

The iTunes-like functionality continues. Run a search for Snow Patrol and listen to all of the available tracks on shuffle or build a custom playlist of Jamie Cullum and Michale Bublé music for that dinner party you’re throwing later.

Any Song?

The library of available tracks is extremely impressive. It’s not going to have every song you want to hear, but it will have tons of them. As a test run, I started out with a search for artist John Mclaughlin; not too main-stream, not too obscure. The result was awesome, around three hours of music, all completely free to stream immediately!

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An impressive first search test

The App

The Spotify app has a sharp, dark interface that’s easy on the eyes and actually feels like a bit of an improvement over iTunes in some ways. Over on the left side of the interface is your basic navigation. Here you can check out your playlists, build a queue, look at what’s new on Spotify and view an “Inbox” of music that Spotify sends to you.

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The Spotify Sidebar

One really great iTunes-killing feature is that all of the music on your machine automatically shows up in Spotify! This really makes it the ultimate music hub for your computer. You can even use Spotify to move your local music to your iPod (premium subscription required).

Another great feature is Facebook integration. You can see your friends’ top tracks and artists and check out their published playlists. Ping? What’s Ping?

Spotify Plans

As you can imagine, the good people at Spotify have to make a living, not to mention license all of this content. Let’s take a quick look at the three plans that you’ll have to choose from after you score that invite and sign up.

Spotify Free

The free plan gives you tons of music that you can listen to instantly from the installed application on your home computer (Mac or PC) and share individual tracks with friends via a simple link. The catch is that it is in fact ad-supported. There are both visual ads inside the app and audio ads that interrupt your music. The system here is almost exactly like Pandora, the ads are quite infrequent and brief (usually only one at a time). The service is good enough that you likely wouldn’t dream of dropping it because of an occasional interruption.

At the moment, it seems that there is no time cap for free U.S. accounts, which is amazing. However, the U.K. service started off the same way. Spotify likes to get you addicted to unlimited free music before suddenly limiting the amount of time you can listen in a month. It looks like Spotify will soon revert free users to twenty hours per month just as they did in Europe.

One additional catch, if you travel abroad with Spotify Free, you only have 14 days before they cut you off. Your service will continue when you get back home.

Spotify Unlimited: $4.99/Month

For just under five bucks per month, you can ditch the ads and have unlimited access to your music when you travel. Otherwise, all of the features are the same as the free plan, for now. When Spotify does start putting time caps on free accounts, this will be the cheapest way to have that limit removed.

Spotify Premium: $9.99/Month

In addition to all of the features above, Spotify Premium gives you access to local files on your iPod, listen to Spotify on your mobile devices, listen to Spotify offline, enjoy better audio quality and exclusive tracks, and play Spotify through music systems like Squeezebox.

Check out this page for a complete breakdown and comparison of the three plans.

Conclusion

To sum up, Spotify is an outstanding music service that allows you to listen to almost any track, album or artist whenever you want from a slick, native application. Unless your iTunes library has 15,000,000 songs and adds 10,000 new tracks per day, you’re going to want to get in on this.

The biggest downside currently is that you have to find a way to score an invite, so beg, borrow and steal to get one because, despite an occasional ad, you’ll love the service.

We’ll see how long the awesomeness lasts, it’s really only a matter of time before Spotify slaps a time cap on free accounts to force all the new addicts to sign up for premium accounts.


Summary

Listen to whatever you want, whenever you want, free. It's nothing short of a music-lover's dream. As long as there's no time cap for free accounts, I give it a perfect 10. Unfortunately, the forthcoming cap is sort of a hidden "gotchya" that's not exactly advertised on the home page, which seems a little sneaky.

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  • http://modernisten.co.vu/ Robin Lundgren

    This will make me sound like a real dick head.

    I have a little tummy feeling about this announcement. It feels kind of sour, maybe a bit of bitter as well.
    Spotify to be available in the U.S. feels like the beginning of the end for Spotify.

    The U.S. is a huge group of people. One part of that group of people likes to abuse services until it breaks then blame it one someone else.

    Please don’t take this as fact or anything with serious weight to it. This is just my tiny subjective opinion mixed with a tiny bit of experience chopped in there. Good services starts to root when the US people gets involved.

    • Ian

      I find your opinion a bit hard to swallow given how many good services are from the US. Hell, nearly every major website is American.

  • Former Spotify user

    Spotify are a great platform but it sucks big time. Though I understand the agenda of charging people for listening to music I don’t really understand why they limited the Free edition here in Sweden to 5 plays a song /month unless you pay for using it.

    Now they want to limit it again but this time, to 30-40 sec a song and then you’re required to pay expensive money every month.

    Then again, I agree with some of your points about it’s UI and that it’s a great platform, but I would however never do a claim that it’s better than Grooveshark or Last.fm as they’ve got all music one want. Spotify may have thousands of artists but some of the biggest won’t use it nor do they plan to use it either.

    I would be happy to pay for Spotify IF they had all major artists one listen too, which they don’t! And if they lowered the price in Sweden as we pay about $20 a month here for a premium account and $10 for the unlimited account. It’s not worth the money!

    Still, if I were to review Spotify I would still give it a 5 of 10 as it’s a good platform, great UI, social share options, etc.. But I would never pay for it!

    • http://stjerne.nu Frank Stjerne

      What is expensive? Between steal and 10-20 USD the gap is big. Between spending 100 USD on iTunes and 10-20 USD on Spotify the gap is even bigger. That’s the reason why I share money using Spotify. I also listen to Spotify on my Sonos stereo around my house. The two systems are totally integrated.

      You will never get American prices in Europe: The European sales taxes are three to four times higher, the record companies charge the double, the European marked is not as competitive as the American – and finally Spotify has to compete in the markets they are in and adapt to the local price levels.

    • John

      What??! You have to pay for music? How dare they

  • Andrew

    Every person I have heard talk about Spotify’s release in the US act like it is something completely new. When really, Rdio (http://rdio.com) has been around for almost a year now and sports a much more enjoyable and easy to use interface. It also makes music discovery easier. Check it out if you have not already. I would like to see a Spotify and Rdio comparison on Mac Appstorm at some point.

    • Jesse

      100% agree. I’ve only subscribed to Rdio for a month, but I really enjoy using it over Spotify. The biggest difference between the two, for me at least, is app quality. The Spotify app is very bare bones, whereas the Rdio app has so many great features.

    • http://www.coroflot.com/joshuajohnson Joshua Johnson

      What’s the Rdio free plan like?

      • Andrew

        I do not think Rdio offers a free plan.

  • Jonathan Eliasson

    I’ve been using Spotify for about four years now. Use the service every single day with my mac and my iPhone. The library of songs is truly vast and the quality is superb. You can find anything in there from obscure 60′s albums to the newest hits. Spotify even releases some albums earlier than the record releases.

    Try it out, you will be amazed.

    Posting ten invites codes for the free account below, check it out, it’s free:

    bUH4N6BVbFehKkyL
    eWzKhemwGT3ZFWJa
    eKU2S8LrkbbzFLnD
    bc5sLDFm5a6r4T8M
    bT4LyAamSbCu6ycr
    bfdJLPwr982KLU59
    fAfpk4EmnEJnhaE3
    befzHVY3qAPg6BrC
    bgsYEFpSMz45HVWt
    aYx652szK6fzyxar

    I hope you enjoy the service.

    • http://www.coroflot.com/joshuajohnson Joshua Johnson

      Wow, thanks for sharing Jonathan!

  • http://about.me/jorgerdz Jorge Rodriguez

    Thanks for the invites, Jonathan.

    I don’t know, maybe it’s just me, but I think Last.fm is pretty different from all these Spotify and Grooveshark apps. What makes Last.fm so great is the sense of discovery, the community behind it, and especially the tracking of everything you listen to. I love apps like Spotify, but I also like my scrobbling.

    • http://www.coroflot.com/joshuajohnson Joshua Johnson

      I actually agree, I’m not a fan of the Last.fm radio but scrobbling is amazing. Scrobbling from Spotify, doubly so.

      • http://stjerne.nu Frank Stjerne

        Hey come on: Scrobbling to last.fm is build into Spotify!

      • http://stjerne.nu Frank Stjerne

        And it even scrobbles the songs you have downloaded to your iphone and listen to when you are not connected to the internet.

  • Ladymath

    “spotify has a sharp, dark interface that’s easy on eyes.” Oxymoron! White or light type on a black or dark background is never easy on the eyes. It’s much harder to read. Hint.

    • http://www.coroflot.com/joshuajohnson Joshua Johnson

      As a professional graphic designer, I entirely disagree. Bright white interfaces can often seem harsh, especially in low light scenarios. Spotify uses a dark gray background with fairly light gray (non-white) text. The contrast ratio is about perfect, not so much that it hurts, not so little that you can’t read it. I would say that it’s quite “easy” to view in any lighting conditions and therefore easy on the eyes :)

  • Paul J

    I hear MOG has better audio quality and just as good of a library as spotify. Also rdio I’ve heard doesn’t have as good of a library collection of songs. I’ll probably hold out and see if apple’s icloud is any good and/or meets my needs.

  • Sheryl

    rdio is cheaper, though it doesn’t offer a free plan. $10/month to access spotify on the mobile device seems like a ripoff considering rdio does it for half that with a nicer looking app.

    • Alex Z

      Rdio is not cheaper. They are the same exact price. Only difference between the two subscription models is that spotify has a free service and rdio has web access.

  • Mohammed Koja

    Its kind from u , if u could send me an invitation code , am searching for one for months ;)

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  • http://www.aeronaves.org Aeronaves

    Though I understand the agenda of charging people for listening to music I don’t really understand why they limited the Free edition here in Sweden to 5 plays a song /month unless you pay for using it.

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