What is Spotify?

Free. Legal. On Demand.

Remember a long, long time ago when if you wanted a song from a band or singer you had to buy the whole album? Then Napster came along and you didn’t have to. Well, legally anyways. (Even though I know you’re all upstanding citizens and would never consider illegally downloading music.) Then iTunes came out and you didn’t have to buy the whole album if you didn’t want to, but you had to buy the single before being able to listen to the whole thing. And then Pandora came out and you could tell it what you liked and it would play similar music, but you couldn’t tell it what song you wanted to listen to, you just had to hope that it got played while you were listening to a station?

Well, Spotify is like the best of all of those worlds. You can listen to any of about 15 million songs (comprised of music from the 80s, 90s and today, or the 1890s if you wish) whenever your little heart desires. Unlike Napster, Spotify has deals with four major record labels as well as many independent labels to let you stream all the music you want when you want. And you don’t have to worry about buying the music and having it take up precious hard drive space like you would with iTunes. Spotify uses the cloud based technology to keep your hard drive free for all that porn, er doctorate dissertation research. So it’s like iTunes and Pandora had a baby. It’s like iTunes because you can listen to whatever you want whenever you want. And it’s like Pandora because you can listen to music that you don’t own.

But there are some downfalls. It’s free (yay!), but that of course comes with some restrictions. Like a free Pandora subscription, there are some radio type ads. You can only listen to 10 hours of music a month. And you can only listen to each track a maximum of fives times. Plus your listening is restricted to your computer. There are 2 level of paid subscriptions, premium for $4.99/ month and unlimited for $9.99 a month that alleviate all of those restrictions. There is a mobile app where you can listen to music on your phone, but that privilege only comes with the unlimited subscription.

With Spotify, you basically have to know what music you want to listen to in order to enjoy it. My first real day with the service was Friday. I downloaded the app on my work computer and then had to think about what I wanted to listen to. I listened to all of Ray LaMontange (I listened to Trouble twice), the last two Marc Broussard albums and an early Guster album. Which is great because now that I’ve listened to that music, I know that I’ll probably buy some of it. But unlike Pandora that just keeps going with the music, once my choices had ended I had to think about what I wanted to play next.

Just like everything else these days, you can share your songs and playlists with friends. You can “friend” your friends on Spotify and share tracks and play lists that way or connect with facebook and twitter to share a link that way. You can import your friends from facebook to share your playlists. Even if you’re not on facebook, you can share your music. All you need to do is make your profile public and share your username with your friend that way.

Spotify is a European based company that made its U.S. debut in July. You still need an invitation to get the free subscriptioin, either from a friend or by requesting on from the Spotify website. I requested an invite on Thursday morning from Spotify on Thursday morning and got it as I was leaving work Thursday evening. You can bypass the invitation requirement and just pay for the subscription if you can’t wait a few hours.

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