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We Love Spotify

By Kevin O'Connor

In case you haven’t heard, Spotify is the latest online music streaming software to go against Apple and iTunes. It has been offered in Europe for a few years, where it competed with iTunes and created quite a buzz. It just recently crossed the pond.

What is causing the buzz? Spotify is offering access to 15 million songs for free and is legal (this is not a music pirate gateway). Though it’s free, this is not a beta site where more features are yet to come; it’s been in existence for a few years now and it is slick and ready. All the kinks are ironed out. The user interface is awesome.

The first requirement is that you need an invite to join. Like gmail and google+ (are you signed up for that yet) you are invited to sign up. Though there are links all over the place offering invites, I just went to Spotify and gave them my email address and got an invite in about 2 days. Here is the link

Once you receive your code, download the Spotify software to every computer in the house. Yes, there are both Windows and Mac versions (also mobile, but more on that later).

BAM!!! You now have access to 15 million songs that stream to you INSTANTLY thru P2P software. Go ahead, play around. Listen to songs you haven’t thought about in years and hear them instantly and in full length. Difference between iTunes and Spotify is …. Hmm…let me think…. iTunes charges 0.99/song and you can only preview for 1 minute. Spotify…free.

How Do They Do It?

First you must wrap yourself around the notion that you do not own the music. You rent it. Everything streams to you and you pick and choose, just like Netflix, where movies stream to you. But really, should one care about owning the music when the result is the same? You get to listen to anything you want.

Spotify has to generate money to be able to pay artists’ royalties. Artist royalties is key to why they are not another “pirate” site. They have set up a 3 tiered pricing structure. The three levels are Free, Unlimited and Premium. I opted for the Free version while I demoed this.

The “Free” version offers you unlimited access and you can utilize the “Spotify Social” function. Recently, quietly, Spotify and Facebook formed a partnership. Now you can take your playlists etc. and interact thru Facebook with your friends. Post your “Best of 2010 R&B tunes” up and your friends cannot only see it, they can play it, make comments, add to it (if you let them) but of course they must also be Spotify members.

Advertising, both visual and aurally, offsets the cost, though currently there are not too many ads. In 6 months things will change. Think of these 6 months as a way to get you addicted. Down the road they will limit the amount of hours per month for listening (I’ve heard rumors of 10 hours but who knows) and the amount of plays/song/month (I’ve heard 5). Still, it’s free so stop complaining.

The “Unlimited” version offers unlimited streaming and no ads. In 6 months it will still be unlimited playing. Cost: 4.99/month. That’s the same as 5 songs on iTunes. Pony up!!!!

The “Premium” version offers that and the biggie in my book….it will stream to any mobile device you own. IPad, iPhone and Droid. Download the Spotify app to your phone and play away. It also offers a feature called “offline” where you can sync the phone and your computer via wireless and load playlists to the phone. That allows you to hear music when you are out of range of a tower and also saves battery life.

Additionally, Premium users stream music at a higher bitrate of up to 320kbps on your computer (not all tracks are currently available in high bitrate). Think of it as Apple Lossless but its not using up hard drive space, as it is streaming. Cost: 9.99/month. That’s for us.

Speaking of Apple, in any version of Spotify, you can sync/import your iTunes library in, so that Spotify will run both. No need to switch back and forth. Spotify offers you an all-in-one situation for managing your music library.

If you opt for “Unlimited” or “Premium” there is no need for the invite and when you sign up they give you a couple of invites to give to friends. I can’t help but think of the image of the pusher saying “first one is free”. I’ve been on this for two weeks and I am opting for “Premium” as I want streaming to my iPad and Droid phone. Last I checked I spend about 20 bucks/month on iTunes. This is half that and streams to my phone without me having to load songs to the phone’s drive.

Here is a rundown for you. I would suggest trying the free version and then seeing what your needs are.