Today's post is from Graham Binder.
"Hello America", says Spotify, as it makes its descent on the U.S. market after proving so successful overseas.
As the first music-on-demand service to crack one million paid users in the European market - which is a very big deal considering the competition at hand (Rhapsody, Napster, Mog and Rdio) - the next logical step was to adopt a Google+ model and offer invitations for U.S. music consumers to join the party. How good is the party? It's becoming less exclusive obviously as word-of-mouth grows, but it's still flush with the best champagne, the finest caviar, and a truly unlimited amount of musical guests.
The skinny: Once Spotify sends you your requested invitation, for the first six months you are granted up to 20 hours of free music per month, with a maximum of five plays per track, per month. The company has secured access to Universal, Sony Music, EMI, and Warner's massive library of artists and songs, so you can legally listen to your choice of roughly 15 million tracks with the flick of your mouse clicking wrist.
The major caveat for the free service is you must endure mandatory 15-second ads before listening to the free songs. Small price to pay if you ask me. The interface is clean and intuitive, and gives you the option of searching by artist, album, or track. Like I said in the title of this post, it's truly magical. Just search, and the artist/song/album appears. Just click, and a song is suddenly playing within a matter of 2 seconds.
If 20 hours a month is too little, and you're truly bothered by the ads, there are two paid tiers, one at $4.99 per month and one at $9.99 per month. $4.99 gets you unlimited access (say g'bye to the 20 hour cap) and eliminates the ads. I highly endorse the $9.99 package, which gets you unlimited access, no ads, PLUS streaming on your mobile device, exclusive content and special offers. With mobile streaming, I'm able to listen to a lifetime's worth of music on road trips, plane rides and metro jaunts. No worries if you don't have a solid 3g connection, Spotify has an "offline" mode which allows you to make playlists on your computer and sync them to the Spotify application on your phone for listening in areas where 3g or 4g is unavailable. I will admit however that mobile use seriously depletes your battery, but in this day and age, most of us make a point to travel with our phone charger
Finally, I've talked to several people about the lack of certain artists on iTunes, especially international musicians; fellow blog contributor Barbara Parker just mentioned Midnight Oil as an example. I've never been a big iTunes user, so I can't comment on this personally, but since Spotify's U.S. launch it seems that new users are falling in love with the service because of unique access to the more rare and obscure artists that iTunes just doesn't carry.
If you're skeptical, try it out for yourself. I mean why not, it's free (for now) and feels much better than the other "free" alternative, which is theft! And if you start with a paid subscription, your bank account will barely feel the nominal cost per month. It's the Netflix effect...small amount of money for an extremely large return...but better.