So what’s all the buzz about the new social music service, Spotify? How does it work? What makes it social? Do you need Spotify? I hope to answer these questions in this post.
Streaming music services have been around for over a decade. Some of the more popular ones include and Pandora, Rhapsody, and Last.fm. Spotify is a social streaming music service with the goal of converting people from pirate users to legal users.
Spotify is a Swedish-based service that has been available in Europe since 2008, but has finally made it to the United States this past July. When Spotify made its debut in the US, an invite was required to enter the site. Once in, you could invite your friends and so on and so on. As of this writing, Spotify no longer requires invites so anyone can join.
How does it work?
I was curious about how Spotify works, so I did some research. I found a 2010 article by the wizards behind the curtain, Gunnar Kreitz and Fredrik Niemelä. If you want the in-depth version, put on your nerd glasses and read Spotify – Large Scale, Low Latency, P2P Music-on-Demand Streaming published in Proceedings of IEEE P2P’10.
Similar to libraries, Spotify uses the “access over ownership” model. In general terms, that means you will have access to a large music collection without owning the songs. This is nice for many people since it is like having a virtual jukebox that plays songs YOU want it to hear.
Spotify negotiates deals with the record labels to make their music available. They have a huge catalog with over 17 million songs according to the Spotify new release tracker on Pansentient League site.
Spotify uses peer-to-peer (P2P) technology to serve the music up to anyone with a Spotify account. Instead of downloading a single mp3 file, Spotify searches other users’ computers for copies of that song and pieces the song together instantaneously. This is really an impressive feat of programming to make it seem like you are playing a song that is on your computer.
What makes it social?
About a month after Spotify’s debut in the US, they announced a partnership with Facebook. This partnership required all new users to log in with their Facebook account. Facebook users automatically share what songs they’re listening to via Spotify in their profiles.
In addition to posting Spotify songs to your profile, your Facebook friends also see the same list of recently played songs in their newsfeeds. Note: disconnecting Facebook from Spotify or changing the app settings in Facebook can turn off these features. From within the Spotify App, you will automagically see all your Facebook friends using Spotify. You will be able to share playlists and songs with your friends. It does not automatically share all your playlists so don’t worry… no one has to know about your Justin Bieber playlist. Another social feature is the collaborative playlist. You and your friends can create a playlist together for that party on Saturday night. And lastly, if you want to share the exciting things you are playing on Spotify with the Twitterverse all it takes is an easy right click! After all, Madonna did say “music makes the people come together.”
Do you need Spotify?
So my last question to answer: “do you need Spotify?” If you love music and are not hooked on another streaming service I say give it a try! Spotify offers 3 tiers of service from Spotify Free ($0) to Spotify Unlimited ($4.99) to the Spotify Premium ($9.99). Spotify Free offers you access to their bountiful music catalog but be prepared to hear commercials between some of your songs. Remember that the goal of this tier of service is the give you a taste of Spotify goodness for a trial period. After 6 months of free unlimited service, your Spotify account will have limits of 10 hours of streaming a month and a 5-play limit for any individual track. Spotify Unlimited takes away the commercials and the limits of the free account. The Cadillac version, Spotify Premium, provides their highest level of service by adding the ability to use Spotify offline and take Spotify with you on your mobile device. Check out their website for more details on the each of the plans.
The best feature for me has been the ability to listen to albums I do not own. I also enjoy the social features of browsing and borrowing playlists from my Spotify friends. These features give me more listening options than my own playlists plus they expose me to new artists.
For more information on Spotify check out their Website or if you want to know more about other streaming music services read Lifehacker’s Five Best Streaming Music Services or PC Magazine’s Best Streaming Music Services 2011. Happy listening!