What is Spotify?
When the Spotify streaming music service finally hit the U.S. about a year ago it earned a killer rep for its excellent desktop app, broad catalog and ability to help you discover and share music via Facebook and Twitter.
Spotify has come a long way since then, with support for a growing number of mobile devices and home audio gear, a live feed of what your Facebook friends are listening to and apps that provide extra content.
Unfortunately, some popular bands such as Led Zeppelin, The Beatles and Metallica still restrict or ban their music. [ What's New in Streaming Music Services? ]
Is Spotify free?
Some features are. The free service — for computers only — gives you on-demand song access and lets you see (and hear) what your friends are listening to. You can also create playlists, email track recommendations to friends and share what you’re listening to on Facebook. The price of free music? You'll hear 30-second advertisements (sometimes two) about every five songs.
Spotify's terms of service still say that after six months, free users will be limited to 10 hours of listening and five plays of any given song per month. But a few months ago the company extended the unlimited listening period indefinitely.
Last month, Spotify rolled out an ad-supported radio-style mobile service, a la Pandora or Slacker — currently for only iPhones, iPads and iPods. You can add songs you hear to a “Like from Radio” playlist that syncs across devices.
What do I get if I pay?
An Unlimited account ($5 a month) nixes the ads when you listen on your computer. For $10 a month, the Premium service gives you the full Spotify experience: unlimited on-demand listening on all major smartphone and connected home-audio gadgets like Sonos, Squeezebox and Onkyo receivers. You can also select tracks or playlists to download from Spotify for offline listening — great for mobile users with data caps.
What are the new ways friends and I can share?
When you subscribe to a friend’s playlist, you can now see when they make changes to it via a notifications system introduced last month. The latest Spotify for Mac and PC also lets you choose any song or playlist and create a Play button that you can embed on your blog or website so anyone can click to listen (using a snippet of HTML code the app creates). [ How to Stop Facebook’s 'Frictionless' Sharing ]
When you click the Share button in the computer app, you can now send the link to a song to a Tumblr blog, and the app automatically creates a shortened link when you post to Twitter.
What are Spotify Apps?
Last November, Spotify introduced Apps that show up in the sidebar on the left of its Mac and PC versions. Some provide editorial content and playlists from publications like Billboard, Rolling Stone and Pitchfork. There are others that tap into social networks to do things like build playlists based on what your friends listen to (Filtr), find people near you who share your musical tastes (Tastebuds) and display lyrics to your favorite songs (MusixMatch).