Spotify is a Swedish music streaming service offering digitally restricted streaming of selected music from a range of major and independent record labels, including Sony, EMI, Warner Music Group, and Universal. Launched in October 2008 by Swedish startup Spotify AB, the service had approximately ten million users as of 15 September 2010, about 2.5 million of whom were paying members. As of May 2012, the service is available in Australia, Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Faroe Islands, Finland,France, Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
The system is currently accessible using Microsoft Windows, Mac OS X, Linux, Telia Digital-tv, and mobile devices running iOS (iPod/iPhone/iPad), Android, BlackBerry (limited beta release), Windows Mobile, Windows Phone, S60 (Symbian), webOS, Squeezebox, Boxee, Sonos, WD TV, andMeeGo.
Music can be browsed by artist, album, record label, genre or playlist as well as by direct searches. On desktop clients, a link allows the listener to purchase selected material via partner retailers.
A six month free trial period is activated upon initial login with a Facebook account, where a user can listen to an unlimited amount of music supported by visual and radio-style advertising. After the trial, Spotify will have a listening limit of ten hours per month. An “Unlimited” subscription removes advertisements and time limits and a “Premium” subscription introduces extra features such as higherbitrate streaming, offline access to music and mobile app access. An active Facebook account is required to use Spotify, unless the user registered for a Spotify-only account before 22 September 2011. Subscriptions are restricted to people with credit/debit cards or PayPal accounts registered in certain countries.
As of July 2011, the catalog provides access to approximately 15 million songs via searching for artists, albums, titles, labels and genres, and gives users access to tracks from many major and independent labels. Some artists have opted not to be added to Spotify. Additionally, some artists are missing in certain regions due to licensing restrictions imposed by the record labels. For example, The Beatles are not available because of a digital distribution agreement that is exclusive to iTunes. The Spotify desktop client allows music to be imported from iTunes, with the option of syncing with a mobile device. Users from the UK, France, Spain, Norway, Sweden, Finland and the Netherlands can also buy most tracks, if available, from Spotify’s download partner 7digital.
Users can set up playlists and share them, or edit them together with other users (see collaborative software). For this purpose the playlist link can directly be dragged into an email or an instant messaging window. If the recipient follows the link, the playlist will be downloaded into the Spotify-client of the recipient. Downloaded playlists will then auto-update if the author adds or removes tracks. Like normal links, the playlist links can be used everywhere. The same principle also works for single tracks, which can be used via drag and drop on applications and websites at will.There are a number of websites for sharing of Spotify playlists and songs where users can share, rate and discuss them.
While Spotify does not automatically create preference-based playlists, it does integrate with Last.fm. This integration allows Spotify users to send songs from Spotify to their Last.fm account and “scrobble” them. Scrobbling via Last.fm integration allows Spotify users to learn which songs or artists they listen to the most. In turn, Spotify users can add a Spotify link to songs in their Last.fm library and send them to the Spotify client.
Spotify also includes a Radio feature available to Spotify Free, Unlimited and Premium accounts, which creates a random playlist of songs chosen based on specified genres and decades. An Artist Radio feature creates a random playlist of songs by artists related to (and including) the selected artist. Artist Radio channels on Spotify provide background information on the selected artist, ranging from its history to a list of the artist’s most famous singles. The Spotify radio function demonstrates distinct differences from its competitor, Pandora. With the Spotify radio function, users are allowed to skip as many tracks as desired, while Pandora places limits on the number of tracks that can be skipped. Additionally, Spotify does not allow users to lend “star ratings” to tracks, thus, limiting the ability to organize the radio function based on user preference.
Social media integration
Spotify allows registered users to integrate their account with existing Facebook and Twitter accounts. Facebook integration is compulsory for new accounts. Once a user integrates their Spotify account with other social media profiles, they are able to access their friends’ favorite music and or playlists. Additionally, Facebook compatibility allows Spotify users to share music with Facebook friends through the use of the service’s inbox. Spotify users are able to send tracks or playlists to friends who, in return, are able to access this music through their Spotify account. On 26 September 2011, it was announced that all new accounts would require users to access via a Facebook login. Earlier that week, Sean Parker, the former president of Facebook and a major investor in Spotify, commemorated the integration at a f8 party at which Snoop Dogg, the Killers, andJane’s Addiction performed.
Users can access applications integrated in the Spotify desktop client, written in HTML5. Third party software writers can offer features related to music listening such as live sharing of playlists, music reviews, lyrics, concerts. At the time of launch (30 November 2011 in beta mode), the supported applications were Billboard, Fuse, The Guardian, Last.fm, Moodagent, Pitchfork, Rolling Stone, Songkick, Soundrop, Tunewiki, and We Are Hunted.
The Spotify software is proprietary and uses digital rights management (DRM) to prevent unauthorized use of content. Users who agree to Spotify’s Terms and Conditions agree to not reverse engineer the application.
The contents of each client’s cache is summarized in an index which is sent to the Spotify stream hub upon connecting to the service. This index is then used to inform other clients about additional peers they can connect to for fetching streamed data for individual tracks being played. This is accommodated by each client, upon startup, acting as a server listening for incoming connections from other Spotify users, as well as connecting to other users to exchange cached data as appropriate. There are currently no official details from the developers about how many connections and how much of a user’s upstream bandwidth the Spotify client will use when streaming to other users; the Spotify client offers no way for the user to configure this.
Audio streams are in the Vorbis format at q5 (approx. 160 kbit/s), or optional q9 (approx. 320kbit/s) for Premium subscribers. Spotify boasts having an almost buffer-free streaming service.
As of version 0.4.3, it is possible to also play back local MP3 and AAC files, though this does not work in Linux using Wine because Spotify is “… blocking codecs with the identifier “WINE-MPEG3″ until the Wine system works satisfactorily.” However, the native Linux version supports local files.
Cache size and location is configurable. 1 GB or more disk space is recommended. On Mac OS X, a G4 processor or higher is required. A user must set up an account in order to use the software. This account can be used on several computers, but music playback is limited to one computer at a time.
Official desktop clients are available for Microsoft Windows (2000 or newer) and Mac OS X (10.5 or newer). Spotify was withdrawn from use on any Mac OS earlier than OS 10.5 in 2012.
A preview of a forthcoming native Linux version for Debian 6.0 “Squeeze” and Ubuntu 10.04 was made available on 12 July 2010, formerly restricted to Premium and Unlimited subscribers because of a problem with displaying ads; it is now available to all Spotify users. The preview release Linux version is unsupported. The Windows version can also be run on Linux and FreeBSD using Wine and the Spotify website has a section devoted to this topic.
A Spotify application for Android was demonstrated at Google I/O on 28 May 2009, and then an iPhone application was officially announced on 27 July 2009. Apple approved the iPhone app one month later on 27 August 2009. Spotify for WebOS was made available in the US via the App Catalog in mid July 2011 to coincide with Spotify’s US launch. The applications allow Premium subscribers to access the full music catalogue, stream music and even listen to music when disconnected using the Offline Mode (which is also available on the desktop version for premium users). The mobile versions of Spotify were released onto the iTunes App Store and Google’s Android Market on Monday 7 September 2009, while aSymbian version was made available on Spotify’s website on 23 November 2009. A version for Research in Motion’s BlackBerry smartphones is in development, on the 19th of October 2011, a preview release of the BlackBerry client was released. On the 4th of October 2010, Spotify launched an official client for the Windows Mobile platform, supporting many devices running Windows Mobile 6.0 or higher. mySpot was a freeware client that supported Windows Mobile. The mySpot 0.85b application provided access to the Spotify service on the Windows Mobile platform via an intermediate proxy. It required a QVGA, VGA or WVGA device running Windows Mobile Professional (Pocket PC) 6.0 or higher. It was discontinued and the service disabled several months before the official client was launched by Spotify. The Windows Phone 7 Spotify app was launched on the 07/11/2011 and is currently on version 1.1. The service is a competitor to the Zune functionality integrated within Windows Phone, both services offer wireless streaming and unlimited listening for a set monthly fee. The app requires a Spotify Premium account to use, although a free 48 hour trial is available.
- Spotify Launches In Australia (noise11.com)
- Spotify Launched In Australia And New Zealand (geeky-gadgets.com)
- Spotify For Linux Adds Tumblr Sharing, Playlist Radio Streams (omgubuntu.co.uk)
- Spotify Launches in Australia & New Zealand [Updates] (makeuseof.com)
- Spotify Now Available In 15 Countries Following Australia And New Zealand Rollout (cultofmac.com)
- Spotify Launches in Australia, New Zealand (pcmag.com)
- Spotify upgrades desktop app with Playlist Radio, Instant Search (techradar.com)
- Spotify For Mac Updated With Playlist-Based Radio, Instant Search, More Sharing Options (cultofmac.com)