Spotify, the most popular music streaming service in Europe, is now available in the United States! First introduced in late 2008 to seven countries in Europe, Spotify allows users to access a library of over 15 million songs and organize them into playlists, share them with friends, and listen to “radio stations” that play music based on a user’s taste. Currently, Spotify is 10 million users strong, 1.6 million of those being paid subscribers.
You can sign up for one of three tiers when creating an account. Those being free, unlimited, and premium. Spotify Free users will have a listening cap (starting 6 months from now; unlimited until then), and will have to sit through some ads. The unlimited plan goes for $4.99 a month, and allows for unlimited access and no ads. The premium plan goes for a reasonable $9.99 per month, and includes the features of the Unlimited plan, plus unlimited access on your mobile devices and an offline mode for playlists.
Before you start scrambling for a free account, you should know that there is currently a small catch. Namely, you have to have an invitation to get in. You can get on the mail list for invitations by visiting http://www.spotify.com/us/hello-america/. If you happen to know somebody that is signing up for a premium account, you can beg them for one of their 5 invites that they can give out. I repeat, you only need an invite if you want a free account.
The launch of Spotify in the U.S. follows a vicious battle between Spotify and major record companies. This is what prevented them from letting people in the U.S. join since the initial release of Spotify in October of 2008. Spotify now claims successful negotiation with four major record companies, giving them the rights to share 15 million tracks with users. Obviously, the artists have to get paid for their hard work, and Spotify paid out $60 million in royalties just last year.
What does Spotify mean for the pay-per-download music market that companies such as Apple and Amazon run? Well, there are clashing views. Many music industry executives believe that the music download market will still stand strong for years to come, while other critics see Spotify as the end of the music download business.
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