It's here, everyone, it's here! After months of building Internet hype, the new Swedish music streaming service that has taken Europe by storm has finally launched in the United States after being delayed by all the legal difficulties that come with listening to music these days. Get the details!
What is Spotify?
Spotify is kind of like the rapture, if heaven is music: Once you sign up (which I guess would be ascending to heaven in this analogy...?) you'll basically have access to, um, all the music—all of it, like if clicking the preview button on the iTunes Store let you listen to the whole song and then automatically made a playlist for you of all the artist's other songs to listen to.
Sure, you can find tracks on Hype Machine and sites like that, but Spotify gives you the world of popular music at your fingertips. The sidebar on their website quotes Mark Zuckerberg as saying "Spotify is so good," so you know it must be so good, because he's rich or something.
One notable thing that Spotify doesn't do: It won't make playlists for you, like Pandora or iTunes' Genius, so you'll have to take the wheel with your listening.
How much does it cost?
There are three plans: The free one (the one we care about), and two paid plans. With free access you can stream up to 20 hours per month, which is plenty if you're just using it to supplement your iTunes or whatever you used to listen to music in the Time Before Spotify (listening to tracks you already have on your computer doesn't count against your limit). A short ad will play every few songs, just like on Pandora.
A $4.99 per month "Unlimited" plan disables the ads and monthly time limit, while a $9.99 per month "Premium" plan grants you access to Spotify's cell phone apps and offline mode as well as vaguely-defined "Enhanced sound quality" and "Exclusive content" (emphasis in original). These are cheaper than the original UK plans, which are £4.99 and £9.99 (about $8 and $16) monthly.
How do I get Spotify?
Ah, the million dollar question! Free accounts are invite-only at this point, so if you don't know anyone already using it you can put down your email address at Spotify.com and wait for an invite. On the off chance that you already have a European account, it's easy to switch over by updating your account settings. People signing up for paid accounts can join right away.