Since its launch in 2008, Spotify has led the streaming revolution with confidence. Its model has shifted and evolved over the years, but the motto has stayed the same – “music for everyone” – and it remains one of the only streaming services that still offers a free, ad-supported subscription tier alongside its premium service.
Though the idea of music for nothing remains popular with a whole generation of music fans, the concept still divides artists. Taylor Swift recently removed her albums from Spotify, but left some on services where a free tier is not an option. Others have questioned the royalty payments – Tidal claims to pay artists three times the amount Spotify does per stream.
But as the biggest and longest running streaming service out there, Spotify has managed to secure many an exclusive over the years, giving it an enviable catalogue of over 30 million songs – significantly more than competing services.
Spotify’s interface has had a lick of paint since we last looked at it, with some welcome additions such as the ‘Your Music’ section, for storing favourite songs, albums and artists, as well as playlists which can now be synced to mobile.
The Browse page is a well-maintained section that throws up context-based playlists, constantly updated charts and new releases for your attention, as well as content based on tracks you’ve previously listened to.
We found the latter generally contained rather dated suggestions – older albums from artists when newer ones were available – but it’s a handy tool for music discovery nonetheless.
Spotify has a big social element to it, with the ability to connect your social networks to see what friends are listening to, collaborate on playlists, follow artists to be kept up to date with new music added, not to mention share your listening habits too. The latter can be controlled through the service’s privacy settings though, so your penchant for power ballads can remain a secret if you wish.
As well as the above there’s Spotify Running mode (which serves up music appropriate to your workout) and Originals, which promises exclusive tracks and curated ‘radio shows’.
For now that update is only available on Apple iPhones but it’s due to be rolled out to other platforms soon.
More after the break
The free subscription tier allows users to shuffle any artist or playlist, on a laptop or mobile device. Adverts crop up every few songs, but you do have the ability to skip a song six times per hour.
After that, you’re stuck with Spotify’s algorithms until the next hour. The sound quality is capped at 160kbps and you’ll need to be connected to a home or mobile internet connection at all times.
Take the step into Premium and you’ll get much improved 320kbps streams, offline listening, the freedom to search and skip tracks and of course, no adverts. There’s no lossless option as yet, but with rivals such as Tidal now offering lossless in their premium services, Spotify shouldn’t be too far behind.
For now, its 320kbps streams offer decent detail levels and a tonally balanced presentation. There’s more space, punch and nuance to its lossless competitors though, and it sounds altogether less refined in comparison.
It’s half the price of those services though, and if you’re not bothered by lossless sound quality, sticking with Spotify still has plenty of plus points over other 320kbps services.
Not only is it available on the widest number of platforms and offers one of the best catalogues and user interfaces going, Spotify Connect is included in equipment from the likes of Sony, Onkyo, Yamaha, LG and Samsung, allowing you to play your music directly through TVs, speakers or stereos – again, for premium customers only.
Deals and partnerships like these give the service added value, and as one of the biggest names in the streaming world, they will continue to attract above other services.
Accessibility, ease of use and content – Spotify has it all and then some. It’s no wonder that some competitors have come and gone in the time Spotify has been around, and it doesn’t show any signs of stopping any time soon.
As an all round service, Spotify is hard to beat.