All You Need to Know About Spotify’s U.S. Launch

Swedish award-winning music streaming service Spotify has announced that it will launch in the U.S. July 14, 2011. The service that was exclusive to the UK, is music streaming service with tons of buzz behind it. Pricing will be $4.99 a month for streaming on the web and $9.99 a month for streaming to your mobile device. According to the report, Spotify U.S. will have an invite-only free, ad-supported service, with a $4.99-per-month ad-free version and the full “premium” experience, including mobile access, costing $9.99. Once you get in you’ll have access to a library of 15 million songs, which you can enjoy for free with ads, $5 a month with no ads, or $10 a month to include your mobile and higher bit rates in the mix — right in line with services like Rdio and MOG, except for that sweet, sweet ad-supported option. Oh, and let’s not forget Spotify’s real killer feature: a truly great native application for Mac and Windows.

Users can access approximately 15 million tracks (growing by approximately 10,000 tracks per day) 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 at this time. Additionally, some artists are missing in certain regions due to licensing restrictions imposed by the record labels. For example, Oasis and Led Zeppelin are currently unavailable to listeners from United Kingdom-based IP addresses. However, cover versions of the music of these artists can be found on Spotify with a full-text search.

Users can also 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.\

In addition, the application features Last.fm integration which allows the current track to be "scrobbled" without making use of the Last.fm software. 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.

Spotify provides a fantastic music streaming service, but it faces a number of challenges in the American market. While the company had relatively little competition in Europe as a subscription service, in the United States a number of similar companies have gotten a head start, including Rhapsody, Rdio andMOG. Like those services, Spotify allows its premium users to save a certain number of tracks to their phones for offline use, in the subway or on the plane. And new cloud services from Apple, Google and Amazon promise to make people’s music collections available anywhere they go. Whether the company makes a profit is another question. It lost $26.5 million in 2009, but it has not reported on its financial performance for last year.

Spotify’s speed offers the company one significant advantage over its American competitors. But its crucial selling point has been its free access, which the company believes can lure in new users, who then get attached to its playlisting and social networking features and will be enticed to join.
That reliance on free access, however, has also worried American record labels and some analysts, who fear that it could cannibalize sales from other sources, like iTunes.

In fact, Spotify’s greatest advantage in the United States is Facebook. The service is already closely integrated with Facebook, so that users can easily share songs with friends and play with features like drag-and-drop playlists. Spotify is also one of several digital music services that has been in talks with Facebook to help it develop an extensive media platform that could instantly raise its profile here.

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