Mar 15, 2016 04:15PM ● Published by Caitlin Marshall
Music buying on the whole is declining thanks to streaming services like Spotify, which gives subscribers instant access to millions of songs for the cost of one CD a month, via internet. Whether or not this is good or bad for music artists is a great debate. If Spotify is unfamiliar to you, here are the big questions to fill in what you’ve been missing about the streaming service.
What is it? Spotify was launched in 2008 and has completely changed the way people listen to music ever since. By allowing users to play music directly from the cloud—rather than by downloading it first—Spotify became wildly popular, and as a startup, it gave entrenched music industry players like Apple’s iTunes a run for their money. Part of the allure for Spotify’s users is that the service (currently) boasts more than 30 million tracks, and has pretty much every song you’d ever want to listen to. Another attractive feature is that people can use Spotify for free, though that experience is interrupted by ads, doesn’t have high-definition quality, and mobile phone users can’t just play any song they want (though they can skip five songs per hour). Soon, Spotify plans to add an entirely new service to its repertoire—video. The company recently announced it will start to stream video clips. But it’s not competing with the likes of Hulu and Netflix, yet. Instead it will have content similar to what you’d find on YouTube’s channels, such as video podcasts and online-only programs.
How do I use it? Spotify runs on all manner of smartphones, tablets, PCs, and even television-connected set top boxes (including gaming consoles). While Spotify has different capabilities on all of these platforms, each are centered on playing music (and now…videos). For instance, Spotify’s mobile app, available on everything from Android to Windows phone, is all about the tunes, from singles to albums. Meanwhile, the PC version is a platform unto itself, with companion apps for everything from song lyrics to visualizers. Set top box versions of Spotify aren’t particularly easy to use or feature-laden, which makes them a good accessory for mobile or PC users, but they don’t make good primary interfaces.
Who uses it? A better question to ask is…who doesn’t? Reaching 58 countries worldwide from Andorra to Uruguay, Spotify has 60 million active users, 20% of whom pay for the service. Compared to Pandora’s almost 80 million actives, Spotify would seem like the underdog, but Pandora only has 3.5 million paying customers. A major part of the service, it lets users share with friends everything from favorite playlists to tracks they’re currently listening to, through social media. This, in turn, helps with music discovery. And according to data polled by Spotify and The Echo Nest, the age of when people stop listening promiscuously is 33. So, maybe this new way of listening is working—it seems to be keeping interest in new music for people who otherwise wouldn’t have access to a wide variety of artists and genres.