A few weeks ago I began hearing about the Spotify streaming music service, apparently all the rage in Europe, arriving in the USA. Supposedly they have agreements with all of the major record labels to stream their music. They have Free accounts that include occasional text and spoken ads. They have Unlimited accounts ($4.95/mo.) that remove the ads. they have Premium accounts ($9.95/mo.) that add the ability to listen on mobile devices and to listen while offline, with some of their catalog streaming at 360kbps as opposed to the 180kbps offered for Free and Unlimited. The hook which allowed them to land the major labels is that they share revenue (from ads or subscriptions) with them.

To insure that their introduction to the USA went smoothly, they required invitations to obtain a Free account. I figured “what the heck” and requested one. About a bit over a week later I was listening. Their catalog is pretty dang good, though there are certainly gaps. The ads are not horribly intrusive but, once I got hooked on Spotify (and hooked I am) I had to spring for the $5/mo. and lose them.

Spotify is great for listening to that latest album by whoever. I often use it to indulge in the whims of my musical past. One way is to hit Wikipedia and search for “1967 in music” (fill the blank with your year of choice) and peruse the list of albums released in each month of the year. Listen to what tickles your fancy. Wikipedia is also great for spurring your memory to find other things you might want to listen to. Search for “Jefferson Airplane” and you’ll find links to related individuals and groups galore.

I plan to stay with the Unlimited account. I just don’t listen that often on my mobile device and when I want to I have plenty of music already there to choose from. I was tempted by the 360kbps bit rate, but (A) their are lots of complaints about the percent of Spotify’s catalog that is available at the higher bit rate and (B) I don’t know that I can hear the difference. I found (and unfortunately lost) a website that offered a side-by-side comparison of (I think) 160kbps and 320kbps streams. You could listen to each, switching back and forth, then you were supposed to guess which bit rate the mystery stream was offering. I flunked the quiz. I listen to music sometimes on my MacBook’s speakers, more often by streaming it to an Airport Express connected to my stereo. In either case, 180kpbs sounds fine to me.

I have been doing most of my music listening via Spotify for a couple of weeks now and I’m very happy. I have 18 days worth of music on my hard drive – it’s nice to not be gobbling up more of that space every time I want to hear something. Plus, I listen to things I wouldn’t necessarily want to purchase and download. When I signed up for Unlimited they gave me 5 invitations for Free accounts to pass out. I guess they let you go to the head of the line. I still have 4 of them if anyone is interested.