How It Works: Spotify
Deconstructing the phenomenon
Spotify is a streaming program which lets users listen to music online for free. There are currently about 3.8 million tracks available to a user base of over one million. You can ‘stream’ as many tracks as you like, and unlike the download sites which have caused so much trouble in recent years it’s completely legal.
It was launched for public use in late 2008, founded by Daniel Ek and Martin Lorentzon and developed by a team working in Stockholm, where the research and development departments are still based. Its headquarters are in London. It’s available in Sweden, Norway, Finland, the UK, France and Spain, and plans for further expansion are in the works.
It’s legal because they’ve struck deals with pretty much all the major labels and an ever-increasing number of smaller independents. Spotify pays for the right to distribute music, funding itself through advertisements and subscription charges.
A playlist feature allows users to create playlists and share and edit them with other users, and a ‘radio’ feature can be used to generate random playlists based on particular genres and decades. There’s also a link, which lets you buy most of the commercially available tracks.
There are a couple of drawbacks. Unless you pay for Premium membership (currently 99p for a day pass or £9.99 for a month) you have to listen to adverts at periodic intervals between songs. Unlike with downloading, you can’t save music onto your computer or MP3 player – you can only listen online. It’s also restricted to personal, non-commercial use, so cafés and shops etc can’t use it on their business premises.