Last summer music lovers in the U.S. were excited by the release of Swedish based online music player, Spotify, to American users. Memberships were highly sought after because you couldn’t just sign up, you had to have an invitation extended to you. Klout offered users some of the first available accounts through their Perks program and then little by little, people were able to score memberships off of invitations from others. Spotify came with a strong social component, the ability to share what you are listening to with your Facebook friends.
Spotify users were given free accounts with very little restrictions, you just had to tolerate their ads that ran after every 3-4 songs. But the free status wasn’t meant to last. After six months, according to the Spotify terms, a free account would have severe limitations. Only 10 hours of streaming a month broken into 2.5 hours a week plus limitations how many times you could listen to a song. It looks like all those perks that everyone are used to may no longer be available unless you upgrade to a paid subscription. However, so far, those free subscriptions are still running they way always have. Case in point, my six months should have been up on January 14, but here we are a month a bit later and Spotify has yet to restrict my access.
At some point though, Spotify will reign in it’s content and when that happens, you can either upgrade to a $5 or $10 a month subscription or you can take your ears elsewhere. Here are a few suggestions for other services that are still free…sort of.
Rdio is a free music player with no ads. The catch? They don’t tell you how long you can listen before you’re cut off! From the people behind Skype, Rdio is very similar to Spotify. A large track library (12 million), desktop app, on-demand music, playlists that can be made and then shared on social networks. So what happens when your time runs out? Upgrade, baby! $5 for unlimited streaming, $10 for unlimited plus mobile access, and for $18 you can get two unlimited accounts, one for you and one for a family member. Or you can wait and use something else until the next month rolls around and your free time resets.
(Another ad free but limited play option is MOGFreePlay. It is similar to Rdio and Spotify BUT, it’s not yet available in the U.S.!)
Grooveshark has many of the same features as Spotify such as social sharing (you actually have more sharing options on Grooveshark than on Spotify) and the ability to create, share and subscribe to playlists. It’s actually the best alternative to Spotify because of the similarity of it’s features. The drawbacks though are a track library that is only half of what Spotify has (7 million tracks verses the 15 million on Spotify), user uploaded content which means inconsistent playback quality, and their desktop application is only available with premium accounts. Yes, they have premium accounts, too. Grooveshark Plus for $6/months means no ads, Grooveshark Anywhere for $9/month means no ads, access to the desktop app, and the ability to use Grooveshark on your smartphone.
Many people swear by Pandora as their online music player of choice. It’s the “Music Genome Project” that can intuitively figure out what kind of music you like based on the music you’re already listening to and an algorithm of thumbs up/down ratios. Simply pick an artist that you like and then let Pandora work its magic. It’s free, with ads and certain limitations or, of course, you can pay $36/year for no ads and a few more perks including access to their desktop app. Pandora is not terribly social (you can share on Facebook and Twitter but it’s not an automatic update) and has less than 1 million songs in it’s library. You can’t choose want you want to listen to, it chooses for you but you can follow the stations of others or pre-defined stations. One particularly unique perk is the inclusion of lyrics, when available, on the playback page.
Yes, it’s kind of clunky. You have to search through a lot user uploaded content to find what you want. But, it’s always free, there are no listening limitations (expect maybe your own bandwidth), you can create playlists, you can share socially, and you can even watch the video if you want!
So, with this information in hand, if/when your Spotify account is restricted, what will you do? Will you upgrade or will you find another way to listen to your favorites for free?