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All about Spotify: what it is, how to use it, Free vs. Premium

Christopher Park

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UpdatedMore information about Spotify plan, pricing, usage....

Spotify is one of the leading music apps used by millions around the world. You can enjoy endless streaming with a selection of over 50 million songs. It includes personalizing your own playlists and exploring new music by searching for new artists, songs, albums, and podcasts. 

It’s available for free or as ad-free, offline streaming with customized Premium Spotify plans for you or with friends and family. So let’s see what Spotify is and how you can use it.

All about Spotify: what it is, how to use it, Free vs. Premium
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What is Spotify?

Spotify is a digital music app that allows you to access over 50 million songs, music videos, and podcasts with a touch of a button. You’ll find music from an array of artists from around the world. 

You can listen to music across different devices like phones, tablets, computers, and laptops. The platform’s 200 million users can enjoy music and podcasts on multiple platforms, including Android, macOS, iOS, Windows 10, Android TV, and more. Spotify Connect enables you to transition from one device to another seamlessly so that you can access your library across multiple devices. 

spotify

How does Spotify work?

Listening to music and podcasts is super easy with just a few simples steps: 

  • Sign-up on the Spotify website. If you use your Facebook account to sign-up, connect with friends to share music and listen to what they’re listening to. 
  • Choose your specific Spotify plan. If you are happy with ads, try out the free version. If you would like a music experience with full access without interruptions, choose one of the Premium plans that best suits your listening needs. 
  • Download the app for your Android, Apple, or desktop device. 
  • Sign in with your details and enjoy the musical journey. 

The more music you listen to, the more the app recognizes what you like, so it will start recommending similar songs and artists. By discovering new music all the time, your Spotify playlist will never become overplayed.

Is Spotify free?

Yes, Spotify, with its basic functions, is completely free. You have full access to all music and podcasts, but there are paid adverts; you are unable to listen to music while offline, and you can’t download any music. 

If this is not for you, enjoy an upgrade to Spotify Premium. They offer a three-month free trial so that you can hear what it’s all about. 

What is Spotify Premium, and what does it include?

Spotify Premium is an upgraded version of the basic free music app. You can listen to high-quality music with:

  • No advert inteuptions, 
  • Unlimited skips between songs, 
  • Downloading music for offline, 
  • And travel abroad without losing your favorite songs. 

Spotify Premium plans and pricing: is it worth it?

Let’s take a moment to look at the various plans and what they entail.

  • Premium Individual: For $9.99 per month, enjoy Premium features for one account.
  • Premium Student: Enjoy 50% off Premium as a student for up to four years. For $4.99 for this plan, enjoy SHOWTIME and Hulu’s ad-supported plan as a free bonus. 
  • Premium Duo: For a couple, friends, or co-workers, get two independent accounts for $12.99 per month. Plus, enjoy access to a combined playlist with recommendations based on your music tastes with Duo Mix.
  • Premium Family: If you are a family that loves music, Premium Family offers six separate Spotify accounts for $15.99 per month.

For young children, the Family Plan offers singalongs and playlists specifically created for children. It comes with an explicit filter to protect the younger members of the family from explicit content. You’ll enjoy a Family Mix playlist created with a combination of everyone’s music. 

How to use Spotify, the definitive guide

Now that you have chosen the right plan for you, let’s dive into the definitive guide for using Spotify to create playlists, how to follow and share with others, and how to modify your searches for better-recommended content.

The basics

Spotify has two subscription types: one is free with ads, and the other is a Premium subscription for $9.99 per month. Included in the subscription price is offline playback (when you don’t have a data connection), no ads, and higher sound quality playback. If you’re a student, Spotify is offering a Premium account for $4.99.

spotify sign up

There are two ways to sign up for Spotify. The first is to use your Facebook account, which will post the music you listen to in your feed. The second is by creating a username and password through the website.

Once you sign up, you’re asked to download the desktop app. The app functions the same whether you’re on a PC or Mac. The “Welcome Screen” has the option to disable sharing to Facebook. If you’ve ever used iTunes or Amazon Music, the interface of Spotify is easy to understand. The area you’ll use the most is the Main sidebar on the left, which holds the app’s go-to functions.

The main section promotes music by Spotify so it’s a good place to start if you don’t know what you want to listen to.

spotify disable facebook sharing

Mobile apps

There are different restrictions for Spotify’s mobile apps. For Android, iOS, and Windows Phone, you can listen to music on Shuffle mode, but you can’t play specific songs unless you have a Premium account. You also only get to skip a song six times per hour, and are subjected to ads between songs.

spotify ios

Alternatively, on tablets you can listen to specific songs. You still have ads and other free subscription limits, but you’re able to listen to specific songs rather than just shuffle mode.

If you’re using Spotify Premium, you can also use Spotify Connect. This feature lets you play Spotify through supported devices like speakers or your laptop and using the app as the remote. If you use Spotify on Android, Google Now can show cards with your favorite playlists and new recommendations. Spotify also added Shazam support for premium subscribers. Connecting Shazam to Spotify will create a “My Shazam Tracks” playlist so you can listen to newly discovered music.

If you’re a PlayStation 3 or 4 owner, Spotify is available for download. You can play your favorite music inside supported games.

Download Spotify: Android | iOS | Windows Phone 7 | Windows Phone 8

Start playing music

If there’s a specific artist you want to listen to, enter it in the search bar. If that artist’s music is available, then you’ll be able to play it. In the free account, the basic quality of streaming works perfectly fine. Premium subscriptions stream at higher quality, but you probably won’t notice. While Spotify’s library is big, it doesn’t contain every single song or artist. A notable band that’s missing, for example, is The Beatles.

spotify search

You can save albums or songs to the Your Music section, making it’s easier to go back and listen again.

On the artist page, there is a section for Related Artists, which is a great way to discover more music. When you first start using Spotify, it might be a good idea to follow your favorite musicians. It will help in getting more recommendations.

spotify artist page

If you have Spotify Premium, you should immediately turn on High-Quality Streaming. Under Preferences, the section for Playback has the option to turn on high-quality streaming.

spotify high quality streaming

This option is also available in the mobile apps under Music Quality. The different quality levels are set as Normal (96 kbits/s), High (160kbits/s), and Extreme (320 kbits/s). Be aware that the higher bitrates use more data.

spotify ios music quality

Create playlists

spotify playlist

You may want to make a personalized playlist to fit certain moods, like when you’re working or exercising. Making playlists is simple: find the song you want, and either right-click on the song, or click on the three-dot option menu.

If you create a playlist first, you can drag-and-drop the song to that specific list on the left sidebar. If you want to save a playlist offline, you will need a Spotify Premium account.

You can also make collaborative playlists that friends can contribute to, something that may be great for trips or events. Right-click on the playlist and select Collaborative Playlist. Now you can send the link to the playlist to your friends. Another option is to make the playlist Secret so only you can view it.

spotify playlist

You can also create playlists through the mobile app, but the process requires a lot of different menus. It’s easier to create playlists in the app and sync them with your device.

spotify playlist ios

Local files

Spotify can also import local files from your computer. Go to Edit and then Preferences. Scroll down and you’ll see the section for Local Files.

spotify local files

Spotify will automatically import music from iTunes and Windows Media folders. If you have music stored somewhere else, you can use Add Source to import your songs. Unfortunately, you don’t get extended artist information. Local files serve as a simple media player in the app.

One nice feature is the ability to sync your local files with the mobile app so that you can use offline playback, but you’ll need the Premium account to do that. If you’re going to sync with iOS, you can either connect to the computer through USB or sync via Wi-Fi if both devices are on the same wireless network.

Modify search for more relevant results

Searching in Spotify works well if you’re looking for broad results, but common terms will have irrelevant hits. Add modifiers like “artist: (artist name)” for specific musicians and “year: (range of years)” for specific results. Spotify will also recognize “And,” “Not,” and “Or” in search queries.

Follow bands or friends

If your friends are on Spotify, ask for their username and follow them. You’ll see updates in the right sidebar of what they’re listening to. You can also follow bands or brands to discover more music. The bands you follow will be displayed under Your Music and Artists.

spotify related artists

You can use a search modifier to look for friends on Spotify too. Use Spotify:user:[username] in the search box.

Listen privately

spotify private

If you don’t want your Spotify activity shared, you can start a Private Session. Click on your user name in the upper right corner and click on Private Session. This action only works as long as the app is open. If you restart the app, then the private session will be turned off.

If you want to make all your Spotify activity private, go to Preferences and the Activity Sharing section. Uncheck Privacy to stop sharing activity on Spotify.

spotify activity sharing

Create a Radio station

The Radio feature creates playlists based on an artist, song, music genre, or mood. While it probably won’t have all your favorite songs at first, it’s a good way to curate a great playlist.

You can choose from the recommended stations, or create your own by clicking on Create New Station and entering information about the music you want.

create radio station

Spotify’s search engine does a decent job at finding relevant music, but it works best for mainstream popular music. To improve the results, you’ll need to like or dislike songs, and the station will better personalize the station.

Add apps

Spotify apps add another way to find new music or expand the functionality of the desktop app. A lot of the apps are playlists or discovery engines, but there are also apps to show you when bands are on tour, get song lyrics, or even karaoke. The most relevant apps are probably scrobbling apps like Last.fm, which keep track of the music that you’ve listened to in the app. Musixmatch is integrated with Spotify on desktop so you can get lyrics whenever you want.

spotify musixmatch

If you want to delete an app, right-click on its name and the option Remove will appear.

Create playlist group folders

Since most functions of Spotify are in the left sidebar, it can quickly become flooded with apps and playlists. One solution is to combine playlists within a Playlist folder. Go to File and select New Playlist Folder. Name your playlist and then drop-and-drag playlists into the folder. Hover the mouse over the folder icon and it will become an arrow. When you click on it, your saved playlists will display.

spotify new playlist folder

You can also create dividers within the playlist area to separate playlists by creating an empty playlist. Using “-” and Spotify will create a divider that you can drag-and-drop where you want.

Share with your friends

If you find a great song or create a special playlist, you can share it on other social networks like Facebook, Twitter, or Tumblr. You can also post within Spotify or send it directly to a friend on Spotify. Sharing is simple, right-click on the track or playlist and you will see the Share. If you signed up to Spotify with Facebook, you can share without any added steps. For Twitter or Tumblr, you’ll need to add your login information.

Send To… will send a message directly to your friend.

spotify share

Another way to share through a messenger app or email is to drag the song from Spotify into the text field. This will create a link that opens the song for your friends.

Embed or link songs on other sites

spotify embed options

Spotify has two ways to link from Spotify to other sites. To get the codes, right-click on a track and you will see the different options.

The first is a hyperlink. There are two different ways to link: through a website url or a Spotify URI. The website link (example: http://open.spotify.com/track/0txZeFLQXDo0RSEubMr12b) will open a browser then redirect to open the app. This is best for sharing when directly messaging a friend. The Spotify URI (example: spotify:track:0txZeFLQXDo0RSEubMr12b) will open Spotify directly.

You can even link to a specific part of a song by using the Spotify URI. Take the URI and add “#[Time]” to the end.
Example: spotify:track:0txZeFLQXDo0RSEubMr12b#1:00 will take you to the one minute mark in the song.

The embed code is designed to display a player within a webpage to play inside a page.

Embedding songs is tailored for websites so people can quickly preview a track that’s available on the service.

Mute ads in free subscription

The free subscription plays ads between songs. There’s no way to skip them but there are ways to mute the ads until they are finished playing. Windows has Blockify. It will mute ads and can play your MP3s instead. For Mac, try Spotifree. Download the app and move it into your Applications folder.

Overwhelming at first

Spotify’s main goal is to get music in your ears. Using the free version of Spotify is good for casual listeners who enjoy background music at their computer, but it’s less useful with the mobile app, which benefits quite a lot from the $9.99 Premium subscription. While the most useful feature of the paid subscription is ad removal, the ability to stream in higher quality and save music for offline playback is nice.

spotify f(x) red light

Once you’ve spent hours curating your music within Spotify, you probably won’t want to leave because you’ll have everything set up. The app is easy to use and the only real drawback is that more obscure music isn’t available in Spotify’s music library. While that problem is easily resolved with local files, it may not be reason enough to join if you already have another solution.

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