Spotify logo on a smartphone next to truly wireless earbuds
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Spotify is an online music streaming service. Spotify has a free, ad-supported version anyone can use. The service also are also premium tiers that add additional perks, like ad-free listening, offline downloads, unlimited skips, and higher quality streams.

With so many streaming services available, it can be difficult to know what each has to offer. Spotify is one of the biggest names in streaming. We’ll explain what it is and whether you need to pay for it.

What is Spotify?

Spotify was founded in 2006 by Daniel Ek and Martin Lorentzon in Stockholm, Sweden. This was at a time when file-sharing services were very popular. A lot of people were illegally downloading music for free.

The founders of Spotify wanted to “create a service that was better than piracy and at the same time compensates the music industry.” That was the main idea behind the service: Make it so easy to buy music that people will prefer it over piracy.

The easiest way to think of Spotify is the “Netflix of music.” Rather than paying for each and every song or album individually, you get access to everything for a monthly fee. However, unlike Netflix, you don’t have to pay for Spotify. More on that later.

Spotify app.

Spotify isn’t just about songs and albums, though. A huge part of the Spotify experience is playlists. Spotify creates personalized “Made for You” playlists based on your listening history and favorite artists and songs. Many of these playlists are updated every day to stay fresh.

All Spotify users can create their own playlists as well. That means you can make your own, but also, you can find playlists made by other users. If you prefer a more passive listening experience, playlists are a great way to go.

In short, Spotify is like many streaming services, but it was one of the first to pioneer the concept. There are other music streaming services out there, but Spotify’s playlists and catalog of podcasts make it a very popular option.

RELATED: Streaming Music? You Should Be Making Your Own Playlists

Is Spotify Free?

Yes, Spotify is free. As mentioned, you don’t have to pay to use Spotify if you don’t want to. However, there are some limitations that come with using the free version of Spotify.

First and foremost, the free version has ads. You will hear a brief ad every few tracks. Occasionally, you’ll get the option to listen to a longer ad to get an extended ad-free period.

The second catch is how you can listen to music. With the desktop app, you can listen to pretty much anything you want at any time. However, the mobile app has limits. You can listen to the aforementioned “Made for You” playlists however you want, but everything else has to be listened to on shuffle. You can’t open an album and play a specific song.

If you primarily listen to the personalized “Made for You” playlists, the free tier isn’t that bad. The ads aren’t super intrusive, and you can still listen to other music, just not in the order of your choice.

RELATED: Why Is It Called Spotify?

How Much is Spotify Premium?

Spotify plans.

What if you don’t want to deal with all the ads and limitations that come with the free tier? Spotify has four different “Premium” subscriptions you can buy (pricing as of August 2022):

  • Individual: One account for $9.99 per month.
  • Duo: Two accounts for $12.99 per month.
  • Family: Up to six accounts for $15.99 per month.
  • Student: One account for $4.99 per month (must prove you attend an accredited higher education institution).

What does that get you? As you might expect, you won’t have to hear any more ads. That’s a big perk. You can also listen to any song, album, artist, or playlist at any time in any order with unlimited skips. No more forced shuffle mode.

One of the best features of a Premium subscription is offline downloads. You can download songs, albums, or playlists so they’re available for listening without an internet connection. It’s also a great way to save on data.

Lastly, you can also listen to higher-quality audio streams. Songs are streamed at 96kbps on mobile and 160kbps on your computer with the free plan. With Premium, you can listen to songs at up to 320kbps, which is very close to CD-quality audio.

RELATED: How to Stream Higher Quality Music on Spotify

That’s the story on Spotify. It was created to get people away from illegally downloading music, but many artists still aren’t happy with how they get paid from Spotify. You can use Spotify for free or get more features with a paid plan. It’s simply one of many services you can use for music.

RELATED: Why I (Almost) Quit Spotify for Napster

Profile Photo for Joe Fedewa Joe Fedewa
Joe Fedewa is a Staff Writer at How-To Geek. He has been covering consumer technology for over a decade and previously worked as Managing Editor at XDA-Developers. Joe loves all things technology and is also an avid DIYer at heart. He has written thousands of articles, hundreds of tutorials, and dozens of reviews.
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