What is Spotify and How Does It Work?

Chances are that you've heard of Netflix, the popular website that allows you to stream movies and television shows (i.e. watch them as they load from the Internet) whenever you want, and as often as you want.  Now, wouldn't it be cool if you could do the same thing with music, listening to whatever songs you wanted, as often as you wanted, and as many times as you wanted?

Swedish entrepreneurs Daniel Ek and Martin Lorentzon thought so, and that's why they created Spotify.com in 2008.   Since then, Spotify has quickly become one of the most popular services of its kind.  As of June of 2015, Spotify had over 75 million users listening to the music that they love through it.

So what exactly is Spotify?

Spotify is what is known as a music streaming service.  This means that it plays songs off the Internet as they load through the Spotify application.  You can also create playlists of songs that you like, or create "radio stations" based on music that you already like to discover more music that you might enjoy.

The songs on Spotify aren't actually on your computer (with some exceptions), which is a blessing and a curse.  It's a blessing because your songs can't get deleted or go missing, since Spotify is always in control of them.  However, it's also a curse because you can only play the songs in the Spotify application; you can't play them anywhere else, or move them to another device (unless that device also has Spotify on it).  We'll explain more in our How to Download Music from Spotify article.

Why use Spotify?

  • It's free -- You don't have to pay for Spotify if you don't want to.  You can get a paid subscription, though, to get extra features such as higher sound quality and being able to listen to certain songs without an Internet connection.

  • It's modular -- Spotify works on all sorts of devices.  You can use it on your Windows or Apple desktop computer if you listen to music most often at home.  You can also put it on your iPad, iPhone, BlackBerry, Windows Phone, or Android-powered smart phone if you want your tunes on the go.  You can even put it on your PlayStation video game console!

  • It's customizable -- Add songs that you like to your collection, and then put them in playlists of songs that go well together.  You can also pick a song, artist, album, or playlist that you like and have Spotify play random songs that are similar.  Rate what you hear, and Spotify will play more of what you like and less of what you don't!

  • It's social -- Follow your favourite artists on Spotify and be among the first to listen to their new tunes, or check out music mixes put together by your friends and other Spotify users.  You can even share your Spotify listening habits on other social networks, such as Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr!

How does Spotify work?  4 steps to enjoying music on Spotify

1. Head over to the Spotify website, and sign up for a free Spotify account.

The first step to using Spotify is to get yourself an account.  This lets Spotify identify you as a unique user.  You can sign up using your Facebook account, or you can sign up with plain old email.  Just enter a user name and password, your email address (and a copy of it), your date of birth, and your gender.  Then click Sign Up and you're set!

Signing up for Spotify with your email address

Our How to Sign Up for Spotify tutorial will cover the process in a bit more detail.

2. Purchase a subscription to Spotify Premium to get the most out of Spotify (optional).

You can use Spotify for free, but your options for using it will be somewhat limited.  For example, you will see advertisements in the application, and hear advertisements between songs.  You will also not be able to download your playlists of songs in order to listen to them even if Spotify isn't connected to the Internet.

A Spotify Premium subscription costs $10 per month.  However, Spotify has various promotions that allow you to subscribe for a period of time for free (or almost free), or even cut the cost of your subscription in half.

Getting a reduced-cost trial of Spotify Premium

Our How Much Does Spotify Cost article has the lowdown on Spotify Premium, including how to sign up for it and how to take advantage of various discounts for it.

3. Download and install the free Spotify application on your device of choice.

You can use Spotify to listen to music right on the website, but the easiest way to use it is probably to download the Spotify application and install it.  If you think you'll use Spotify mostly on your desktop computer, you can get the Spotify application right off the website.  Or, if you want to use Spotify on the go, you can get the application on your iPad/iPhone or Android-powered smart phone through the Apple App Store or Google Play, respectively.

Downloading Spotify for a mobile device

Our How to Download and Install Spotify tutorial will show you how to get the application for all three of these types of devices.

4.  Enjoy as much music as you want on Spotify, however you want to listen to it!

The remainder of our course tutorials (i.e. excluding our "Extra Resources" section) will teach you how to use the essential features of Spotify.  Our How to Use Spotify tutorial will show you some of the basic features of the application.  How you use Spotify from there is up to you!

  • Want to find a specific song, artist, album, or user on Spotify?  Check out our Spotify Search tutorial!

    Searching for a song, album, or artist on Spotify

  • Want to create your own custom music mix of your favourite songs?  Our Spotify Playlists tutorial has you covered!

    Creating a Spotify playlist

  • Feel like having Spotify make you a random music mix based on songs and artists that you already like?  Head over to our Spotify Radio tutorial!

    Creating a Spotify radio station

 

As you see, Spotify can be used for free, is available on all sorts of different platforms, and offers you several different options for discovering and managing your favourite music.  No wonder it's one of the most popular music streaming services on the Internet today!  So, does Spotify sound intriguing to you (no pun intended)?  Then stick with us as we dig a little deeper into what you're capable of doing with Spotify in the rest of our Spotify course.  For now, we'll next be going over Spotify's pros and cons.

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More Spotify Tutorials

See all 19 Spotify tutorials

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