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What is Spotify? Here's everything you need to know in 2022

Spotify offers access to millions of songs. Here's how it works, what it costs, and how it compares to the competition.
By
March 14, 2022
OnePlus 7T music playback spotify

It has been almost 15 years since Spotify first launched in 2008. Much has changed since, and today the platform is among the most popular music streaming services, with a considerable lead over other options like Apple Music and Tidal.

Read also: The best Spotify tips to get more out of your account

But what exactly is Spotify, what does it offer, and is it worth your hard-earned money? This guide serves as the place to find answers to all of your Spotify questions. Let’s get into it!

What is Spotify?

Spotify menu on a smartphone in a person's hand

Spotify is a digital music streaming service. It gives you instant access to its vast online library of music and podcasts, allowing you to listen to any content of your choice at any time. It is both legal and easy to use.

You will find millions of songs from a variety of genres and artists: from obscure indie rock, to top 40 pop, to movie soundtracks and classical music. It also has a complex algorithm to recommend music based on your listening history, as well as curated playlists and internet radio stations.

Podcasts are just as plentiful, so whether you love listening to true crime stories or to tech discussions, there is something for everyone. In fact, the company is investing heavily in podcast content, purchasing podcasting networks Gimlet Media and Parcast. It even dropped over $100 million on an exclusive multi-year deal with the Joe Rogan Experience.

Best of all, you can use Spotify completely free of charge. The service has a Premium subscription plan, but you can also enjoy an ad-supported version of the platform without spending a cent. To better understand the differences, check out the Spotify Free vs Spotify Premium section of this article.

Also read: How to access Spotify Wrapped and get more Spotify stats

Is Spotify free?

The basic, ad-supported version of Spotify is completely free. It offers unlimited access to the full catalog of music and podcasts but comes with a few drawbacks.

The most intrusive are frequent ad breaks. These can really kill your groove if you’re listening at a party. You’re also limited to just a few song skips, and audio quality is slightly lower at 160kbit/s.

Why upgrade to Spotify Premium?

Subscribing to Spotify Premium is a great way to get rid of pesky ads, but there is more to the paid version of the service than you might expect. Here is why Spotify Premium might be worth it for you.

  • No advertisements anywhere: this includes both audio and banner ads.
  • Better audio quality: if you are an audiophile, Spotify Premium’s upgrade from 160kbit/s to 320kbit/s could be well worth it.
  • Downloading songs (sort of): Spotify Premium allows you to download songs for offline listening. If you cancel your subscription, however, you will no longer have access to them.
  • Unlimited skipping and no forced shuffling on the mobile app. The free version of Spotify shuffles all playlists and even adds single tracks to shuffled playlists, while only giving you six skips per hour. This only happens on the mobile apps, but it’s frustrating regardless. With Spotify Premium, however, you can skip to your heart’s content.
  • Ad-supported Hulu access: You can have this bonus feature if you live in the US.

How does Spotify work?

google pixel 4 xl revisited spotify
Oliver Cragg / Android Authority

If you are yet to give Spotify a try, there is no better time than now. All you really need is an internet connection and a Spotify account. Here is how to create one:

  • Open the Spotify sign up page on your PC or your mobile browser. You will be asked to enter a valid email address, create a password, and choose a username. You will also be required to enter your date of birth and gender. Once you’ve done that click the green Sign up button.
  • You can then choose a subscription level. If you are new to Spotify, you can test Premium for three months for free. We recommend giving it a try because it offers a ton of perks you won’t find on the free version.
  • All that is left is to download and install the free Spotify app. There is a desktop program and of course an Android app. Once you have installed the Spotify app, you can start listening on the device of your choice. Your listening history and playlists will be available and synced across devices. If you don’t want to use applications, you can also listen to Spotify in a browser tab through the Spotify web player

Be warned that the audio quality dips a bit for both paid and subscription versions of the service when using the web player versus the Spotify app. Spotify Free will max out at 128kbit/s on the web player, with Premium only reaching 256kbit/s.

Discovering Spotify music and playlists

Spotify browsing
Spotify

But what about finding music and fun podcasts? Once your Spotify account is set up, your home page is your gateway to discovery. You can browse popular playlists, including top hits from your country, and more. Scrolling down will reveal suggested mood playlists, popular albums, trending hits, podcasts to try, etc.

The more music you listen to, the more customized the experience will become. Once you’ve used Spotify for a while, you will have a Recently played section with all the songs and playlists you enjoy on a regular basis, a Based on your recent listening section with recommendations and Your heavy rotation with the songs you play the most. Daily Mix playlists will also be generated based on your listening activity. You can find them in the Made for you section of your home page.

If you don’t like the generated playlists, however, you can create your own. Doing so is incredibly easy. On desktop, simply click the Create Playlist option on the sidebar, or visit Your Library in the Spotify app to find the option there. Make sure you give your playlist an appropriate name because you will be given suggestions based on it. For example, naming a playlist 80s rock will give you Twister Sister, Guns and Roses, Bon Jovi, and other popular 80s rock artists’ tracks as recommendations.

Spotify creating a playlist screenshot

Don’t worry about finding every single song you want to add when creating the playlist. You can add extra songs later by just tapping or clicking on the three dots menu button next to a song and selecting Add to Playlist. If you really enjoy a playlist created by someone else, on the other hand, you can heart it so it appears in your playlist section too.

You can also avoid making playlists altogether if themed collections are not your thing. Hearting songs will automatically save them to your Liked Songs where you can find them at any time. Following artists directly is an option too. Doing so will notify you when your favorites release new content.

How much is Spotify Premium?

While ad-supported Spotify is always free, the standard Spotify Premium plan costs $9.99 per month in the US, €9.99 in Europe and £9.99/month in the UK.

There are no price discounts when paying bi-yearly or yearly, but you can save some money if you choose the Spotify Premium Family plan. It costs only $15.99/month for six separate Premium accounts that can be used by family members living under the same roof. If you’re a couple, you can pay a little less for a shared Spotify Duo account for $12.99. College students also pay less, with up to 50% off.

Does Spotify come with Hulu?

If you’re in the United States, a Spotify Premium subscription includes access to ad-supported Hulu free of charge. This represents a savings of $5.99 a month. Learn more about Hulu and its pricing plans at the link below.

Learn more: What is Hulu?

Is Spotify available in my country?

Spotify menu on a smartphone on a bed of rocks

Unlike some of its competitors, Spotify is available in many countries around the globe. If you live in Europe or North America, you are in luck: Spotify is available almost everywhere on these two continents. However, there still are some major gaps in Spotify’s coverage. The service is not currently available in Russia or in South Korea, for example. You can check out the full list of countries where Spotify is available here.

Spotify alternatives

While Spotify is still the leader when it comes to music streaming, it’s far from the only option available. Nowadays there are tons of great options, some of which offer additional features and larger music catalogs.

Read also: The most popular music streaming platform isn’t Spotify

We’ve outlined a few of the best alternatives below, along with a few reasons why they might be a better choice for you. It’s always good to have options!

Apple Music

Apple Music home screen
Dhruv Bhutani / Android Authority

Apple Music and Spotify are undoubtedly the leaders in music streaming, and both have a lot to offer. Although Apple Music’s free tier is significantly more limited, its premium tier is set up as a prime contender with over 50 million songs and integration with your full catalog via iCloud integration.

Learn more: Everything you need to know about Apple Music

Pricing is also similar between the two. Both cost $9.99 a month for an individual plan, though Apple saves you a dollar at $14.99 a month for family plans. However, Apple Music’s inclusion in the Apple One program bundles that subscription with Apple TV Plus, iCloud, Apple Arcade, and more for just $14.95 a month. That’s great savings for those already invested in the Apple ecosystem.

You can also get a stripped-down version of the service called Voice for $4.99 a month. You’ll have access to the full Apple Music library, but without some features like downloads or access across multiple devices.

YouTube Music

YouTube Music on smartphone stock photo 2
Edgar Cervantes / Android Authority

Another relatively new alternative is YouTube Music. Since replacing Google Play Music, it’s become Google’s premier music streaming service. Like Spotify, it offers a free, ad-supported tier of service.

Learn more: YouTube Music vs Spotify

What’s great about YouTube Music is that it has a ton of obscure and hard-to-find music. It’s the only place to find many remixes, mixtapes, and alternate versions of both new songs and classics. As expected from Google, the recommendations from its algorithm are also spot on. It’s a great way to find new music that you otherwise might have never heard of.

YouTube Music costs the same as Spotify at $9.99 a month. However, it’s also included in YouTube Premium, which has the added benefit of removing advertisements from YouTube videos. At just $11.99 a month, it’s a great option for YouTube fanatics and music fans alike.

Tidal

Tidal Android app

For true audiophiles who value sound quality above all else, Tidal is a great option. With its “Master Quality Authenticated” level, you can listen to lossless FLAC audio files of some of your favorite music. Note that not all music on the platform is available at this quality, but it’s a major selling point for audiophiles.

Learn more: Tidal vs Spotify

However, this feature comes at a price, which is $19.99 a month for the HiFi plan. If you don’t need such high-quality audio, the standard plan costs the same as Spotify at $9.99.

Another thing that might tip the scales in Tidal’s favor is video content. There are more than 250,000 videos on the platform, including music videos, live performances, and music-related documentaries. Many of these are exclusive to the service. Learn more about the service at the link below.

Other FAQ

You can’t change your Spotify username, but you can change your display name. To do so, go to Home, followed by Settings. Tap on View Profile, then Edit Profile. You can then tap on your display name to change it.

If you have Spotify Premium, you can download songs and playlists for offline listening.

Unfortunately, yes. You can read more about how it happens and how to protect your account here.

Surprisingly little, if you use the normal 96kbps sound quality. You will need to listen to music for 23.1 hours to reach 1GB of data usage. What about other sound qualities? Check out our article for more information.

Yes, if you use Spotify Premium Family, you can quickly and easily set parental controls. Read our article here to find out how.

Spotify is a publicly traded company. Its largest shareholders are Spotify’s cofounders, Daniel Ek and Martin Lorentzon, followed by Tencent Holdings, various hedge funds, as well as music industry giants Universal and Sony.

Yes! Thanks to a partnership with Genius, you can see lyrics for many (but not all) songs by tapping the Now Playing bar at the bottom of the screen and scrolling down. The app also displays interesting facts and background for the lyrics.

Yes, but they are very difficult to find. There is currently no category for audiobooks, and they are instead gathered into various playlists. You can search for and browse these playlists or search directly for a book title to find the audiobook you’re looking for.

The best way to get Spotify Premium for free is to sign up for a free trial. Spotify offers trials of varying lengths, sometimes up to four months long. However, once your trial ends, you will have to pay $9.99 per month.

The best Spotify playlists will depend heavily on your music tastes. There are a few playlists for top hits, but you may want to browse by genre to find something that matches your interests. You can also create your own playlist, tailored specifically to your tastes.

If you don’t want to wait for Spotify Wrapped at the end of the year, the best way to check your stats is in your profile. From there, you can view your top artists and top tracks of the month for up to 50 tracks.

Artists can make anywhere between $2 and $4 per 1,000 streams. It varies based on factors like the length of a stream, the country of a stream, and whether a free or premium user is listening.

Yes, you can upload your own music to Spotify through the Settings menu. However, it will only be available for your own personal playback – public streaming requires a distribution service.