What Is Spotify And How Does It Work?

All you need to know about the popular audio streaming service

A person using the Spotify Music app on their smartphone.

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Spotify is a popular audio streaming service that launched publicly in Europe in 2008 and has since expanded to most major markets, including the United States, Canada, and Australia. It's primarily known for its music streaming service, which lets you listen to tunes from major labels on the web or via one of the many official Spotify apps. In addition to streaming music, it also functions as a tool for consuming podcasts.

How Does Spotify Work?

Spotify is a completely legal way to stream music online and listen to podcasts. The company licenses tracks from major and minor record labels for its large music library and pays the rights holders an undisclosed amount based on the number of times people listen to each track.

You can listen to entire albums on Spotify in addition to playlists curated by Spotify staff, artists, and other users.

Listening to music on Spotify is completely free, but you see banner ads within the official apps and hear the occasional audio ad between songs as a trade-off.

If you want to remove ads, you can pay for Spotify Premium, a paid membership that removes all advertising from the apps, enables song downloading for offline listening, and more.

Spotify Free vs. Spotify Premium

Using the free version of Spotify is a completely legitimate option for most people who enjoy streaming music and don't mind the occasional commercial playing between songs. But, Spotify Premium does have a few benefits you may find appealing, including:

  • Improved audio quality: Free streaming plays songs at 160kbit/s while Premium offers a higher quality playback at 320kbit/s.
  • No ads: Audio and banner ads are completely removed from the Spotify Premium experience.
  • Offline listening: The ability to download songs for offline listening is unlocked for Spotify Premium users.
  • Hulu (ad-supported) plan: All Spotify Premium users get a free Hulu (ad-supported) subscription as part of their plan.
  • Showtime subscription: Those who sign up for the Spotify Premium for Students plan get access to the Showtime cable channel and streaming apps in addition to all of the above perks.

Spotify Premium costs $9.99 a month while the Spotify Premium for Students option costs $4.99 a month.

The regular Spotify Premium subscription offers a free 30-day trial, which is a good way to try out the benefits without paying anything up front.

A Spotify Premium for Family payment option is also available for $14.99 per month. This subscription model gives up to five people who live at the same address full access to all Spotify Premium benefits on all of their personal accounts.

How To Create A Spotify Account

You need to create a Spotify account to use the streaming service. You can do this via the account creation page on the Spotify website or by tapping Sign Up Free after opening the Spotify app on your mobile device.

Creating a Spotify account in the iOS Spotify Music app.

To create an account, you need to enter a valid email address, an account password, a username, your birthday, and your gender. The entire process takes around a minute to complete.

If you have a Facebook account, you can also use it to log into Spotify without creating a Spotify account beforehand. Logging in with Facebook means you won't have to worry about remembering a password. It also adds some social features when using the Windows 10 Spotify App.

How Can I Listen To Spotify Music?

You can listen to Spotify within any web browser on your computer or smartphone via the official Spotify web player or by downloading an official Spotify Music app for your iOS or Android smartphone or tablet, Windows 10 device, Mac OS computer, or your Xbox One or PlayStation 4 console.

While the web player works completely fine on a Windows 10 computer, the best Spotify desktop experience is easily the official Windows 10 Spotify Music app, which contains a lot more functionality, such as offline playback.

Spotify is also supported on Samsung Smart TV, Android TV, Amazon Fire TV, and Google Chromecast, in addition to Sonos, Amazon Alexa, Google Home, Denon, Bose, and Chromecast Audio smart speakers.

Some car models also feature Spotify Music streaming connectivity.

How To Find Friends On Spotify

You can follow other users on Spotify to see what they're listening to. If you use the Windows 10 app, you can see a live feed of what all of your friends are listening to in real-time, which makes the listening experience much more social. Here's how to find your friends on Spotify:

If you connect your Facebook account to Spotify, your Facebook friends who also connect to Spotify should already be following you, and vice versa.

  1. Select Search.

  2. Type the name of the friend you're looking for into the search bar.

    If you can't find your friend, check with them to see what name they're using on Spotify. They could be using a nickname or an alias.

  3. Scroll to the bottom of the screen and select See all profiles.

    Searching for friends in the iOS Spotify Music app.
  4. Scroll through the list of search results and select your friend's name.

  5. Once on your friend's profile, select Follow to follow them.

How To Download Songs From Spotify

If you pay for the Spotify Premium service, you can download songs for offline listening. Unfortunately, there's no way to download just an individual song by itself. A song can only be downloaded as part of an album or playlist.

To download a playlist or album on Spotify, open it and hit the Download switch. The entire playlist or album should now download to your smartphone or tablet.

Downloading a music playlist in the Spotify app on iPhone.

If you truly only want to download one track, you can get around this limitation by creating a new playlist with just the one song in it. Here's how:

  1. Open the song you want to download and select the ellipsis in the top-right corner.

  2. Select Add to Playlist > New Playlist.

  3. Enter the name of your new playlist and choose Create.

    You can download a single song on Spotify by adding it to a playlist
  4. Select Your Library from the bottom menu.

  5. Select Playlists, then select the name of your new playlist.

  6. Hit the switch next to Download.