Spotify is a streaming music service that's available via a free downloadable app on your computer; you can also find it as part of the Web platform on some networkable TVs, receivers, Blu-ray players, and standalone media players, like the WD TV Live or Boxee Box. Spotify allows you to search for specific artists, albums, or songs that are part of the company's catalog of over 15 million tracks.
Spotify offers three levels of service. Through the basic free service, you can play streamed audio files only through the desktop app on a computer, and visual/audio advertising is part of the experience. You can also use the Spotify desktop app to play and organize the music files stored on your computer, including the ability to sync tracks from iTunes. You can link Spotify to Facebook to see what your friends are listening to and share track information and playlists with friends. Spotify Apps allows you to add all kinds of music-related apps; for instance, you can get lyrics, find local concert information, chat with music lovers around the world, or listen to songs that currently top the charts.
The free desktop service also includes Spotify Radio: This service is similar to Pandora, allowing you to create stations based on genres or specific artists/songs. Create a station based on an artist, for instance, and Spotify will play songs similar to that artist. You can give feedback with a thumbs up or thumbs down for each song selection. If you don't like a selection, you can also skip it, and Spotify allows for an unlimited number of skips.
The mid-tier service ($4.99/month) gives you ad-free streaming via the desktop app. The premium service ($9.99/month) adds the ability to access all of Spotify's features, ad-free, via mobile devices like smartphones and tablets. Free iOS and Android apps are available. If you do not subscribe to the premium service, you can still use the Spotify app to play Spotify Radio on mobile devices here in the United States. Spotify Premium offers better sound quality and an offline mode to play selected files when broadband service isn't available. If you own an A/V device that has the Spotify app, you need to subscribe to the premium service in order to use it.
Spotify streams music files in the Ogg Vorbis format. The free and mid-tier services stream to your desktop at 160 kilobits per second, while the premium service can stream to your desktop and mobile devices at 320 kbps. Compare that with Pandora, which streams AAC+ files at 64 kbps for free desktop and mobile users, 128 kbps for in-product A/V apps, and 192 kbps for premium subscribers.