Popular streaming music service now available north of the 49th
(Caption: Peter Vogel writes that the Spotify system seems to resonate with the younger generation. Photo credit: press.spotify.com)
Three weeks ago, the world's most widely used streaming music service finally became available here. Long-rumoured to be "just around the corner", Spotify just didn't seem to be able to strike the licensing deals needed to operate in Canada.
Started in Sweden in late 2008, Spotify quickly became a dominant player in the emerging streaming music field. At launch Spotify was primarily a subscription service with only a limited number of free accounts offered by invitation.
When the service debuted in the United Kingdom it was the Spotify mobile player, coupled with initially unlimited free accounts that quickly propelled the service to prominence. So much so that free account registrations had to be halted for a while.
Today, Spotify operates in around fifty countries, mostly in Europe and South America, but also including Australia and the United States and now Canada.
Americans have had access to the Spotify service since the summer of 2011. Canadians who wanted to use the service had to make use of a proxy service that issues United States IP addresses.
This circumvented the geo-blocking that Spotify was required to have in place as part of its various licensing agreements with the major music labels such as Universal, Warner Music Group, and EMI.
Canada, until recently, was a bit of an outcast when it came to streaming music services. One major exception was Songza, the curated music service, recently acquired by Google. Songza quickly became the number one iOS app in Canada when it appeared on that platform.
This summer Google's own music service was made available to Canadians. Somewhat awkwardly named, the free Google Play Music and the subscription service Google Play Music All Access are latecomers to the streaming music business but both have proven popular.
The Canadian versions even have country-specific content not generally offered by other services.
Spotify's Canadian service does seem to be resonating with young people. When I polled students in my Grade 12 computer programming class, Spotify proved to be the second-most popular streaming service, right behind YouTube. Most were using it as a music discovery service rather than for streaming pre-set playlists.
Recently, I tested the Canadian service with a new user account (my other account has been used to access the American service since 2011).
Signing up as I did from a Chromebook is a little confusing as potential users are prompted to download the Spotify player. There is no player for the Chromebook however. Spotify for computers supports only Windows and Mac platforms and there is a preview version for Linux computers.
Neither the Spotify web player nor the Chromebook Spotify app would connect properly to the service from my Chromebook. A question about this posted to Spotify's Twitter presence elicited a suggestion to use the Chrome browser's incognito mode and indeed that did the trick. It is however not clear why this is the case.
Spotify's free service lets users stream music to a computer, mobile device, or a tablet. Players are available for most mobile platforms. This free service is ad supported, although in my tests I found these advertisements few and far between.
A premium service costing $10 a month (plus taxes) removes ads and offers music on demand; essentially any song in the library can be played any time.
Another advantage of the premium service is that music can be downloaded and played in an offline mode. A free trial is offered but it will require advance signup with a credit card or a PayPal account.
Although Spotify's financial records aren't public, it is believed the service is profitable or nearly so. As of July 2014 the service had around 40 million users, a quarter of those being premium customers.
Subscription fees plus advertising drives the revenue side and licensing and artist fees, or royalties, plus hardware and bandwidth charges are the major draw on the costs side.
Some artists have expressed public discontent with the revenue they receive from Spotify and some simply refuse to allow their catalogue to be used by the service.
Do check out Spotify's Canadian service and see if its streaming service appeals to you.