Spotify is the most widely used music streaming service in the world. Since it was launched in 2008, it’s built an active monthly user base of 345 million people worldwide, of which 155 million pay a monthly subscription fee to upgrade to a premium account.
In this article, we’re going to take a look at both services to see if it’s worth paying a subscription fee. Or if it’s worth putting up with the ads and restrictions that come with using the service for free. So, let’s get straight to it in our Free Spotify vs Spotify Premium showdown.
Spotify has a huge music catalog of over 50 million songs, with the company adding another 40,000 daily. Cover versions and remixes make up a sizeable portion of this number. But it’s still an impressive number all the same.
Technically, both free Spotify and Spotify Premium subscribers have access to the entire library. There are no listening restrictions on Spotify Premium. However, free Spotify users are constrained in several ways.
Listening Restrictions on Free Spotify
When using the free Spotify mobile app, listeners are unable to select individual songs for playback. Instead, you select a particular album from an artist you like and have no choice but to listen to it in shuffle mode only.
To add to the annoyance, you are only able to skip six songs per hour. This can get pretty annoying, especially when you only want to listen to a couple of tracks from an album. You’re essentially forced to plow through music you wouldn’t normally listen to get to your favorite tracks.
Things are better on the mobile app if you’re listening to one of the many personalized playlists that Spotify creates for you. Here don’t have to listen in a randomized manner, having the ability to select individual tracks. There are also no limits on the number of tracks you can skip.
One of Spotify’s best-kept secrets…
If you are using free Spotify on a desktop app or web browser, then you are allowed to listen to any song, album, or playlist that you like, on-demand, and in the order you prefer. There’s also no track skipping limit. Of course, you’ll have to put up with ads every couple of songs. But it’s a far less restrictive service on desktop and web browsers.
Spotify pays artists more per stream if you are listening on Premium than they do if using the Free service. Because of this, they give artists the option of streaming their new releases on Premium, only for the first two weeks. So, if having instant access to the latest tracks is important to you, you’ll have to go premium.
Stump up for a premium account, and you’ll have no shackles placed on what you can listen to, as well as the blessing of no ads polluting your ears.
There is something misleading about calling it “free” Spotify. That’s because free Spotify isn’t free. Sure, you don’t have to pay any money, but you’re forced to listen to incredibly irritating ads companies pay to appear every few tracks.
Whether you are using free Spotify on a mobile or desktop, you’ll be regularly bombarded with the usual junk. Adverts are always annoying. But they seem particularly so when it comes to Spotify.
No doubt this is a ploy to get you to go premium, as Spotify makes less money per play through their ad-supported service. Losing the ads alone almost makes it worth going Premium.
Free Spotify users are limited to streaming music only. This means they are effectively paying for music by using up their monthly data plan. Spotify Premium users can download as much music as they like and listen to it offline.
The ability to build a massive offline library of music is one of the main reasons to pay.
Music Discovery and Playlists
One of the best features of Spotify, free or premium, is the amazing algorithm they’ve developed. It helps you discover music that matches your taste perfectly. Spotify will generate personalized playlists based on your listening history, and it’s uncanny how well they seem to understand what you’re going to like.
One of these playlists is the wonderful ‘Discover Weekly.’ Every Monday morning, you receive a two-hour list of songs from artists you’ve generally never heard of before yet match your musical preferences to a tee. It’s hard to think of a more efficient and enjoyable way of expanding your library.
The ‘Release Radar’ playlist is another classic. This is where you’ll find all the latest songs or live material from your favorite artists. It arrives every Friday and is a great way to kick the weekend off.
The Spotify algorithm…
This creates excellent playlists based around genres or even individual songs and artists. If you’ve compiled your own playlist, it will even generate a playlist based on the songs in there. On top of that, there are also expertly curated playlists based around mood, region, and even language.
In short, you are thoroughly well catered to by the Spotify algorithmic approach to music discovery. And the good news is that these features are open to both free and Premium Spotify users.
Signing up for a premium account will also allow you to stream at a higher quality bitrate. You’ll be able to stream at 320kbps on both desktop and mobile devices, a standard that experts say is indistinguishable from full CD quality. Free Spotify users are limited to a maximum streaming rate of 128kbps on desktop and 160kbps if using the mobile app.
Spotify supports AAC and Ogg Vorbis formats only. Although this has changed in some regions with the introduction of Spotify HiFi. This will be a lossless streaming standard that will match the quality of services like Tidal and Deezer.
Social Media Interaction
Whether you have a Free Spotify account or you pay for the Premium service, you’ll be able to interact with your social media buddies in several different ways. So, when it comes to Free Spotify vs Spotify Premium, both options allow you to integrate social media platforms quickly and easily.
If you have a Facebook account, you can link it to your Spotify account. This allows you to find your Facebook friends’ Spotify profiles. You can then take a look at their playlists and add them to your library, and also check out their listening history. When using the Spotify desktop app, you can see what they are actively listening to via a ticker-tape style feed.
If you don’t want people checking out your playlists or listening history, you can disable these options in the settings.
These can also be built with your Spotify contacts. This is a very handy feature if you’re throwing a party or just want to regularly share songs with friends. Once your friend has the link, they can add or remove songs from the list. These will remain private between the number of people who have the link.
Likewise, Spotify is also compatible with Instagram, Twitter, and most of the smaller platforms. Although you are limited to sharing songs on most.
As with most other music streaming services, you can get an individual account with access to all the Premium features for $9.99 per month. If you can prove your student status, then you get a half-price discount, paying just 4.99 per month.
For this tiny fee, Spotify will also throw in a basic Hulu subscription. Making their student offer one of the best value deals around.
Another great deal…
The $14.99 family subscription deal. This will get you six separate accounts as long as everyone is living at the same address. Similarly, at $12.99 per month, a duo subscription is available for two people living at the same address, giving you two separate accounts.
Spotify will also make joint playlists for family and duo subscribers if you so desire. Just click on ‘Family Mix’ or ‘Duo Mix’ respectively, and let the algorithm work its magic.
All these subscription plans offer outstanding value for money, but you’re still having to stump up hard-earned cash. If you can put up with the ads, no offline listening, and the general inconvenience of using Free Spotify, the desktop app would make a decent choice for you. And you won’t pay a dime.
Regardless of whether you pay or not, you’ll be able to use Spotify on virtually any device that supports it. Desktops, smartphones, smart speakers (Android and iOS), Playstation, Xbox, smart TVs, or even in your car if it has Apple CarPlay or Android Auto.
One thing you won’t be able to do with a free account is seamlessly transition between multiple devices using the Spotify Connect feature. For example, Premium users can instantly jump between their smartphone, desktop, or game console without having to halt playback.
Looking for More Information about Spotify?
We can help you find the answers you want. Check out our helpful guides on YouTube Music vs Spotify, Spotify vs Pandora, Amazon Music HD vs Spotify Premium, and Apple Music vs Spotify for more useful information.
And if you want to most from Spotify, we suggest some great headphones. So, have a look at our in-depth reviews of the Best Headphones Under $20, the Best Headphones Under $100, the Best Headphones Under $200, the Best Headphones for Music, and the Best Bluetooth Headphones Under $100 you can buy in 2023.
Free Spotify vs Spotify Premium – The Verdict
Personally, this isn’t even a close one. If you can afford the $9.99 per month, Premium Spotify is well worth investing in. You have complete control over what you listen to, coupled with the ability to download all of your favorite music for offline listening. All without having to listen to a single ad.
Free Spotify, particularly the desktop app, is still an outstandingly good service. If you’re not as easily annoyed by advertising as I am and don’t care about offline listening, you may be better off sticking with the free version.
Personally, the privilege of not having to listen to ads is worth the thirty-odd cents per day. Chuck in all the extra benefits and features, and it should be a no-brainer for most.
Until next time, may the music make you merry.