Spotify, once a neat novelty, is now an industry giant and one of the big three music streaming providers; alongside Google Play Music and Apple Music. If you’ve been using Spotify’s free plan to stream music, you know it carries a sleek interface, tons of music, and extra audio content that’s not music.
You’ve probably wondered whether paying for Spotify Premium is worth a monthly subscription or if you’re better off sticking to the free plan to save money. Let’s look at what each tier offers, and decide if Spotify Premium is worth the extra investment.
What You Get For Free
Spotify Free is your ticket to Spotify’s massive collection of music without paying a dime. All you need is a Spotify account (you can log in with Facebook), and you’ll be able to access Spotify using apps for Windows, Mac, and your iPhone or Android device, along with a web app available across all platforms. Unfortunately, the Linux Spotify app is kind of abandoned, so Linux users might feel left out.
Spotify: Premium vs Free
Premium: "Nathaniel Rateliff? You got it, partner!"
Free: "Um, how bout Selena Gomez instead. Btw, got an money?"
— Denver Ted's (@DenverTeds) August 25, 2015
On desktop, you won’t feel too limited by Spotify Free; Free lets you choose any artist, album, playlist, or song that you’d like to listen to and rock out to it as much as you like. Aside from the adverts every few songs, you won’t feel like huge parts of Spotify are locked away behind a paywall when using Free. If you’re into social features, you’ll have full access to song sharing and checking out what your friends are listening to.
On mobile, things get a bit more restrictive. Using an iPhone or Android device, you’ll still have access to the Spotify catalog, but you’ll be forced to listen to everything in Shuffle mode. That means if you want to listen to an album all the way through, you’re out of luck without Premium.
You can only do shuffle with Spotify free on the iPhone right? Or am I really dumb and don't know how to select a specific song from my list
— Justin (@senor_justin) July 4, 2016
However, if you’re on an iPad or Android tablet, you’ll enjoy the same on-demand access to music as on the desktop. Of course, ads will still be present, but you’ll be able to choose any playlist or album and listen to it without shuffling.
When you’re using Spotify Free, you’ll need to be online to listen to music — so no listening in airplane mode to save data.
Upgrading to Premium
Upgrading to Spotify Premium for $10/month is where Spotify really shines. Premium is the only paid tier that Spotify offers these days; the middle-ground Unlimited tier was phased out a few years ago when mobile became much more popular. With Premium, all ads are removed on every platform, so you don’t have to deal with audio ads every couple of tracks. This also removes the visual ads in the player, making the Spotify app a much cleaner experience.
Spotify has ads about how great their service is without ads.
— Matt Fulchiron (@TheFullCharge) July 18, 2016
Aside from removing the ads, Premium also unlocks full access on your mobile devices, meaning you can listen to any song at any time on your phone in the same way that you listen on your desktop or laptop. Since you’re not limited by having to shuffle songs anymore, you can also skip tracks to your heart’s content — this applies to the Radio feature too, if you like using that.
If you’re listening to Spotify with quality speakers or headphones, you’ll also enjoy the high-quality streaming that Premium offers. By default, the player runs at 160 Kbps on desktop; Premium allows you to up this to 320 Kbps, which is about the best compression rate you can actually hear.
For mobile, Normal quality is 96 Kbps, High quality is 160 Kbps, and Extreme quality is 320 Kbps. The lower default is to help reduce data usage; Free users can select Normal or High, but only Premium lets you select Extreme on mobile.
Premium’s other huge benefit is offline listening, which allows you to save up to 3,333 songs each on three different devices. Any album or playlist can be saved for offline listening, and you can select the quality (same as the above) in which to save the music. The caveat is that you must go online once every 30 days to keep your offline music valid — this is just a check so that Spotify knows you’re still a Premium member.
Finally, Premium allows you to use Spotify Connect, which controls Spotify music across multiple devices. With Connect, you can control what’s playing on your laptop using your smartphone, or pair Spotify with dedicated hardware, such as speakers and cars. This is a great feature for controlling the tunes at a party and makes for seamless transitions between listening on your phone and computer.
Of course, Spotify Premium carries all the great extras that Free includes, like the Year in Music and the amazing Discover Weekly playlists that help you find new music.
There are a couple of different ways to get access to Premium without paying $10/month. First, if you’re a student (with proof), you can get Premium for $5/month (half off) using Spotify Student. Keep an eye out for Spotify’s promotions, too — they often offer three months of Premium for just $1, but these only apply for users who have never tried Premium before.
There’s also a 30-day free trial of Premium that you can check out anytime to see if it’s for you, but know that Spotify will automatically renew the subscription after that time. Head into your account settings to shut that off so you aren’t charged if you decide Spotify isn’t right for you.
It’s important to note that if you’re an Apple user, do not subscribe to Premium through the app on iOS. Apple takes a cut of every in-app purchase from the App Store, so Premium is $13/month instead of $10 if you buy it through your iPhone. Avoid this ridiculous charge and use Spotify’s website to upgrade if you choose to do so.
If you’re a PlayStation gamer, you can also take advantage of Spotify’s two months for $2 deal, which is exclusive to users of Spotify on PS3 or PS4. Spotify replaced the dated PlayStation Music a while back, and it fits in nicely on Sony’s systems. On the PS4, you’re even able to play music from Spotify while playing a game — which is perfect for titles with built-in tracks that you’ve gotten sick of hearing.
The most important Premium option is the newly-revamped Spotify Family plan, which lets you add up to six people on one account for a grand total of $15/month. This means that the more people you add, the less the cost is per person. Plus, everyone maintains their own account, which means no fighting over who is using the service or having someone mess with your playlists.
Spotify states that everyone on a Family Plan must be living at the same address; nothing more than the honor system is used to verify this, however. It’s up to you whether you’re OK with violating the rules to save some money if you’d like to join up with a few buddies.
I'm such a clutch friend. I bought the Spotify family pack just so my friends could have premium
— L pinz (@LaurenPinzon514) July 14, 2016
Is the Premium Life Worth It?
If you use Spotify with any frequency during the month, Spotify Premium is an absolutely awesome investment. For the price of one album per month, you get high-quality music (no more listening off YouTube and dealing with crappy uploads), the ability to save offline music to your phone for when you’re on-the-go (which could pay for itself), and no ads to interrupt the party.
With a Family Plan, it becomes an even more attractive deal. Even with just two or three people, paying $7.50/month or $5/month is an awesome deal for unlimited music streaming.
I'm mad at myself for waiting this long to sign up for Spotify premium. So worth it. @Spotify
— Dalton Trout (@DTrout22) July 14, 2016
It’s not odd at all to get your music almost exclusively from Spotify — it saves space on your computer because you don’t have to amass a huge collection of MP3s, listening to an album and deciding you don’t like it doesn’t mean you just wasted $10, and it’s easy to share music with friends and keep it accessible across your multiple devices.
There are only two scenarios in which Spotify Premium isn’t worth the cost for you: you already subscribe to another music streaming service, or you only use Spotify a little bit each month. If you already have a massive music collection and only use Spotify to check out a new artist here and there, you might not care about the ads or mobile access, so Premium just wouldn’t be worth the cost for you personally.
For everyone else, what are you waiting for? Stop spending $10 on every album you buy and get access to millions of songs that you can listen to anytime, anywhere as much as you want. Spotify Premium is the ultimate app for anyone who likes music, and is one premium app that’s absolutely worth paying for.
Not sold? Compare Spotify Premium to the lack of bang for your buck included in the disappointing SoundCloud Go, and you’ll see what a good deal Premium is. If you’re fascinated by the idea of Spotify in the first place, read the history of music consumption to see how we got to this juncture.
Do you think Spotify Premium is worth the extra cost? Or are you sticking with Spotify Free? If you don’t want to upgrade, tell us why? And if you have upgraded, tell us what convinced you to do so? Regardless of which side of the fence you stand, feel free to let us know your thoughts in the comments below!