What is Spotify and how does it work? | Apps news
Spotify is a digital music streaming service that gives you access to millions of songs, podcasts and videos from artists all over the world.
Spotify is immediately appealing because you can access content for free by simply signing up using an email address or by connecting with Facebook. If you’re not keen on monthly subscription fees for Spotify Premium, or just want to dip your toe in and test it out, it’s easy to get started and there’s no commitment.
You can find out the main differences between Spotify Free and Premium in our separate feature but as a quick summary, the free version is ad-supported much like radio stations. The free version of Spotify can be accessed on PC, laptop and mobile phone, but the full service needs a Spotify Premium subscription.
How does Spotify work?
Getting started with listening to music on Spotify is easy:
- Visit the Spotify website and sign-up. We’d recommend signing up with Facebook if you have an account as it’ll make it easier to find and follow friends, see what they’re listening to and share songs with them.
- Choose a subscription level. We’d recommend going for Spotify Premium as it gives you access to more features, is more flexible and will connect with more devices.
- Download and install the free Spotify application. There are versions for desktop and iPhone/iPad and Android phones.
- Sign into your account on those devices and get listening.
The basic setup is pretty straightforward but there’s much more to Spotify once you delve in and it gets smarter the more you listen.
Can you download music from Spotify?
Yes and no. With Spotify Premium you can set music to be available “offline” but it’s not the same as downloading music in the traditional sense. For example, you can’t try to game the system by downloading an album then cancelling your subscription at a later date. And you can’t download the tracks to burn them to a CD or copy them to other devices.
The idea of Spotify’s offline mode is to allow you to have access to your favourite music when you’re trying to save mobile data or travelling somewhere where access to the internet might not be easy.
With Spotify Premium you can have up to 3,333 songs available to listen to offline on up to three different devices. Downloading songs, albums or playlists on Spotify is simple too, which is great. Just click “save” on the album you’d like to download to listen to it offline. Alternatively, click the three dots next to a song and click “Save to Your Music”.
How much data does Spotify use?
The amount of data that Spotify burns through will depend on the streaming quality you choose – more on this in a minute. This is a rough guide for how much data Spotify will get through:
- One hour of music playback will use around 50MB of data when the quality is set to “normal”.
- At normal quality you can play around 24 hours of music for around 1GB of data usage.
- At high-quality 1GB will be used in less than 15 hours.
- At extreme quality you’ll use 1GB of data in 7 hours.
- You’ll use a lot more data with video playback.
You can check and change the quality of streaming and download of songs using mobile data in the settings on your device.
High-quality streaming and audio quality
There are three different levels of streaming quality for Spotify. Streaming is all done in the Ogg Vorbis format and uses the following bitrates for each of the quality levels:
- Normal streams at 96kbps
- High-quality at 160kbps
- Extreme quality streams at 320kbps
The quality level you use will depend on your preference and choices around data usage but it’s worth noting that extreme is only available to Spotify Premium subscribers.
How to find people and friends on Spotify
Signing up to Spotify with Facebook or connecting your Facebook account at a later date will allow you to easily find and follow friends and see what they’re listening to. The activity feed is displayed on the right-hand side of the desktop software and is a great way to pick up on friends who listen to the same music as you or poke fun at them for their latest Abba session.
You can also use the search function within the app to find friends. At the very bottom of the activity feed there’s also a “find friends” button which will allow you to find and follow more friends or artists.
If you’re not on Facebook or don’t want to connect your Facebook account to Spotify you can still find and follow friends, it just might be a bit more difficult in some cases.
According to Spotify, the best way to find and follow a friend is to use the search box on the desktop client and use this format:
Copy this and replace USERNAME with the name of your friend. If this doesn’t work, ask your friend to either copy their profile link directly from their profile page and send it to you. Alternatively, ask if they can share one of their public playlists with you. If they created the playlist, then their username is contained within the URL as a number:
You can either use that number to find them or click on their name in the playlist to follow them. For more detailed guidance on finding friends on Spotify, see Spotify’s official tutorial.
Spotify playlists, radio and discovering new music
Creating a playlist is as easy as right-clicking a song and clicking “Add to Playlist” or clicking the three dots next to a song on the app. Grab your favourite songs and stick them in a playlist for your personal listening pleasure. Once you get started you’ll soon find you’re following playlists made by friends or curated by artists.
Spotify is smart too, the more you listen, the more it learns the sort of music you like and that has an impact on the music it will present to you in future. When you delve into the “Discover” section of the app you’ll find a number of recommendations based on your recent listening choices. This includes artists similar to those you’ve already been listening to. as well as your “Discover Weekly” and “Release Radar” playlists.
“Discover Weekly” is a playlist that’s automatically updated by Spotify each Monday and includes a number of different songs based upon what you’ve been listening to recently.
“Release Radar” is a selection of new tracks from artists you follow. It’s worth noting here that if you follow your favourite musicians you’ll get notifications and updates when they release new content too.
To discover new music, click on the three dots menu and select “Go to Playlist Radio” and you’ll be taken to an automatically generated “radio” station that’ll play a selection of music based on the contents of the original playlist. You can also use this logic with specific songs or artists by choosing to listen to ‘artist radio’ or ‘song radio’. These are great ways to discover new music that’s similar to your current taste but ones that you might not have otherwise listened to.
Spotify Bluetooth connectivity
One of the obvious benefits of Spotify is if you’re using it on your phone then you can connect to a wealth of different Bluetooth devices and stream your content that way. Whether that means a home audio receiver, head unit in your car, Bluetooth headphones or Bluetooth-connected speaker – there’s plenty of possibility. With Spotify Premium you can also take advantage of Spotify Connect.
What is Spotify Connect
Spotify Connect allows you to play your music through a variety of different Wi-Fi connected devices including everything from Wi-Fi speakers to your television, Amazon Echo, Chromecast, PC and much more.
This is great because it means you can listen to your music in more places and with more devices. It also offers you a choice in how you control the music playing on your Spotify account. For example, if you’re streaming to speakers in your lounge using your phone then you can use it as a remote control to adjust the volume, change tracks or create a party playlist while listening.
Spotify connectivity with Amazon Echo and Google Home
If you’re the proud owner of a smart home speaker like Google Home or Amazon Echo then listening to your favourite tunes on Spotify is also a breeze. All you need to do is setup Spotify as your primary music service inside the relevant app, then use your voice to command the speakers to play whatever you want.
If you have multiple devices you can also take advantage of multi-room audio functionality to broadcast Spotify tunes throughout your home. Connecting and creating groups for these devices, then broadcasting music or a playlist to those groups with your voice is a straight-forward affair and one of the highlights of owning an AI-powered smart speaker.
How much is Spotify?
Spotify comes in two main forms – free and Premium. Spotify Premium is currently £9.99/$9.99 a month, which includes access to features such as ad-free streaming, unlimited skips, extreme quality streaming and Spotify Connect.
If multiple people in your house use Spotify, you might consider Premium for Family which gives up to six people access to their own unique Spotify account under one bill. All users have to live at the same address so it’s not a package to include your friends on, but it’s a good way to split the cost.
At £14.99/$14.99, Premium for Family isn’t too much extra over a standard Premium plan price, so it’s a worthy investment.
For students, there’s a discounted plan that costs just £4.99/$4.99 a month.
What do you get with Spotify Free?
You can use Spotify for free, but its features are limited. On the free plan, music can be played in shuffle mode and you can skip up to six times per hour, every hour. Spotify Radio isn’t available, but you can access Daily Mix playlists.
With the Spotify free plan, you can access all playlists, discover new music, share tunes with friends, listen to tunes picked by Spotify’s Radio feature. You can also play any playlist, album, or artist but only while in Shuffle Play mode.
Spotify is free to use on mobile, desktop or tablet – so it’s accessible with ease, wherever you are. You can access the free version using the smartphone app, desktop software or website.
Spotify’s Premium tier gives you access to everything but doesn’t force adverts – whether you’re listening on desktop, mobile, or tablet.
Premium users can play any song they want (on demand), as well as find and hear playlists, discover new music, create and edit playlists, share music and playlists, and listen to tunes picked by Spotify’s Radio feature.
Premium users can also skip any track, listen offline, hear high-quality music and use the Spotify app on their mobile device as a computer remote control.
What are Spotify Codes?
Spotify Codes is a feature from Spotify that allows users to easily share music with friends and family. You can use it to generate a unique code for a song, album or playlist and then get someone else to scan the code to share it with their device and allow them to enjoy it too.
Spotify Codes works on both iPhone and Android devices, in order to use it you just need to click the ‘…’ button next to what you want to share and you’ll see a pop-up with the album, song or playlist artwork and the code sits underneath. Click that code to zoom so the other person can scan it.
On the other device, click search and find the camera button in the top right, then simply scan the code and you’re away.
Spotify Codes is open to everyone, so watch out for code from your favourite bands, artists and brands and get sharing!
Outside of Spotify Codes you can also easily directly share songs from Spotify across a number of social media platforms including Facebook, Twitter, Skype, Tumblr or just a straight link to copy a usable link to wherever you want on the web. Simply right-click on desktop or press the three dots on mobile on the song, album, artist or playlist you want to share and select the appropriate service.
What is Spotify Time Capsule?
Spotify regularly releases updates to its service to help improve your listening experience. This includes tailored playlists and discovery voyages to help you expand your musical horizons and find new artists you’re likely to enjoy.
Sometimes though, they just add quirky lists which show how well they know you based on your current listening trends. Time Capsule is one example of this wizardry.
This is a personalised playlist which picks out around 60 tracks that you would have listened to as you were growing up. It’s a collection of throw-back songs that’ll fill you with nostalgic joy. We found Time Capsule to be pretty accurate, scarily so in fact, but it obviously requires Spotify to have a good working knowledge of your musical taste, so get listening!
What are Daily Mix Playlists?
Spotify learns what you like as you use it. The more you listen, the more intelligent it becomes. This music streaming service is brilliant for this sort of intelligence. Automatic playlists are then created based on your preferences.
This includes automated playlists like Summer Rewind which features all the songs you’ve been listening to the most over the last few months.
Daily Mix playlists are slightly different, they’re like a radio station which mixes your favourite tunes with similar music Spotify thinks you’ll enjoy. Multiple Daily Mix playlists are available for the different styles or genres of music you listen too. These individual mixes keep playing for as long as you want to listen and can be improved by liking the songs you enjoy or removing the ones you don’t.
Like Discover Weekly, Daily Mix playlists are a great way to discover new music that you’ll love.
Private listening mode
Listening on Spotify can be a social experience. If you’ve connected Spotify to your Facebook account, for example, then friends and family will be able to see what you’re listening to and you can share your favourite songs with them. There might be occasion though where you don’t want people to know that you’re listening to a certain album or song on constant repeat. We all have the guilty pleasure that we don’t need the world knowing about. Spotify accounts for this with a “private listening mode” that you can activate from the settings in the app and a quick click of a button on the desktop browser.
Spotify is more than just a music streaming service. If you have a Spotify account you can also use it to listen to thousands of different podcasts that include everything from comedy to sports, lifestyle, news and more. These podcasts are available in both the app and desktop browser and it’s easy to hunt down and follow your favourite podcasts and access the latest episodes wherever you are.
How to delete your Spotify account
If you decide you no longer want your Spotify account, you can delete it. It is worth noting though, that you can downgrade from Premium to a free account, so if cost is the issue then we’d recommend considering that first.
If you’re still keen on deleting your Spotify account, then follow these steps:
- Visit Spotify’s Support page on how to close your account.
- Login to your Spotify account.
- Click this link to delete your account.
If this doesn’t work, then you can also try this method:
- Login and go directly to Spotify’s Contact Support page.
- Choose ‘account’ as the category.
- Select ‘I want to close my Spotify account permanently’.
- Then click to close your account or cancel your subscription