Spotify offers two tiers—a free, ad-supported plan and a few different Premium plans. What are the differences between using Spotify for free and paying for it? Let’s take a look at what you get.
What You Get With Spotify’s Free Tier
Spotify’s free tier isn’t really free; it’s ad-supported. Companies are paying Spotify to make you listen to ads every few tracks. Spotify makes less money per-play from ads than they do from Premium subscribers, so to encourage people to upgrade, the free tier is limited in certain ways.
When using the desktop or web app with a free account, you can listen to any song, album, or playlist at any time in any order. The only limit is that every couple of tracks, you’ll hear an ad. It’s the mobile app, however, where the limits really hit you.
When using the mobile app with a free account, you can listen to any songs in any order with unlimited track skips as long as it appears on one of the personalized playlists made for you by Spotify’s machine learning algorithms. These playlists include things like:
- Discover Weekly (a weekly selection of tracks Spotify thinks you’ll like).
- Daily Mix (a mix of your favorite tracks and ones you haven’t heard that Spotify thinks you’ll like).
- Release Radar (new tracks from artists you listen to or Spotify thinks you’ll like).
- Spotify’s curated playlists like RapCaviar (the hottest rap and hip hop tracks) and Ultimate Indie (the best new and upcoming indie tracks).
Outside of the “Made for You” personalized playlists chosen by Spotify, you can only listen to playlists, albums, or artists on shuffle. You can’t select a specific track to play and you are also limited to skipping six tracks per hour.
Free users also get the same access to Spotify podcasts as Premium subscribers. That includes the ability to download them for offline listening.
What You Get With Spotify Premium
Spotify Premium consists of four different plans (pricing as of August 2022):
- Individual: One account for $9.99 per month.
- Duo: Two accounts for $12.99 per month.
- Family: Up to six accounts for $15.99 per month.
- Student: One account for $4.99 per month (must prove you attend an accredited higher education institution).
The main thing you get with any Premium plan is an entirely ad free experience. You can listen to as much music as you want and you’ll never get interrupted by an ad.
You can also listen to any track, album, artist, or playlist you like at any time in any order with unlimited skips. Basically, you can listen to whatever music you want without any limitations in either the desktop or mobile apps.
One of the best features of the premium account is that you can download tracks for offline listening in both the mobile and desktop apps. This is great if you want to save on mobile data or don’t always have your laptop or phone connected to the internet while you work. It turns Spotify into an offline music service rather than an online music streaming service.
You also get the ability to listen to higher quality audio streams. On the free plan, tracks are streamed at 96kbps on mobile and 160kbps on your computer—a small, but noticeable drop in quality compared to a CD. With Premium, you can listen to tracks at up to 320kbps which is, for most people, completely indistinguishable from CD quality audio.
Is It Worth the Upgrade?
The big question is it worth spending at least $10 per month for the Premium Spotify features? That really depends on the way you listen to music and how annoyed you are by ads.
As mentioned, if you stick to using the personalized “Made for You” playlists, the free tier isn’t that bad. There are no restrictions on how you can listen to those playlists, unlike with regular albums. Spotify is regularly expanding its “Made for You” playlists as well. All you have to deal with is the occasional ads.
However, if you listen to a lot of music, a Premium subscription is pretty nice. I avoided paying for Spotify for a long time, but I immediately wished I had gotten Premium earlier when I finally took the dive. Offline listening is hard to beat if you’re on a limited data plan or have spotty coverage. Upgrading also might not cost as much as you think, especially if you’re a student. The student plan also comes with a Hulu subscription.
You can also split the cost of Spotify premium with other people. The Duo plan is only $3 more than the Individual plan, making it $6.50 for each person. The Family plan would only be $2.50 per person if you have the full six accounts.
Like a lot of “Premium” services, it all comes down to your personal use-case. The ads are not terribly annoying if you’re not listening to hours and hours of music every day. If streaming Spotify is a big part of your routine, a Premium subscription is well worth it.