Since it was released, Spotify has been my go to service for music streaming. With the recent changes however, it will become useless to many users unless they chose to pay for its use. This post will take on some of the other free music streaming alternatives available.
The changes that will affect you as a free user
Starting May 1st, Spotify are adding some major changes to their free/open accounts.
If you are an old user who signed up before November 1st 2010:
- You can now only listen to a total of 10 hours of music per month, which for most people who actively use Spotify, would last at most two days.
- You can only listen to one track five (5) times total for the lifetime of your account unless you buy it.
If you are a newer user, you will be able to use Spotify for 6 months before these changes will incur. In theory you can always just sign up for a new account once your account passes the 6 months, but you will lose your playlists and you won’t be able to connect your account to Facebook for the social features.
Read about all the changes here
The reason these changes will see a lot of users migrate is because in 2011 people expect music on demand to be free. If they can’t get it legally through Spotify, they will download it illegally from the hundreds of websites that offer that service. There are more than enough alternatives around for the users to migrate to who still run free music on-demand services, and are actually more artist friendly (I.e artists are paid more per listen). I’d rather hear more adverts than have these limitations. They will make Spotify useless for many users who use it for all of their music needs at home.
All power to Spotify though, I am sure more than enough users will change to the paid option to make it worth their while many times over – it makes total sense from a business perspective. If you still would like to listen to music for free and still legally, there are more than a few alternatives for doing so.
Alternatives to Spotify
In no particular order, here are some alternatives to Spotify, if you are looking to migrate after the May 1st changes.
Pandora (US only) is a great site for finding new music similar to music that you already enjoy. The site builds a playlist around a single track or artist chosen by the user, and allows you to vote up/down the songs it plays to further customize the playlist to your liking. As with Spotify, Pandora is also available to use on Android, iPhone, BlackBerry and many other devices. The site plays adverts at regular intervals just like Spotify, and gives you the option to opt in for an ad-free paid option which costs $36 for a 12 month subscription.
New since when I used the site, is a 40 hour cap per month on music listening (for free accounts). After this you get an option to pay $0.99 to continue listening to unlimited music for that month (adverts will still continue if you use this option). 40 hours is still miles better than the 10 hours Spotify will be offering.
Grooveshark is sort of web-based mix of Spotify and Pandora, and includes Pandora’s voting style radio feature, as well as the option to build your own playlists like Spotify. The site allows you to follow friends to see what they are listening to, and to make it easier to share music.
Grooveshark has two subscription options of either $6 per month / $60 per year for Grooveshark Plus or $9 / $90 for Grooveshark Anywhere. These options will both remove visual ads from the site, whilst Anywhere will give you the option to use the program on other devices.
An issue with Grooveshark is that all the music is provided by its users, rather than the company itself. Because of this the site has an extensive collection of music – it’s just not completely legal.
Last.fm is advertised as a music recommendation software which works together with a program called The Scrobbler to build playlists and recommend music that you might like. It does this by noting the music you listen to from your own collection, from any internet radio and other software ( including Spotify). Last.fm is a widely used website with over 40 million active users (wiki). For users outside of the UK, US and Germany, the service requires a subscription of €3 per month after an initially 30 track free trial.
One of the cool things about Last.fm is the amount of statistics you can see. Things like Top Artists, Top Songs, Top Albums etc, both personally and site-wide are updated on a weekly basis.
We7 (UK and Ireland only) is a site, much like the rest, that allows for free and legal sharing and listening of music. If you are looking for a site that allows for streaming off mobile phones, We7 accommodates for that as well – for the iPad, iPhone and most Android devices. Similar to Pandora, We7 uses random generated play lists created from a single track, artist or mood of your choice.
The site has got three different user accounts; Free, Premium (£4.99) and Premium+(£9.99). The two paid accounts will both give the user ad-free listening, and add some premium only content to the user. Premium+ also allows the user to download music and take advantage of the off-line music listening feature.
mFlow is quite different from most of the other sites listed, and also the newest service. The site entered open beta in December 2010, and has operated under beta status since. mFlow has got no advertisement, and requires no payment to be used. The site runs on a social platform, meaning sharing of music is an important aspect of the site. In fact users gain 20% of the retail price of any recommended music that is sold by a direct recommendation as mFlow credits that they can use to buy music. The site also allows for making playlists and follow other users (like Spotify and Grooveshark).
YouTube has been used for listening to music for a long time, and created the YouTube Disco feature a while back to accommodate for this even easier. The feature allows you to enter the name of a song or an artist, and it will automatically make a playlist of about 40 songs, either matching the artist or the genre. The feature is a bit arbitrary however, as you can easily make playlists without going through the Disco page.
For what it’s worth, Spotify’s paid content is on par with any of the sites we’ve mentioned as alternatives, so if you are going to spend your money on any of them, Spotify (at £4.99 and £9.99 per month) is as good an option as any. For free accounts however, it has now become the one with the most limitations in terms of usability.
How much do artists make from online plays?
Keep in mind, living isn’t free and your favourite artists need your support. This is how you contribute by the methods you use.
These numbers are based on an (American) solo artist, earning minimum wage of $1160 per month through music sales alone.
To make $1160 (after cuts) a solo artist needs to sell:
- 143 self pressed CDs at $9.99 per sale.
- 155 CD sales from CDbaby.com at $9.99
- 1161 CD sales through retail at $9.99 per CD. (high-end royalty deal)
- 1229 Napster downloads at $9.99 per download.
- 1562 MP3 downloads from CDbaby.com at $0.99 per song.
- 2044 iTunes downloads at $0.99 per track ( When published by CdBaby)
- 3871 CD sales through retail at $9.99 per CD (low-end royalty deal)
- 12,399 Amazon/iTunes downloads at $0.99 per track.
To make $1160 a solo artist needs to get:
- 849,817 plays per month at Rhapsody at $0.0022 per play
- 1,546,667 plays per month at last.fm at $0.00075 per play
- 4,053,110 plays per month at Spotify at $0.00029
See this image for a great visual representation of the information above.
What software do you use to listen to music legally, and what do you think about the changes Spotify have made? Let us know in the comments!