Spotify USA vs. Spotify UK (UPDATED)

Now that Spotify has successfully launched in America, you’ll find that there are few small differences between the USA version and the UK/European version. I expect we’ll see full parity soon, but for now here’s a look at what’s different between the two.

 

 

Missing from Spotify USA

  • Download Service (purchase MP3s)

Spotify introduced its own MP3 purchase store back in May (replacing the outsource partnership it had with 7digital). This was a pretty big deal as it seemed to divert Spotfy’s emphasis from a music-streaming subscription service to, well, something like iTunes. The download exipiration policy also caused a bit of a stir, but on the whole this cheap download option was a welcome addition to Spotify’s growing arsenal of features.

In the US, it seems that Spotify currently only has a license to stream music, not to sell it. I’m sure this is only temporary, as it’s a good way for Spotify to get a few dollars from users who don’t upgrade to premium or who only have iPods. As to why there’s no download service in the US, there’s annecdotal evidence that Apple put pressure on the record labels to delay Spotify’s entry into the US market, so it’s no greap leap to speculate Apple having a hand in preventing Spotify from selling MP3s too (especially when Spotify’s bundle deals make them cheaper than iTunes). Conspiracy theories aside though, it’s probably just down to Spotify not being able to agree purchase terms with all the record labels in time for launch.

UK Download service, showing Get Album and Get Track links

  • Spotify Open

As we pointed out last month, there are actually two “flavors” of free on Spotify. Spotify Free is the original version, with unlimited listening hours and no play caps (at least for the first six months). This is the invite-only version being offered to American users. Spotify Open is the standard free version in Europe which doesn’t require any kind of invite. You just go to the Spotify website and sign up. Spotify Open has a 20 hours/month listening cap from the start though, so it’s slightly inferior. If you have a Spotify invite you can use it to sign up for Spotify Free in any country that has Spotify. And it doesn’t matter where you get your invite from: a British invite can get you into Spotify USA and vice versa.

 

  • Spotify Radio

Users of online radio jukebox services like Pandora and Last.fm are used to handing control of the music over to the machine. You give it an artist name and it plays a selection of similar or related songs. For many this is a good way to discover new music. Spotify in Europe has had a Radio feature for some time now too, available on Spotify Free, Unlimited and Premium plans (but not on Spotify Open). There are actually two types of radio in Spotify: a regular Spotify Radio (which lets you mix up genres and decades) and an Artist Radio that’s more like Pandora. UPDATE 07/21:  Artist Radio is now available on Spotify USA!

Although the Radio is available on Spotify Free in Europe, it’s partly missing from Spotify USA. No big loss in my opinion as I never used it (there are many excellent 3rd-party sites and apps that provide discovery services for Spotify) but it’s a curious omission. Perhaps this was due to demands from the American record labels wanting to preserve a unique selling point for (the recently floated) Pandora?


Artist Radio in Spotify Free (UK)

 

  • Catalog size - There’s also reports that suggest the US catalog size is a fair bit smaller than in other countries, but that’s to be expected at launch and will surely grow exponentially over time. The main downside of this currently is that many of the thousands of pre-made playlists (such as the vast selection you’ll find on sharemyplaylists.com) will have greyed out tracks and popups declaring “not available in the United States”. My advice is to try again in a few weeks time: tracks are removed, replaced, and added to Spotify at a phenomenal rate (it averages around 10,000 new tracks per day).

 

Missing from Spotify UK and Europe

Compared with Spotify USA, Europeans aren’t really missing out on anything: the American version of Spotify doesn’t have any additional features. Where Europe does seem to lose out though is in cost. With the current exchange rates, a Spotify Premium account is over $6 per month more in the UK compared with the US. Of course, you need to factor local taxes into that but it does seem that Americans are still getting a much better deal than Europeans.

Spotify Premium price differences (in USD)

As for the listening hours, although it’s Spotify Free that’s being offered in America and not the (slightly inferior) Spotify Open, Europeans can still sign up to Spotify Free if they have a token, it’s just not advertised on the Spotify website any more.

  • http://twitter.com/ulyssestone Shi Lei

    Aphex Twin – Selected Ambient Works, Vol. II is available in the US but not in the UK.

  • Kim

    Do you know if paying (as opposed to Free) American users see Spotify Radio? And is Artist Radio still viewable in the US?

    I’ve seen quite a few US playlists that have some greyed out tracks for UK viewers too. Even Spotify’s own “hello America” playlist has a couple of songs I can’t play.

  • http://pansentient.com/ Jer White

    Checking the snapshots from Engadget’s “Spotify US Premium Hands-on” (http://www.engadget.com/2011/07/14/spotify-us-premium-service-hands-on/ ) there’s no Radio in either the sidebar or Artist area, so it’s currently missing from the US completely.

  • Kim

    Thanks Jer! The differences could have been worse I guess. And good speculation about the missing radio being because of Pandora. Makes sense.

  • Kim

    Or maybe Spotify hasn’t included Artist Radio because it wants to collect US
    listening data first, and base recommendations on local tastes. If it had this feature on launch, Pandora would probably seem far
    better in comparison.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_6PMP6USPDVKMM4DDT44JAXRMRY Henners

    I’ve seen a few US originated playlists and it’s clear that they have access to some stuff which we in the UK don’t e.g. Mountain Goats’ ‘All Eternals Deck’ for example. Clearly a licensing issue

  • Anonymous

    So the mp3 download option is “probably just down to Spotify not being able to agree purchase terms with all the record labels in time for launch”, but you’re blaming Apple anyway? That’s a really cheap shot, mate.

  • http://pansentient.com/ Jer White

    Given that with iTunes Apple controls pretty much the entire sales channel for the record label’s products,  don’t you think they’d have some influence on label decisions?

  • Anonymous

    I think a documented source speaks for itself, and everything else is idle speculation.

  • http://pansentient.com/ Jer White

    Very true. I did stress above that I think this is anecdotal and speculation, but check this CNET article, for example: http://news.cnet.com/8301-31001_3-20018971-261.html?tag=mncol;2n 

  • David Todd

    Unfortunately, many classical albums from Decca/Philips/DG include tracks that don’t play in the US–a serious limitation on classical albums! Interestingly, these same tracks will stream but not download individually on Rhapsody–seems like a scheme to get folks to buy entire albums instead of single works. I hope this is a temporary limitation on Spotify since there are other reasons to like it better. If not, I’m afraid this tips the scale heavily toward Rhapsody for me.

  • http://pansentient.com/ Jer White

    Thanks good to know David, thanks for the comment. Perhaps classical-on-spotify expert  @ulyssestone:twitter can offer some advice?

  • Pongo

    As of this morning, the Artist Radio feature has appeared in my Spotify client (US).  Nice!

  • Pongo

    P.S I’m using the premium ($9.99/month) service – not sure if it’s available in the free version. 

  • http://pansentient.com/ Jer White

    Ooh really? Nice! Thanks for the tip.

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  • Rich1340

    Wow. I’m in the UK and have been using Spotify for ages… I just went to upgrade to Premium which is $9.99 and what does it convert to? Yep, £9.99. This stinks.

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