What Are the Differences Between Spotify's Memberships?

By Nadya JosifovLast Updated Jun 24, 2020 7:19:31 PM ET
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Long gone are the days when music zealots had to buy CDs, cassettes or even — gasp! — vinyl albums to listen to their favorite songs. As one of the most popular global online music streaming platforms, Spotify grants smartphone and other digital device users access to more than 50 million songs and 700,000 podcast titles. By simply signing up with your email address or connecting via Facebook, you get access to free content, limited features and ad-supported playback. If you want access to more, you have to pay for a subscription.

Spotify was founded in 2006 and has grown to become one of the biggest international music streaming service providers. As a result, the company currently has 286 million users, and about 130 million of them are paid subscribers. If you’re interested in becoming one of them, we’ve already done the legwork to help you evaluate the different Spotify memberships and their features, so you can decide on the best option for your needs. Take a look!

The Merits of Spotify Free

Spotify Free allows you to stream songs and podcasts without paying a dime. However, the catch is you have to put up with advertisements while listening to the different content. These advertisements generally include audio ads that run for 30 seconds as well as display ads that appear during active and inactive use. This method doesn’t provide the best user experience, but it allows Spotify to make its revenue on your listening by selling advertising placements to third parties instead of by charging you to listen.

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Photo Courtesy: Heidi Fin/Unsplash

Spotify Free members have access to millions of songs, curated playlists and podcasts that vary based on their home country. Unfortunately, you can't listen to music offline or play any track you want. You can only select shuffle play to stream music, and you aren't allowed unlimited skips while listening. If you want to save money and don’t mind the frequent ads and limitations, the free account gives you access to a huge range of content at a price — zero! — that you obviously can’t beat.

Kicking It Up to Premium Level

A Spotify Premium membership cuts the cords — also known as those pesky ads and limits — that held you back when using Spotify Free, allowing you to fully explore Spotify's library and mixes. Premium subscribers can download up to 10,000 songs for offline playback on up to five devices and skip an unlimited number of songs while listening. You control the quality of your music when streaming and downloading to focus on either the highest sound quality or data-conscious playback.

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Spotify offers potential users a 30-day free trial to test out Premium features, such as higher quality downloads at higher bitrates. Spotify Premium membership costs around $10 a month, which is in line with its music streaming competitors. If you want to minimize the hassle of making a monthly payment, you can purchase Spotify gift cards in lump amounts and upload them to your account. In addition to listening to music on TVs and other devices using Spotify Connect, Premium members can listen to unlimited music when traveling abroad.

Learning in Hi-Def with a Student Membership

The Spotify Student membership is actually a package deal that is only available to college students (18 years old and older). In addition to Spotify Premium music features, the package includes an ad-supported Hulu subscription and an unlimited Showtime streaming membership — all for around $5 per month! Using SheerID, a third-party API, Spotify will verify your student enrollment status in a certified Title IV institution in the United States. The subscription lasts for an entire year and is renewable three times, for up to four years of total service.

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Photo Courtesy: Scientific American/Getty Images

Keeping It in the Family with Premium for Family

Spotify Premium for Family is a subscription that allows up to six family members living under one roof to access the same premium account for around $15 per month. This type of plan offers a cost-effective solution when multiple family members love to stream music but want to keep their playlists separate from everyone else's. The service also has parental controls that allow you to set explicit content filters for your family members, and like the other premium services, it doesn't have ad interruptions.

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A Premium Family subscription allows offline playback from anywhere, unlimited skips and specific track selection. According to Spotify's Help page, if you ever need to make any changes, the plan's manager can log in to their Family page to take care of it. You can't use gift cards to pay for this type of subscription, and you usually can't combine this money-saving subscription with other promotions and special deals. If the Premium for Family plan isn't right for your family, you can cancel or revert to an individual Premium membership at any time.