Earlier today, Spotify announced numerous changes to its free music streaming service, restricting the number of times users and how long they could listen to their favourite tracks.
The changes are aimed at funnelling users towards Spotify’s premium service, offering higher quality streams, mobile access and removing all forms of advertising. As a result, many members who have used the Spotify’s free option may find their experience limited and will soon seek out alternatives where they can listen to free tracks for as long as they wish.
We decided to compile a list of six of the best alternatives to Spotify, giving you unlimited playback (some with adverts) for free:
We have covered We7’s exploits in the past, operating as a browser-based music streaming service that allows unlimited playback of tracks with limited advertising.
The service has consistently offered new features, particularly on mobile devices, launching a free personal mobile radio service called Radio Plus that allows Android users to listen to a variety of similar acts (a la Last.fm) but can also store music to play offline. Like Spotify, We7 does offer a Premium service, removing advertising and allowing streaming to mobile devices.
Deezer is a free music streaming website operating out of Paris, France. Currently playing host to over 15 millon members and 7 million tracks, Deezer also has applications available for iOS, Android, BlackBerry and Windows Phone 7 devices.
The music streaming service is primarily a music community, allowing users to create blog pages which can host playlists of their own or other members. Users can friend each other, send direct messages and also catch up on music news directly on the website.
The music catalog isn’t as diverse as We7 or Spotify but it does host a large number of popular tracks.
Grooveshark is the controversial pick in this list, mainly because it relies on users uploading tracks to the service instead of providing them itself. Music services have issued copyright notices to the company, leading to the removal of both its iPhone and Android applications from Apple and Google’s marketplaces.
That said, Grooveshark streams 50 to 60 million songs per month to more than 5,000,000 users, offering premium features to remove advertising and allow for streaming on Palm, BlackBerry and Nokia devices.
Probably the most comprehensive of the picks listed here, Grooveshark has a varied catalog thanks to the users that upload files to the service.
Last.fm is perhaps the most well-known of our picks, offering its users personalised radio streams but also a music recommendation system via its AudioScrobbler feature.
The service offers over 7 million music tracks and hosts 40 million members across 190 countries, users aren’t able to play individual tracks of their choice, instead choosing artists or genres that they wish to listen to, so the service can build playlists that fit with the user’s tastes.
Users outside the UK, US or Germany have to pay a small subscription to take advantage of the radio feature, with Last.fm also introducing a paywall for its music apps on smartphone platforms.
mflow is a music streaming website that offers free streams but also a platform to download tracks. The UK-based startup focuses on the social elements of music sharing, encouraging you to share the music you are listening to with your friends and receive recommendations back in the process.
Tracks are served via a slick HTML5-powered website, as well as its downloadable application, enabling users to download tracks for free, tag bands and tracks, enouraging users to actively promote the acts they like so they don’t have to pay.
mflow has already been able to strike deals with major UK music publications Clash, Q, Kerrang, Mojo and NME, also offering “pro profiles” to prominent UK DJ’s including BBC Radio One’s Zane Lowe and Greg James, hip hop DJs Cut La Roc and MistaJam, indie experts Matt Everitt and Phill Jupitus to help promote the sharing of music and highlight just how well the service works.
Rdio, currently available in the US and Canada, is a very slick music service that works within the browser, across various smartphone platforms and natively on the Mac. Its Air application also works across multiple platforms, with a Windows client coming soon.
The service is currently limiting sign-ups, meaning you will need to apply to receive an invite to the service, but feedback suggests Rdio will be force to be reckoned when it opens its doors fully. With a catalog of over 7 million tracks, users will be able to listen to their favourite tracks no matter where they are, following users and interacting with them via the service.
There are a number of different music streaming websites, some we haven’t listed here but are worth mentioning. Pandora is probably the most popular alternative outside the above six but is currently only available in the US.
Spotify will still be the service of choice for many of you, with average users not likely to be affected by the changes. For those who are a little frustrated with Spotify’s tactics, hopefully one of these options will resonate with you.