Intrigued by all the hype surrounding the U.S. launch of the Spotify music service, I ponied up a $9.99 monthly subscription fee this morning to avoid the wait for the invite-only free version and give the full-blown premium experience a try.

So far I’m impressed with the simplicity of the interface, and particularly the way it connects to my Facebook friends and also to my phone.

Spotify is offering three tiers of service at launch: the free version, currently invite-only; a $4.99/month service, which is like the free version but without ads; and the $9.99/month service, which enables mobile access, higher-quality audio and other premium features.

The big question is whether we Americans are ready to give up on the notion of “owning” our music via the traditional download model. Existing subscription services have been trying for years. Getting out ahead of the Spotify launch, Seattle’s Rhapsody this week said it had surpassed 800,000 users. Of course that’s still nowhere near the market size of Apple’s iTunes music download store.

The tight Facebook integration seems to be a key advantage for Spotify, and in some ways what we’re seeing today is what Apple’s Ping social network in iTunes could have been. It should be interesting to see how Steve Jobs & Co. respond in general, and whether Spotify is the tipping point that convinces Apple to finally add a subscription option to iTunes.

In the meantime, I’m still kicking the tires on Spotify and trying to fully understand the appeal. Feel free to share your own impressions, if you’ve gotten an invite to the free version or followed me into this strange new land of paying for your music by month.

For more on the service, the New York Times has good a behind-the-scenes look at the launch and Spotify co-founder Daniel Ek.

The Spotify desktop interface, with its social playlist feature

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  • Jonah

    the version you signed up for sounds like Zune Pass only a bit cheaper and without the free downloads every month.

  • Claes Nygren

    I think Spotify is one of the best social apps , all categories. I’t just as natural to share playlists on Spotify as it is to share photos with your friends on Facebook. To bad they put on a time cap on the free version for the US launch.

  • Andrew Collins

    I played around with it this morning after subscribing to the $9.99 Premium plan. I wanted the mobile feature more than anything else. This is only my second paid online subscription service. I was a former Netflix user and joined Hulu Plus a few weeks ago. My first observation was the sound quality. I am not too impressed by the desktop interface as the same 12 albums are featured on the home page. The clincher for me has the been the mobile app for my Android. The songs load fast and sound quality supersedes the competition. I have already uninstalled Pandora and Slacker Radio from my phone. Going to keep using my Amazon MP3 cloud player on occasion.  So far I give it a B+ with room to improve.

  • Guest

    I notice that Rhapsody’s loudmouth CEO, who has talked trash about Spotify for months, is silent on the issue. Good for you, Todd. Thank you for putting that child in a time-out so that we may enjoy the music.

  • daryn

    I’m a big spotify fan, glad I can finally use it 100% legitimately. Looking forward to going home tonight, setting it up on my Sonos, and finally ditching my Rhapsody subscription!

    For those who ask why spotify versus other services, the things that do it for me are: 1. the social aspect (including collaborative playlists), 2. the mobile apps, and the 3. desktop app. Way less clunky than rhapsody or napster.  

    The closest comparison is rdio, which is really good too, maybe better, I haven’t spent that much time with it. 

    • mgiven

      I’ve been comparing Rdio vs MOG for a few weeks and just threw Spotify into the mix and so far Spotify has come out on top. The desktop interface is far superior than the klunky website versions the other services use. It’s also lightning fast and great clarity on downloaded music. The catalog is also the biggest at 15 million songs+ over MOG at 11 million and Rdio 9 million. I wonder how much of Spotify’s 15 million are “repeats though since it seems every album has an original version, a remastered version and a European version.  They may say it gives more options to the user, but it’s also a good way to push up your numbers :)

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