We break down the differences between Spotify Free vs. Premium to help you decide whether it’s worth an upgrade.
Spotify Premium helps get rid of the disruptive ads and the limited mobile experience that Spotify Free offers.
But, considering Spotify Free also offers access to all tracks, paying $9.99/month can seem like an unnecessary expense. If you won’t utilize all of Spotify Premium’s benefits, it’ll seem like you’ll only be paying to remove ads.
Yet, Spotify Premium actually has more benefits than ad-free listening, including offline playback and advanced access to artist releases. Dive in as we review the similarities and differences between Spotify Free vs. Premium to help you determine if upgrading is the right move.
Spotify Free vs. Premium: Costs
Spotify Free is the platform’s free plan. It gives you access to the entire library of content but comes with ads and limitations, which we’ll discuss in detail in the following sections.
As the name suggests, you don’t have to pay anything to use Spotify Free. Simply sign up for Spotify with your email address and start listening.
Spotify Premium, meanwhile, is the platform’s paid subscription plan. What does Spotify Premium do? It removes streaming limitations and ads on all devices, among other perks.
How much is Spotify per month?
When it comes to Premium, there are four options to choose from:
- Individual: $9.99 per month for one account
- Duo: $12.99 per month for two accounts
- Family: $15.99 per month for six accounts
- Student: $4.99 per month for one account
All plans give you access to everything Spotify has to offer.
While an Individual plan serves one user, the Duo plan is a great option for couples, and the Family plan supports up to six accounts. The latter also comes with parental controls and Spotify Kids, a separate app for young listeners.
Additionally, eligible users can get a significant discount with the Student plan.
Spotify Free vs. Premium: Ads
With Spotify Free, you can expect both visual and audio ads to interrupt your listening at some point. On the desktop app, ads will pop up after skipping a certain number of songs (usually around 14, based on our testing).
On the other hand, you get full-screen ads when you open the app or switch playlists on the mobile app, but rarely while listening to music since playback is already limited.
The ads are unskippable, so you’ll have to listen to every bit of the promotional content aired before your next song plays.
To do this, go to Privacy Settings and ensure the “Process my personal data for tailored ads” option is turned off.
In contrast, Spotify Premium is completely ad-free, ensuring distraction-free listening. Plus, without the ad interruptions, you’ll save a bit of data consumption that you’d otherwise need to load the ad content. This, in turn, will contribute to conserving battery life on your devices.
Spotify Free vs. Premium: Music Library
Both Free and Premium users have access to all of Spotify’s music and podcast content, and both have nearly the same Discovery features available.
The difference is that Premium users may get early access to new music releases or exclusive content, whereas Free users will have to wait a couple of weeks.
Spotify Free vs. Premium: Playback Control
With Spotify Free, you can only listen to music in shuffle mode, and you’re limited to 6 skips per hour on the mobile app. However, you can preview all of the tracklists inside the playlist and ‘hide’ specific songs you don’t want to hear.
There’s no limit to how many songs you want to hide from a playlist, so you can make the most of a pre-generated playlist. Yet, this feature is only available on selected personalized playlists.
Spotify Free is more lenient for desktop app users, as you can pretty much play any song from any playlist that you want on demand.
On the other hand, you get unlimited skips and full on-demand playback on both mobile and desktop for Spotify Premium.
Spotify Free vs. Premium: Discovery Features
When it comes to exploring new music, Spotify has proven to be fair to both Free and Premium users.
Spotify Free and Premium offer identical music discovery features – including ‘Discover Weekly‘ and ‘Release Radar‘ playlists that update weekly. There’s no update frequency or content difference in these playlists between Free and Premium users. You also get a New Music Friday playlist and several Daily Mixes, regardless of which plan you’re on.
Some of these ‘Made For You‘ playlists are grouped based on genre, artists, and periods. They evolve with your listening activity, so if you’re a new user, you need to keep listening before you see them.
Additionally, when you create a new playlist, Spotify automatically recommends similar songs based on what’s already there, regardless of whether you’re a Free or Premium user.
The only difference in discovery features is the ‘Enhance‘ playlist feature, which is exclusive to Premium users. This feature recommends a new song to be added to your playlist for every two songs you play.
However, while the ‘Enhance’ feature is nice, you’ll probably have Spotify minimized in the background when listening to music. Even when you stay in Spotify’s interface, you likely won’t be interacting with it, at least not every two songs.
In the end, not having it might not be much of a dealbreaker.
Spotify Free vs. Premium: Offline Listening
Spotify Free has no option to download songs for offline listening. So, you’ll have to rely on mobile data if you want to listen to music without a WiFi connection.
On the upside, you can download podcasts if you need something to help pass the time. There’s no hard limit on how many podcasts you can download; as long as your device has the storage, you can keep downloading them.
With Spotify Premium, you can download both songs and podcasts on the mobile app.
You can download as many as 10,000 songs and podcasts on each of up to five different devices. Just remember to connect to Spotify online at least once every 30 days to keep your downloads in your library.
Spotify Free vs. Premium: Sound Quality
Spotify Free users get four levels of audio quality on both desktop and mobile apps:
- Automatic: Dependent on a network connection
- Low: 24 kbit/s
- Normal: 96 kbit/s
- High: 160 kbit/s
Spotify Premium subscribers get an added ‘Very High’ setting, which streams at 320 kbit/s.
Both Free and Premium users get the same audio quality for podcasts at approximately 96 kbit/s on all devices and 128 kbit/s on the web player.
But unless you’re focusing on the details of the music or listening through an audiophile-grade setup, the difference between ‘High’ and ‘Very High’ isn’t really all that noticeable.
Additionally, Spotify subscribers may also be getting lossless audio quality in a new ‘HiFi’ plan, which has been predicted to cost more than the standard Premium plan.
Spotify announced the new HiFi feature during their Stream On event in February 2021 and through an official blog post. But this HiFi feature is yet to be released, so we can’t count it as a plus for Premium yet.
Spotify Free vs. Premium: Supported Devices
Previously, only Premium subscribers could stream music via Spotify Connect-enabled speakers. However, Spotify did away with this scheme in 2018 and extended the feature to all subscribers. Today, both Free and Premium users can enjoy seamless playback through Spotify Connect on many platforms and devices.
However, there are still more devices available for Premium subscribers overall. For instance, in the Wireless Speakers category, you’ll find over 100 speaker models that require a Premium account to be able to stream music, versus 41 models available for Free users.
You can check the complete list of supported devices for both Free and Premium subscribers on Spotify’s website.
Spotify Free vs. Premium: Social Features
Spotify comes with many great social features that both Free and Premium users can enjoy. You can see what music people you follow and your friends have been listening to on the friend activity feed and create playlists together.
Or, you can use the Blend feature to generate a playlist that combines music you and your friends select to listen to.
One difference is that Group Sessions, a feature that allows you to host live listening parties with up to five friends (irrespective of where they are in the world), is only available for Premium subscribers.
If you’re a Premium Duo or Family subscriber, you can also get a playlist that combines favorite songs from other users included in your plan. This feature will ensure everyone gets to hear their jam during road trips or get-togethers.
Spotify Free vs. Premium: Additional Features
Besides the core differentiating aspects mentioned above, there are some features that both Spotify Free and Premium users can enjoy.
For instance, Spotify Wrapped, a stats-based recap of your musical journey over the past year (almost like a year-end diary), is available for both Free and Premium users. And should you decide to quit Premium in the middle of the year, your Wrapped won’t be affected.
Other features both plans share are the ability to see song lyrics in real-time, exclude playlists from your Taste Profile, and add local files to your library. In contrast, free users can’t access Spotify’s AI DJ. The feature is similar to live radio, giving you personalized recommendations and occasional commentary.
Another looming concern for Free users is missing out on new music releases.
For those who are not aware, Premium and Free streams have different payouts for artists – with the former having a higher economic value.
To help with this, Spotify provides an option for artists to turn on a paywall that makes their releases available to Premium users only for the first two weeks. In other words, Free users must wait two weeks before accessing those releases.
Granted, not all artists will likely turn on the paywall for their latest releases. But upgrading to Premium is your best bet if you wish to avoid delays.
Is Spotify Premium Worth It?
If you’re still wondering if Spotify is worth it, here’s a quick recap of the main differences between a Free and Premium Plan:
|Features||Spotify Free||Spotify Premium|
|Ads||Visual and audio ads||Ad-free listening|
|Music library||Full access, but you might have to occasionally wait two weeks for new releases||Full access|
|Playback controls||Limited to shuffle mode on mobile||On-demand playback on all devices|
|Discovery features||Full access||Full access|
|Offline listening||You can only download podcasts on mobile||You can download music and podcasts on mobile|
|Sound quality||High (up to 160kbit/s)||Very High (up to 320kbit/s)|
|Multi-device compatibility||PC/Mac, mobile devices, cars, smart TVs, games consoles, smart watches, wireless speakers (some limitations)||PC/Mac, mobile devices, cars, smart TVs, games consoles, smart watches, wireless speakers, Car Thing|
|Social features||Friend activity, Collaborative playlists, Share features||Friend activity, Collaborative playlists, share features, Group sessions|
|Additional features||Spotify Wrapped, Lyrics, Play local files||Spotify Wrapped, Lyrics, Play local files, AI DJ|
With Spotify Free, you’ll likely find the experience similar to listening to the radio in several ways:
- You get a mix of pre-selected songs.
- You can’t choose what song comes up next.
- You have to endure ads in-between songs.
But unlike radio, you’ll have a degree of control by ‘hiding’ songs you don’t like from a playlist. You’ll also get a more personalized experience from the many playlists under the ‘Made For You’ hub – something you cannot get from a typical radio station.
So, even with Spotify Premium winning in almost all categories, if you are a passive listener who’s content with a few selections of mainstream hits or someone who simply enjoys having music in the background, Spotify Free should do just fine for you.
That said, if you’re a music fanatic or a dedicated audiophile, the Spotify Premium benefits are worth the investment.
Who should consider upgrading to Spotify Premium?
In a nutshell, anyone who wants complete control over playback, access to the latest releases, better audio quality, and the ability to stream music without burning through mobile data. Furthermore, if you find ads annoying, the $9.99 a month price tag is definitely worth it.
Students, in particular, stand to gain the most. Aside from getting Premium features, they also get access to two other popular movie streaming services at a much cheaper rate.
Spotify Premium is also ideal for those who, perhaps, travel a lot and like having their music with them on the go. Special mention of the Car Thing compatibility is imperative here, especially if you’re looking to upgrade your car’s head unit without replacing it.
Lastly, if you’re all about supporting your favorite artists, upgrading to Premium is also an excellent way to do it.
The average Spotify payout per stream is about a measly $0.0033. However, Free and Premium streams are weighed differently in determining the artists’ payouts. In the simplest terms, Spotify determines the pay for each stream based on the Average Revenue Per User (ARPU).
A 2017 study found that the ARPU for Premium users was $4.81, and the ARPU for free users was $0.51. In other words, a stream from a Premium user is worth nearly ten streams from Free users.
Given this backdrop, upgrading to Premium can be a show of loyalty to your favorite artists like no other!
FAQs on Spotify Free vs. Premium
- Is Spotify Free really free?
- Is Spotify free forever without Premium?
- What is the cheapest way to get Spotify?
Is Spotify Free really free?
Yes, Spotify can be free if you’re asking whether you have to pay money to listen to music on Spotify.
However, to enjoy the ‘free’ version of the app, you’ll have to spend a few minutes listening to ads (which pop up every few tracks). This means you’re paying with your time instead of money.
You might think that Spotify Free is quite a steal. But the truth is that Spotify doesn’t lose much while letting you enjoy music for free. They still make money from the ad spots they sell to advertisers.
That said, Spotify’s Premium service generates the largest chunk of its total revenue. That’s why the ads on the free tier are designed to be disruptive enough to make you want to sign up for the Premium plan instead.
So, if you’re someone who doesn’t want to be badgered by advertisements or prefers an uninterrupted listening experience, Spotify Free isn’t for you. However, if you’re all for reducing subscription costs or just looking to try out Spotify, the free version should do the trick.
Is Spotify free forever without Premium?
Yes. Unless Spotify decides to ditch the free plan altogether, which is unlikely considering the company’s current business model.
However, the free trial you get when you opt for a Premium subscription is only available for three months. If you don’t want to be charged, you must cancel your Premium plan before the free trial ends.
What is the cheapest way to get Spotify?
The cheapest way to get Spotify is through a Free subscription. Despite the limitations, it’s a solid option for listeners who aren’t picky about song selections.
As far as Premium subscriptions are concerned, the Student plan is a steal for eligible users. On the same note, the Duo and Family plans help you save when sharing your subscription with loved ones.
Since prices vary by country, another way to save on Spotify is to sign up for the service from a country where the service is less expensive. You can do this if you’re traveling or have access to a VPN.
Finally, Spotify often secures deals with other businesses and organizations worldwide, which may enable you to get the service for cheap or enjoy a longer trial. For example, you can get three months free when you sign up with PayPal or four months free if you’re a student in the UK.
Ultimately, there’s no way to say that one plan is hands-down better than the other. We all consume music differently. What and how we spend on this leisure activity is a matter of personal choice.
That said, through this article, we hope we’ve been able to highlight whether Spotify Premium is worth upgrading to. And if you’re still unsure, you can always go for the free trial.
How did you find our Spotify review? Do you have any questions or thoughts on what we covered? If so, feel free to share them in the comments section below. We’d love to hear from you!