Spotify, the music streaming service that everybody's been talking about, is finally prepared for its launch in the United States and may arrive as soon as this week, according to multiple sources. Spotify's website has a splashy announcement declaring it "will soon be landing on US shores." There's also a spot for users hoping for an invite to enter their e-mail address.
According to Mashable, Spotify cleared deals with music publishers Universal, EMI and Sony, and is on the verge this week of signing the last holdout, Warner Music Group.
Spotify, which has 50 million users in Europe -- but only 1 million paying subscribers, according to MusicWeek -- is being hailed as a major challenger to preexisting subscription music streaming services in the U.S., such as Pandora, Rhapsody and Grooveshark. Spotify's big one-up over the competition is its ability to play tracks on-demand, rather than cycling through related stations on Pandora or uploading one's own music to locker services like Music by Google, Amazon Cloud Drive, or the upcoming iCloud.
But a free account on Spotify has limitations. Free users can only play 10 hours of music a month and cannot play the same track more than five times. A monthly subscription costs 10 pounds in the UK, 10 Euros in Europe -- or about $14 -- and gives unlimited access to 15 million commercial-free tracks via a desktop client or an iPhone or Android device. Specific subscription models for the United States have yet to be unveiled.
Spotify also allows for creating playlists on the fly, and for sharing those playlists with friends -- making Spotify's deal with Facebook a no-brainer. Luckily for those who have ditched Mark Zucerkberg's empire for Google+, Spotify won't be tethered to Facebook, as earlier reports suggested.
Spotify also has iTunes library importing, meaning those cloud-based music lockers mentioned earlier may quickly lose their glamour and become obsolete.
Given Spotify's tidal waves of buzz, an invite-only release could both entice and frustrate users, much like the recent launch of Google+. Spotify's release on U.S. soil will engage Pandora and its ilk to revamp subscription models and terms of service agreements. Plus, you can't forget that Apple hasn't yet unwrapped iTunes in the iCloud; Music by Google is still in beta and is due for an overhaul; and Amazon has made it so users can upload an unlimited amount of music to its Cloud Drive. Spotify may change the streaming music game in the U.S., but that doesn't mean the game won't change along with it.