Spotify Makes Its US Debut

The hottest music venue in Europe opened its doors last Thursday morning to a select group of users in the United States.

Spotify, which makes Internet music-streaming software, launched the much-hyped U.S. version of its service after delays and years of negotiation.

Initially, Spotify will only be accepting new members to its free service who receive invitations from the company, one of its sponsors or a current user.

“The US is the largest market in the world,” Kenneth Parks, Spotify’s content chief, said in an interview. “We neber done a launch this large.”

Google+, the new social network, also launched recently using an invite-only scheme. Spotify plans to welcome everyone for free after several weeks.

Spotify will let people choose from any of 15 million songs to hear for free — up to 10 hours per month, with each track listenable up to five times. For the first six months, however, people who enter during the invitation period are exempt from the monthly limit.

After that, users can lift the restrictions by paying $4.99 a month or buying songs individually, like iTunes. The smartphone apps can be accessed for $9.99 a month, which includes unlimited streaming and the ability to save copy-protected music for listening offline.

Spotify differs from iTunes in the way you listen to music. iTunes is a store from which you purchase, download and then play the music. Spotify doesn’t require any downloading – you just stream the music to/through your device.

The ability to create and share playlists with Facebook friends has created a beehive mix-tape culture of more than 10 million users in Europe.

Operating from a small office in Stockholm, Sweden, Spotify quickly spread its tentacles across Europe. But during the past couple of years, the company has been caught in a web of bureaucracy. Record-label executives have expressed concern that Spotify’s free offering devalues music and doesn’t drum up significant revenue.

“They (the record companies) wanted to be careful,” Parks said. “Spotify has always had a view that the free experience was core to what Spotify was all about and key to get users to invest in the service.” Spotify CEO Daniel Ek echoed that belief at a technology conference in December, as he has in several public appearances before that and likely will again at Fortune’s Brainstorm Tech conference this week.

The four major labels and Spotify have finally settled their disputes and in the time since, the record companies have given the go-ahead to competing digital music initiatives such as Rdio, MOG and, most recently, Apple’s iTunes.

Sign up to request an invitation for a FREE account here:

If you’re ready to spend a few bucks a month you can sign up here right now:

Spotify’s Facebook Page

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