Spotify Premium adds several useful features to your listening experience on the platform, but it isn’t actually required just to listen to music!
That’s because, unlike Apple Music, Spotify includes a free, ad-supported tier, so you can use the service without paying a dime.
Naturally, you might be wondering what the limitations of this free tier are since Spotify would, of course, prefer you pay them, which is why they don’t give you all the features for free.
If these are your thoughts, keep reading, because that’s exactly what we’re going to take a look at today!
Here’s How Spotify Free and Premium Work:
Spotify allows free users to listen to an unlimited amount of music and podcasts, with occasional ad interruptions. Spotify Premium users are, in addition to the above, allowed to download songs for offline listening, skip as many songs as they like, and listen without advertisements.
4 Limitations for Non-Paying Spotify Users:
It may seem pretty generous of Spotify to allow unlimited free listening, but of course, there’s going to be a catch or two.
Let’s take a look at the limitations free users experience compared to Spotify Premium subscribers:
Hands down, the number one reason to purchase a Spotify Premium subscription is never to have to listen to another Spotify advertisement again.
There’s nothing quite like the annoyance of getting into a good playlist or album and having your vibe suddenly squashed by an annoying ad. This also applies to visual ads, such as banner ads on the page.
The visual ads aren’t nearly as diverting as an audio ad that completely interrupts your listening experience, however, but it is nice to remove all of them with Premium.
If you’re playing music for other people, such as at a party, the ads can get particularly onerous.
Nothing quite ruins the vibe of a good party like interrupting the music to hear about the latest sale at your home improvement store, or whatever else the ad might be.
Spotify free users only get 6 skips per hour.
That means if you’re listening to a curated playlist, or listening to something on shuffle, your ability to skip past songs you don’t like is limited on Spotify Free.
And on the mobile app, you can only listen to albums on shuffle mode.
On desktop, you can listen to the album in order or pick which song to listen to, but your number of skips is still limited.
Overall, free users just don’t get full control of their playback options, while Premium users do.
No Offline Listening
With Spotify Premium, you can download your favorite tracks to listen to later, even if you don’t have an internet connection.
Spotify Free users get no such privilege and are entirely limited to streaming online.
This means if your internet connection is interrupted, you just don’t get to listen to Spotify at all until it’s restored.
Even if you have a Premium account, offline listening will be limited to what you’ve already downloaded in advance, but at least you’re allowed to download in the first place!
It’s worth noting that Apple Music, one of Spotify’s biggest competitors, has a “Voice” plan that costs roughly the same as the cheapest Spotify Premium plan.
The Voice plan is worth mentioning here because it doesn’t allow offline listening either, but you still have to pay money for it.
So in this way, Spotify allows you the same functionality as the cheapest Apple Music plan, but for free.
No Exclusive Firsts
For the most part, there is no difference between the music and podcast library you get access to for free vs. Premium users.
The one exception to this is that Spotify lets artists premier their new content to Premium users only for the first two weeks.
This means that if you’re a free user and your favorite artist chooses to use this option, you might have to wait two weeks to hear their latest album on Spotify.
This one is only a big deal if you’re impatient, though, as in two weeks, it’ll be available for free users too, so all you have to do is wait a short period of time.
Did you know Spotify also offers gift cards? This will upgrade the receiver to a Premium account for a set amount of time. Check out our FAQ about Spotify and Gift Cards.
How Many Ads Are there on the Free Spotify Plan?
There seems to be quite a bit of variance in how often ads might play on a free Spotify account, and Spotify keeps tweaking it so that it hasn’t remained constant.
That being said, it seems that advertisements play roughly every 2-5 songs, and you may get anywhere from 1 to 4 or more ads to play before it goes back to your music.
As time goes on, Spotify seems to keep increasing the frequency and quantity of ads, as “back in the day,” it was more like 1 or 2 ads every half hour, which seems more reasonable.
Spotify does allow you to reduce the amount and frequency of ads by occasionally prompting you to watch a video ad.
If you watch the video ad and do not navigate away from the tab, you might not get another ad for about a half hour after that.
Still, this is a bit demanding and obnoxious, since it forces you to actually watch the ad and can detect if you navigate away.
Do You Have to Pay for Spotify Podcasts?
Podcasts are part of Spotify’s normal library and are available for both free and Premium users.
The only exception to this is if the podcast author/publisher decides to release it to Premium-only for the first two weeks.
If this is the case, however, it will still go into the normal library after two weeks and be available to free users at that time.
Do You Have to Pay for Spotify Audiobooks?
Spotify Audiobooks are not currently part of the library for free or Premium users.
Spotify is still dipping its toes in the Audiobook market, and for now, they’re selling audiobooks as individual purchases.
This means that listening to a Spotify Audiobook is entirely unrelated to whether you’re a free or Premium user.
The Audiobooks are simply not in their streaming library at all; you must purchase the audiobook regardless of your Spotify plan, and will then be granted access to your purchase.
Do You Have to Pay for Spotify to Make a Playlist?
No, making your own playlists is a basic feature available for all users.
Whether you’re on mobile or desktop, you’ll be able to create your own custom playlists as much as you like, regardless of whether you’re a free or Premium user.
Of course, if you’re a free user, when you actually go to listen to your own playlists, you’ll be subject to the usual restrictions; limited skips, ads, etc.
Some users have found that random songs appear in their playlists. If this is the case for you, check out our article about why Spotify Free plays random songs.
Do You Have to Pay Spotify to Remove Ads?
This is arguably the single biggest reason to purchase a Spotify Premium plan in the first place.
Spotify can only have a free tier at all because it’s ad-supported.
That is to say, the revenue they might otherwise be made from a subscription fee which you are not paying as a free user, is supplemented by advertisement revenue.
If you have a powerful ad-blocker, you might be able to remove ads from your Spotify experience without paying for Premium.
However, Spotify has worked pretty hard to make their ads resistant to being blocked, so don’t expect it to be easy!
After all, they want to incentivize you to pay for a Premium plan as much as possible, and removing ads wouldn’t be much of an incentive if you could do it easily and freely by yourself.
With all this said, you might be wondering about one of Spotify’s biggest yearly campaigns – Spotify Wrapped! Please also read our Spotify Wrapped FAQ for more.