Spotify is a ray of hope in the post-CD music industry, combining the best of iTunes and music services like Pandora. Indeed, Apple's purchase of streaming site Lala (for a reported $80 million) may be viewed in part as a preemptive defense against Spotify's planned entry into the U.S. this year.
Six million European users (and Americans masquerading as "foreigners") are already dipping into Spotify's cleverly organized collection of 6 million tracks, enjoying a friction-free interface and playlists designed for sharing. Subscriptions aren't required; streaming is free. For about $14 a month, premium users can pull music from the cloud to their smartphones or cache up to 3,333 songs for listening anywhere. "No one wants to wait for tracks to buffer or spend hours searching through a Web site to find their favorite song," says cofounder and CEO Daniel Ek. On Spotify, they don't.
In Sweden, Spotify has become Universal Music's biggest digital revenue source. Here, Universal, EMI, Warner, and Sony BMG have helped build Spotify's estimated $50 million war chest. Soon we'll be able to get our Gaga whenever and however we want it.