The service has been available in Europe since 2008, but it stayed out of the U.S. until now as negotiations with music labels dragged on. The New York Times reports that Spotify was still wrapping up its deal with the Warner Music Group earlier this week. And the company still hasn't opened its doors completely—to get in, users need to either receive an invitation code or sign up for one of the paid versions of the service.
Big players like Google and Apple have announced their own "cloud" music services, but those, for now, are really storage for music that you already own. On the other hand, Spotify, along with competitors like Slacker and Rdio, offers users access to a library with millions of tracks. In Spotify's case, there's an ad-supported free version that lets you listen for a limited period of time each month (10 hours for now), then paid plans that start at $4.99 per month, which give you unlimited access and other features.
Sean Parker, who famously co-founded music-sharing service Napster and also invested in Spotify through the Founders Fund, wrote today that the service "represents the realization of a dream." Pointing specifically to Spotify's social features, he said that it would "usher in a new golden age of music."
The service's social integration does seem to be a big selling point. Users who connect Spotify to their Facebook account can get access to their friends' playlists. The company is also reported to be one of the partners for the rumored media service coming from Facebook.
Does the service live up to the hype? Well, the music selection is pretty impressive, at least judging from an hour of exploration this morning. And the social features seem to be working nicely—this reporter has already spotted a long list of Facebook friends connected to Spotify, and Twitter this morning seems to be dominated by people tweeting links to Spotify songs.