When we called Spotify the best desktop music player we've ever used, we meant it. The trouble is, due to licensing restrictions, a lot of you try it out. Well, Australians (and non-Euros of all stripes), take heart: Here's how to use Spotify from outside of Europe.It's been about two years since we first described the many virtues of Spotify here on Lifehacker and, despite persistent assurances that an official launch would be just around the corner, Spotify has yet to land in Australia. Nevertheless, a lot of non-Europeans are already using the service. What's their secret?
Well, it turns out Spotify doesn't actually care all that much about your physical location, just where your web traffic's coming from. And, with the right virtual private network (VPN) service, your web traffic can appear to come from anywhere you want.
The Low-Hanging Fruit of iTunes vs the Forbidden Fruit of Spotify
First, a quick word on what's changed since we last talked about Spotify. When we first encountered the app, it was more of a supplement to your default desktop music player than a substitute for it. Nowadays, however, Spotify is looking more like a full-fledged iTunes replacement.
Perhaps most importantly for those coming to the service from iTunes, Spotify will now import and play your local music files like any other MP3 player. While Spotify won't stream your personal MP3 collection to you the way Amazon's Cloud Player will, once you see just how much of your music Spotify already has in its own cloud library, you may not care. (In fact, with a paid account, you may even question whether you need any music stored on your local hard drive at all!)
Spotify also now allows you to manage your iPod much in the same way iTunes does. Simply plug the USB cable into your computer and the player will show up under Devices in Spotify's left panel. Don't have an iPod? Spotify's free mobile app will let you wirelessly sync your local MP3s to your iPhone or Android.
Of course, unlike iTunes, Spotify is only for music. And, while Spotify's pay accounts provide options for listening to songs and playlists offline, you won't be able to burn CDs from within the app. Also, the free version of Spotify is ad-supported, regardless of whether you're using the streaming service or listening to your own music. These things may or may not matter to you.
Step 1: Choosing a VPN Service Provider
A VPN service acts as an invisible buffer between your computer and the internet. Though the experience of using the Internet is the same — if maybe a bit slower — all of your incoming and outgoing data is encrypted and routed through a private, secure gateway. If your gateway is in a foreign country, as far as the rest of the internet's concerned, you're in that foreign country too. When it comes to accessing content that's geographically restricted by IP address ("geolocked" or "geoblocked") like Spotify, that's a wonderfully useful thing.
When choosing a VPN service provider for the purpose of accessing geolocked content, then, what matters is choosing one with the right gateways. For the purposes of this guide, we'll use Lifehacker favourite WiTopia, but you can use any you like. Spotify currently offers its streaming music service in Sweden, Norway, Finland, the Netherlands, France, Spain and the United Kingdom. WiTopia, for its part, offers gateways in all of the above countries except for Norway and allows users to switch between them freely, so it's a good fit for our needs.
WiTopia offers three different VPN packages: If your aim is to circumvent IP-based restrictions on your computer, then the SSL plan ($US60/yr) is a solid option. For $US70/yr, you'll also get point-to-point tunnelling protocol (PPTP) support, which will let you run WiTopia's VPN on your iOS devices. After you check out, WiTopia will send you instructions on how to get up and running. Mac users who choose the SSL or SSL/PPTP plans, for example, will receive a link to a personalised installer for Viscosity, an OpenVPN client.
Note that, though WiTopia is a pay service, if you ultimately decide that Spotify isn't worth the expense, the company advertises an unconditional 30-day money-back guarantee. Of course, there's also a world of geolocked content out there beyond Spotify — from the BBC's iPlayer to Swedish Hulu clone Voddler, for example. That means that, even if you decide you don't like Spotify that much, you might find it useful to keep the VPN anyway.
Step 2: Signing Up for Spotify Open
- Once you're set up with a VPN provider, choose a Spotify-friendly gateway through which to route your traffic — London and Manchester, for example, are good options for Anglophones using WiTopia — and open up http://spotify.com/uk/ in your browser of choice. (If you find that you get any "Spotify isn't supported in your country yet"-style messages, simply select a different gateway or port until you find one that works. It shouldn't take more than a few minutes.)
- Click on "Get Spotify" link at the top of the page.
- You'll be presented with various subscription options. For the moment, select Get Spotify Open.
- Fill in the login credential forms and click on the big orange next-step button at the bottom of the screen.
- Spotify will now ask you for certain personal details. The service doesn't require a valid email address, just a name, sex, birthdate and a real postcode from your pretend country of origin (try Google Maps!). When finished, make sure the relevant boxes are checked and click once again on the big orange button.
- When prompted, reaffirm that you'd like to sign up for Spotify Open and, for the last time, click on the orange button.
- Now that you're signed up, Spotify will direct you to the correct download link for your operating system.
Step 3: Signing In, Logging On
- Install and launch Spotify.
- Making sure that you're still logged into the same VPN gateway you used to sign up for your account, enter your login information and log in. (As a general matter, you'll want to be signed into the gateway any time you launch the app.)
- Once the Spotify is up and running, you're good to go. You can shut off the VPN or hop over to a local, domestic gateway for improved speed.
- Because Spotify allows Spotify Open users a certain amount of "abroad" listening time, you needn't fret about being detected or losing your account.
Step 4: Getting a Premium Account (Optional)
Unfortunately, to buy a premium account directly from Spotify, you'll need a credit card or bank account in a Spotify launch country. If that isn't an option, there are two alternative techniques for obtaining the Premium Code you'll need to upgrade your free account:
- Ask a British, Dutch, Finnish, French, Spanish, Swedish or Norwegian friend to buy a Spotify Premium Code on your behalf.
- Find a reseller on eBay.
If you decide to go with the second method, keep in mint that, given current conversion rates, the cost of a month's subscription to Spotify Premium directly from Spotify is a little less than $US16.50. If confronted with an unreasonable markup, you may find it worthwhile to do a bit of haggling.
That's it! You're good to go. Have your own tips for accessing Spotify? Let's hear 'em below.