Party's over, kids.
For the past six months, Americans have been bathing in the luxury that is Spotify, the free music streaming service that started in the U.K. and teamed up with Facebook to probably forever change the way we share and experience music on the Web.
Like most free rides, the "free" part is about to be phased out. The deal, for anyone who didn't read the fine print, is good for only six months before Spotify demands a paid subscription for unlimited usage.
Bummer, right? But before anyone decides to launch an Occupy Spotify tent party, hear me out: The $9.99 unlimited subscription, which includes full usage on your mobile device, is absolutely worth it.
I should clarify that I'm the cheapest SOB you'll ever meet. If there's free food in the building, I will devour it. If it's on clearance and I might need it at some point, I'm buying it. If you have a washing machine or space-age cable in your apartment, I'm probably offering to scrub your floors so I can use it (tweet me if you'd like to take me up on this).
I will do whatever I can to avoid paying for something, and that includes my media. So if music lovers like me aren't willing to pay for Spotify, what other options are out there?
Grooveshark (a similar free streaming service that is being sued by major labels) doesn't offer the effortless sharing that Spotify does; Pandora wears out its welcome with the first play of a country song when you've been listening to dubstep; and Rhapsody has a few too many Rick Santorum ads for my taste.
The closest you'll get to a Spotify experience is Rdio, which also is integrated with Facebook, but it too has limits on how many songs you can listen to within a 30-day period (basically the restrictions that will be placed on free Spotify subscribers soon).
Even if there were other acceptable options, Spotify has become such a staple in everyday life that I wouldn't be willing to switch for the sake of saving $10 (which is a lot of money to a brokeass like me, mind you).
If it weren't for Spotify, I wouldn't have been inspired to start a self-improvement project asking friends to send me one artist everyone must listen to—which takes about five seconds and two mouse-clicks to do—and I'm positive I wouldn't have gotten around to finally listening to Elvis Costello, per a friend's suggestion. And on the flip side, I wouldn't have discovered how serious my edgy coworker is about her not-so-secret love for Brad Paisley and country music, or how talented a far-away friend has become at creating "mom-banging" playlists that now help me get through the workday.
I don't subscribe to the belief that digital music can't be free and still be profitable. Or even that digital news can't be profitable—hello, I work for a free newspaper that is about to celebrate its 10th birthday. But with our options for smart, social streaming music services dwindling, it's important to recognize that what Spotify is doing is probably the biggest accomplishment in making music social since the introduction of MySpace.
So if there's one thing to stop being a cheapass about, it's this. Let's untwist our panties, get on the bandwagon and just pay up already.
JESSICA GALLIART IS REDEYE'S SOCIAL MEDIA LADY. JGALLIART@TRIBUNE.COM | @REDEYECHICAGO