Spotify: The next big trend in digital music?

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PHOENIX – There’s a new kid on the digital-music block and this one plays a bit different from what you might be used to.

When it comes to Spotify, think Netflix. Not iTunes.

Instead of buying music like you do with iTunes and Amazon, with Spotify you rent it. More accurately, you rent access to it.

Popular in Europe, Spotify is no stranger to the digital-music market. It is, however, new to U.S. music lovers. It launched here last week to feel out the American market.

Basically there are three levels of service – one that’s free and two that are paid.

With the free service, you can access Spotify’s library of more than 15 million songs on your computer. The price of listening to the music is listening to a few 15-second ads. There will likely be caps on how much you can listen, but those have not been determined yet.

For $5 a month, you can get rid of the ads and the caps, but you still have to be online to listen. For $10 a month you can access those songs on up to three mobile devices and listen to them offline.

With Spotify, it's all about music on demand.

"Just help yourself to whatever you want, whenever you want it," reads the Spotify website.

If you cancel your account, however, you do not get to keep the music in your playlists. You’ve rented it, not bought it.

“As soon as you stop paying, you have about 30 days and then you no longer have access,” explained Ken Colburn of Data Doctors.

The rental model is an interesting one for music, and it’s one Colburn likes. It can be cost effective, especially for families who might find themselves buying music for several members. That can add up quickly.

While iTunes has its own network (Ping) to share music with friends, Spotify is friends with Facebook. If your Facebook friends have a Spotify account, can share your favorite tunes and playlists with just one click.

“It’s that simple,” Colburn said.

“If you’re the type that loves a lot of new music and kind of get tired of the old stuff, it might be the perfect thing,” he continued. “If you’ve got a lot of people using a lot of music in a household, it might be more cost effective.”

At this point, Spotify is just music. There are no TV shows or movies like you’ll find in the iTunes store or on Amazon.

Based in Sweden, Spotify has 1.6 million paying customers in seven counties. The U.S. is number eight.