Using Spotify On Linux

Spotify Logo

Spotify is a free and legal service which gives you access to millions of songs. They achieve this by licensing the tracks from record companies in a similar way to radio stations, and they pay for it with advertising. You hear the occasional advert between tracks, and there are also options to pay a monthly subscription for a premium account. When I first heard about it, like many others I couldn’t see what all the fuss was about. I also discovered there was no Linux version, so I pretty much gave up on it. That was until recently, when a friend was extoling it’s virtues to me so enthusiastically that I decided it warranted a second look. To be fair to them when you try and download the software on Linux the site does direct you to a wiki page for making it run under WINE. It turns out it’s pretty easy to install and configure on most Linux distributions. So I wanted to share with you how I did it, in the hope it might prove useful to others.

A Quick Warning: Before we start I should point out that Spotify is currently only available in the UK, Sweden, Finland, Norway, France and Spain. I apologise to readers outside of these countries, but I wanted to make sure you knew this before getting too far into the article. They say this is because of licensing restrictions, only some record companies and territories are on board with the service. I won’t go into another rant about the stupidity of national borders when it comes to the Internet, but you probably know my feelings on this.

Step 1: Install WINE

Installing WINE on Ubuntu
Installing WINE on Ubuntu

We’ll be using WINE to install Spotify on Linux. WINE (Wine Is Not an Emulator) is a clever tool which allows Windows programs to run on other platforms. I was testing this on a standard Ubuntu 9.04 install so could simply do “sudo apt-get install wine” in a terminal, but you don’t have to resort to the terminal if you don’t want to. WINE is packaged and waiting to be installed on most Linux distributions these days, just search for it with your package manager. With the Ubuntu Add/Remove tool you can just type “wine” into the search box and wait a few seconds, it should pop up as the top result “Wine Microsoft Windows Compatibility Layer”. Tick the box and press “apply changes”, you’ll be asked for your password as a security measure, then the application will install.

Step 2: Download Spotify Windows Installer: This is pretty easy, you just need the standard Windows installer from the Spotify website. Head to this page and download yourself a copy. It doesn’t matter where you save it, as long as you can remember for later.

Downloading The Installer
Downloading The Installer

Step 3: Double-click The Windows .exe:
With WINE installed on most distros it should open .exe files automatically when you double-click them. It can take a minute to do something so be patient, it is working just slowly, especially if it’s the first time you’ve run WINE.

Double-click the file
Double-click the file

I left the default Spotify install options allowing the program to create a shortcut on the desktop. It was installed in 2 seconds, literally.

Installing Spotify
Installing Spotify

Step 4: Log In To Spotify:
Obviously you need an account for this but provided you have one you can just log in to spotify with the pop window it presents. You can create an account for yourself by going to this page, or you might be lucky enough to get an invite from a friend, which has the same effect but makes you feel a bit more loved. Once logged in you will see a splash screen. I untick the box at the bottom so this isn’t shown every time you load, it’s up to you what you do.


Step 5: Listen To Some Music!

It works!
It works!

Finally you just need to find some music to listen to. Spotify has a very good library of tracks available and features such as shared playlists with your friends can be great fun. Sadly not all of the record companies are on board yet, but the catalogue is growing daily. I’m amazed at some of the obscure stuff you can find, it’s perfect for a terminal music geek like me. Almost everything works the same in WINE as it would on Windows but there are a couple of things which don’t work as yet. One example is the links to playlists people might send you in emails and such. They should open automatically in Spotify when you click them, but that doesn’t seem to work properly when you’re using WINE.

I’ve grown to like Spotify a lot and I really didn’t expect that at all. It has a few things to sort out but it’s coming along pretty nicely. I’d like to see it opened up to more countries and I’d also like to see a native Linux version eventually, but for now I’m quite happily rocking away with WINE. It works a lot better than I thought it would, according to the wiki some people are even using it on FreeBSD, wonders never cease. I hope you enjoy it too.


  1. How can the fact that the free service is not available in Germany but the for-pay one is be down to “licensing restrictions”? Fuck Spotify and their licensing restrictions. They can license their way straight to hell…

  2. @Fab I didn’t think the paid version was available in Germany. That’s news to me. The reason I put the information at the start was so people could choose to stop reading if they wanted

  3. There’s some work ongoing wrt linux access:

  4. The licensing could very well be the reason why there is no Linux client, as I am sure it would not be all that hard to port. In fact it looks a darn sight close to Songbird. In any case, its not like there are not a plethora of other free radio content providers out there, such as Shoutcast, which is very well supported in Amarok, Rhythmbox, gStreamer, and a dozen other Linux based apps.

    • @Jack – Thanks for the info @davemc – There are alternatives yes which is always good, and I agree the interface looks very like Songbird. I felt Songbird copied the iTunes interface with their later versions which everyone seems to do now. It used to look quite distinct but not not any more. I’ve not really used Shoutcast much but I don’t think it works quite the same way. You’re listening to radio then, i.e what the DJ chooses to play. Spotify is an on demand music library, and it contains a lot of information about each artist. It’s really quite cool for a music buff. For example I listened to Jarvis Cocker’s new album in full last night with Spotify, got the odd advert every 2 or 3 songs but sound quality was great and I now know I wouldn’t buy the album. Not as good as his first in my opinion. Spotify seems to occupy some new space between radio and an online music store. Anyway, enough rambling off the point. Thanks for the comments guys πŸ™‚

  5. I tried Spotify for the first time around xmas last year and thought it was awesome, but after a week or so of listening to old albums i hadnt heard in years, i started to notice how much content wasnt there, it is really annoying when there are gaps in an artists discography (Underworld only have the latest release, Orbital everything except the latest).

    I understand that it must be hard to sign up all labels that have ever existed, but as long as 90% of the 500 or so albums i have in my local collection isnt on Spotify, i wont waste my time looking for something in the genres i like.

    That said, it is a pretty nice service when you find what you are looking for, and i might use it more if they ever add labels such as Warp, EM:T, Ultimae and Twisted.

    Right now i spend a lot of time on jamendo and free netlabels, there’s lots of good stuff to be found if you are willing to dig around a bit.

    • @Kabinel – I agree Jamendo is amazing and the Creative Commons music out there is well worth checking out. I even have a whole podcast dedicated to new music, 90% of which I find on Jamendo if I’m honest. You’re right that there are gaps in the Spotify catalogue, I’ve seen this myself. There’s nothing by Ian Dury & The Blockheads at all for example which saddens me. I guess it’ll take time to get all those labels on board

  6. Doh.. a quick google revealed how out of touch i am with Spotify.
    Looks like Warp, Ultimae and some Twisted are on Spotify now. πŸ™‚

  7. spreading Spotify love – well done! xo xo

  8. It wouldn’t get such a mixed reaction if they wouldn’t just exclude people by the “nationality” of their IP. It’s stupid, pointless and I don’t give a fuck why they do it. I stopped using because of this, even if I was in an unaffected country there.

    This sucks.

  9. @Fab – I agreed with that right at the start of the article, you’ve made your point clear. Quote: “I won’t go into another rant about the stupidity of national borders when it comes to the Internet, but you probably know my feelings on this.”. They talk about a global market but a real free market is not what they want. You just have to look at the DVD region system which was imposed to see that. It sucks yes, no arguments here

  10. I’m quite surprised that Finland belongs in those countries… usually we get nothing (feeling secret muaahhaha pleasure ;)). Seriously speaking country restrictions in Internet shouldn’t exist. I would love to try it but installing WINE is bit too much for me (it’s matter of principle), not to mention that getting the invitation code or whatever is damn difficult.

  11. @hanna I can understand not wanting to install WINE on principal but it is LGPL software so I don’t have a big problem with it. If you want an invite I can send you one no problem but it looks as though you can just sign up now anyway. Like I said, I respect your decision and support it. If you change your mind at some time in future and want an invite let me know πŸ™‚

  12. Hi Dan, I have a question if you don’t mind. When you run Spotify on Linux, can you see your previously created playlists on the left hand pane?

    • @Jacabo – No of course I don’t mind. The answer is yes my playlists show up fine in the left hand bar. Even across different machines because they’re stored by the web service. So when you log in on any machine it pulls up your playlists. Hope that helps

  13. Thanks, Dan. Now I need to figure out why I can see my playlists across different machines running Windows, but never in my Linux box, at least I know it’s not “normal” πŸ™‚

    • @Jacobo – That’s really odd because you’re just running the Windows version of the program through WINE, so it should be the same. Good luck, hop you get it sorted πŸ™‚

  14. The licensing restrictions make perfect sense to me – they only have deals with the advertisers (probably all supplied by a third party provider, not a direct advertiser-spotify link) in the listed countries, and that licensing and the resultant adverts pays for the free service in those countries.

    If you decide to pay the monthly subscription, your subscription pays for the licensing of the tracks from the record companies – presto, someone’s paying again, this time you.

    I’m sure they’d love to have Spotify running globally on a free, advertising-based format for those who’d prefer not to pay, however they can’t try and grow too quickly until they’re established where they already operate. Anything else is foolhardy and would lead to the service going down the pan – don’t run before you can walk.

  15. For opening spotify URLs in firefox see the “Opening spotify URIs from browsers” section on this page:

  16. Hi. i just tried to do everything you wrote.. and it worked,all but one thing. I haven’t gotten an email from spotify with the username and password. does that take very long.. ?

    • @sandra – I’m not sure how long it takes for the username and password to come through, but it shouldn’t be too long. I was invited by a friend some time ago and it was almost instant. Good luck! πŸ™‚

  17. Tried to install spotify on a new install of Ubuntu Karmic today, but both wine 1.0 and wine1.2 would not run the “Spotify Installer.exe” – returned “corrupted or incomplete .exe file”. Tried downloading the .exe a few times, and ‘file’ seemed happy it was a valid .exe .
    I pulled out an old copy of the installer .exe from May09. That worked OK and I ended up with a working install of Spotify (under wine 1.2).
    Maybe useful to somebody?

    • @Richard Smith – Thanks for the information. I’ve not heard of that problem, I wonder if they changed something in the installer. Glad you got it working in the end πŸ™‚

  18. Late reaction but think it should be mentioned

    @Andy It does not work that way. You’ll need to have a creditcard originating in one of those countries to be able to buy the premium version. But as long as you pay with a CC from there you’re able to travel as much as you like and login from wherever you want.

  19. Thanks for the post. Clicked on Ubuntu Software Centre – onstalled Wine beta in one click 2 mins laster i had downloaded Spotify logged in and I was playing my songs within 60 seconds later. How cool is that?

    For those worrying about Spotify’s licensing arrangement it might be useful to explain Spotify’s business model. Basically they have to pay the record companies 1c (?) for every song that each subscriber listens to. Of course an add every 30 mins or so isn’t going to cover this cash out flow so they are bleeding money on free/ad supported subscibers. If they persuade you to sign up then they just pay 50% (?) or your monthly subscription and don’t have to pay per song. Therefore their biz model relies on converting free subscribers to premium subscribers.

  20. Hiya
    followed the instructions and it installed fine, but, when I went to play something it skipped through the album quickly with no sound then told me there was a problem with my soundcard and spotify can’t play music…

    any ideas where to go next?

    • @Gareth – Did you go to the WINE settings tool and click on the audio tab? It usually displays a message saying “no sound settings detected, setting up new defaults” or something like that, I forget the exact wording. The error will be because WINE doesn’t have a sound card set up. Can you tell me any more info, what Linux distribution are you using and what hardware/computer? Happy to try and help.

  21. @Gareth – Ok just read the article again and I see I didn’t talk about this. You might need to do what I described. Go to your system menu and under the WINE menu you will see a program called WINE Configuration. Open that and it’ll look like an old Windows dialog box. Click the audio tab and it might say about the lack of settings and just fix it for you, or you might need to change the settings in there to link it to your sound card. Good luck!

  22. Hey,

    I know it might be a bit late but if anybody is having problems with sound in spotify, try the esound setting in wine audio settings, it works the best. Spotify used to crash every hour and stop loading tracks for me, but since using esound it hasn’t crashed once, this was on 9.04 and 9.10.

  23. Andy’s tip worked for me on 9.10 on a Dell Mini 10v
    Install was easy and all was well but after a few tracks the sound would just stop playing.
    Opening the sound preference showed Spotify flickering on and off trying to play.
    In the Wine Audio configuration I deselected ALSA driver and selected EsounD Driver.
    Also changed the DirectSound settings as per Spotify’s instructions.
    Now sound output seems to be stable.

    • @paul Good news, glad too hear that worked for you. Another friend mentioned this problem to me recently. I’ll have to forward them the information.

  24. Thanks for this πŸ™‚ i live in slovakia and we have same legal restrictions and should not use spotify here. Though spotify can be used with a proxy which pretty much does the trick πŸ™‚ so yey for imba music library πŸ™‚

    • @Neo – I know lots of people use VPN connections and proxies for Spotify and BBC iPlayer amongst other things. Trying to impose national borders on the Internet is a pretty futile exercise. People always find a way around it.

  25. Much love for Andy, Spotify was working fine unless I listened to youtube or similar for sound, if I then returned to spotify I got the error message about the sound card not working. A simple restart always fixed the problem and as Ubuntu does this so painlessly it was a minor inconvenience. A week ago this fix stopped working, tried Andys solution and now have Spotify back

  26. Spotify says that it can’t find the audio drivers.

    I’m running on 10.04.

  27. There is now a linux version of spotify available for download

    • @alex – Thanks for the info. Just been to check it out. Seems there’s only a .deb for Debian-based systems but it’s a great start. Look forward to testing this! Credit to the developers.

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