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Music and podcast streaming services

A basic RNIB guide to Spotify and how it is used by blind and partially sighted people.

A person using Spotify on their smartphone

Spotify is a music streaming service and library management service that gives access to millions of songs, podcasts and audiobooks from around the world.

To sign up to Spotify, all you need is a Facebook account or an email address and an internet connection. It's available for Android and Apple devices. When you stream music using Spotify, you do not own it – so it’s not like buying an album – but your account gives you free, instant access to vast amounts of music.

Features and benefits

A free version of Spotify is available. With the free version, you will have to listen to some advertisements and you won’t be able to listen to music unless you are using the internet, but it’s a great way to try Spotify out and see if it’s something you would make use of.

The premium paid for version of Spotify lets you keep music available to play offline (when you aren’t connected to the internet) and it gives you access to music in a high-quality mode that makes it sharper and clearer.

Spotify also allows users to make playlists, so you can have all of your favourite songs in one place or create special collections.

Spotify is smart too. It will learn what sort of music, artists and genres you enjoy, and it will make suggestions to introduce you to new music that you might like based on what it knows about you.

Spotify accessibility

Spotify works with speech and magnification software and it’s fairly easy to explore all of the functions that it has to offer (including browsing through playlists and finding recommended music). If you’re using speech whilst listening to Spotify, the music will continue to play quietly, so you don’t have to pause your music whilst using the feature.

In May 2021 three new Spotify accessibility features that will be rolling out this summer, including more visible buttons, removal of all caps formatting, increased text size options, and auto-generated podcast transcripts. Read more at Spotify News.

There are, of course, alternatives to Spotify. iPhone users will be familiar with Apple Music as it comes pre-installed on Apple devices. Spotify doesn’t work with Siri; you can’t ask Siri to play music via Spotify.

Spotify costs £9.99 per month, at time of writing.

How to use Spotify on Apple devices with VoiceOver

  • Tap on Spotify and there will a list running down the left hand side of the screen with a search option.
  • Double tap on this and it will open a box ready for you to type in the artist or song you are hoping to find. Do this and press search on the keyboard.
  • There will then be a list displayed on the screen with the top results, songs and artists. To move through these, do a one finger flick to the right and double tap on anything you want to listen to.
  • If the song doesn’t start to play straight away, locate the play button at the bottom of the screen by dragging your finger across until you hear play, then double tap.

Spotify is a great app for listening to music and podcasts. I like being able to download albums, tracks and playlists onto a phone to listen to without consuming data. Spotify has over 70 million songs on it, so if you’re looking for your favourite song it’s probably there

Mike Hobson, RNIB Technology for Life volunteer