For residents of North America and many European countries, Spotify has been touted as a game changer for the music industry for almost a year. The free service (unless you want mobile access) offers unlimited, instant access to almost any song you want to listen to while creating playlists to enjoy in the future. Users can even access the playlists of other users, including those created by record labels to encourage the discovery of music of their artists. Unlike previous free music services, like LimeWire or the original incarnation Napster, Spotify is also legal. (This is part of the reason it took much longer for North American residents to be able to legally access Spotify.) However, Spotify is quickly becoming the popular option for music discovery. In Sweden, 33% of the country uses the service and Spotify now boasts a total of over 10 million registered users. (In comparison, Pandora has over 100 million registered users.)

While Pandora has been around for 10 years, Spotify was only founded in 2006 — and was just enabled for North American users in mid-2011. Obviously, Spotify has picked up its user base much faster than Pandora, and with a new beta version, announced that it wants to not just be a music discovery service, but a platform for both users and developers to help listeners discover and experience music in a multitude of ways. The new beta, which you can download for both OS X and Windows at Spotify’s preview page, includes an app store, which Spotify says features a “bunch of cool, exciting and integrated apps inside Spotify, created by some of the best and brightest in the world. Each app brings you a new music experience tailored to you.”

Some of the apps that are already available include Rolling Stone, which allows users not only read the reviews of the best albums, songs, and playlist of the week, but instantly play them as well. The Guardian has a similar app. Additionally, you can check out the Songkick app to find out if any of the artists in your library are performing near you, which adds a real-world component to your online listening experience. With just a few clicks, you can get tickets to upcoming concerts for artists you already listen to on Spotify. If you’re a Spotify user who loves the underground indie app Turntable.fm, the app Soundrop could be just what you’re looking for — without ever needing to leave Spotify. Apps that will be available in the near future include Tunigo and ShareMyPlaylists, which allows users to find and share playlists — even those not created with Spotify.

I don’t need call the shift in Spotify from a service to a platform a “game changer” to make it obvious that Spotify is disrupting the landscape in music — so much that it could take over the music industry on the consumer side. Not only is it free to over 10,000,000 users who listen to music (only 2,000,000 pay for the ability to use Spotify on multiple devices or on mobile), but now developers can piggyback on Spotify to increase their userbase, whether it is readership (Rolling Stone), concert sales (Songkick), or perhaps other products and services in the future. (I hear that music listeners love merchandise. Stickers and t-shirts, anyone?)

A friend recently shared with me his secret for developing a lucrative iPhone app; the money is made with in-app purchases. Ever wonder why so many bars don’t have a cover charge, or it’s easy to negotiate getting in for free? The money is made on the purchases (drinks) inside. Spotify has positioned itself much in the same way. The Rolling Stone app is free, as are the current reviews. Want to read previous reviews? Well, you’ll need access to the archives, which are only available for paid subscribers. The previously mentioned Songkick app is free, but the concert tickets it finds for you will definitely not be.

It should be noted that while some content within the apps can cost money to acquire, the apps themselves are free. Well, at least for now. The freemium model does work well, as people like my friend — and most bar owners — understand. The idea behind adding apps to Spotify is to add “many more new and wonderful experiences that will make Spotify even better.” Undoubtedly there will be some apps that will make Spotify so much better that they will come at a cost to users. Especially if they keep the cost of Spotify’s actual unlimited music “free.” With this new beta transitioning Spotify from a service to a platform to promote and sell things related to the songs users listen to, could Spotify eventually emerge as a one-stop shop for all things music?

If you want to check out Spotify’s new apps, navigate to Spotify’s preview page and download the version right for your operating system. The new beta features now only not just the App Finder in the left hand column, but also predictive search results which suggest possible tracks, artists, albums, playlists, and even people, but also playlist search and a buddy list.

If you are using the new beta version of Spotify, what do you think of the new apps? Do you have a favorite? Let us know your thoughts of the new features in the comments.

Spotify apps image via slashgear