Spotify Limiting its Free Streaming Tier Further?

12 August 2015

Spotify has two subscription options: Free and Premium. The Premium paid subscription allows for unlimited streaming with no ads, as well as the ability to download songs and store them locally on up to three devices.

The Free tier has shifted around a few times in terms of what it offers, but in its current iteration it offers unlimited streaming to PCs and mobile devices, subsidized by the occasional advertizement. These ads tend to be around the 30-second mark, and only crop up once or twice every few tracks. The only restriction beyond this is that you can’t download songs and store them locally.

According to DigitalMusicNews, the Free tier may be about to become a little more limited with the introduction of Premium-only content. This would mean tracks and videos that would only be available to paid subscribers, and not to the majority of free-going users.

Not just greedy

On this outset, it might seem like the reason Spotify would do something like this is simply to squeeze more cash out of its users. While money is certainly the driving force behind most corporate decisions, this one is probably more of a survival tactic.

Until the release of Apple Music, Spotify was relatively uncontested. Competing platforms like Rdio kept Spotify honest, but no one could come close to it in terms of raw subscription numbers. That kind of thinking is no longer a luxury Spotify can afford.

Apple Music is cheap, has fantastic tie-ins with the Apple ecosystem, will eventually be available on Android, has exclusive access to a wealth of new music, and of course, it’s made by Apple; it will be the first option tried by many Apple fans seeking to get in to the streaming market.

Conversely, Spotify has had trouble over the last several months with regards to how much it pays its artists. Taylor Swift famously removed her content from the library citing this very reason.

Spotify needs to hold on to artists if it’s going to compete with Apple Music, and to do that it needs to attract more big names. That requires money, ergo Spotify must encourage its users to switch from unpaid to Premium subscriptions.

Currently, of Spotify’s estimated 75 million users, only around 20 million are paying.

It might actually be a good thing

Right now there’s no word on just what kind of content will be Premium-only. This might end up actually improving the Spotify music selection for paid customers without noticeably limiting the free tier.

Take Taylor Swift as an example. If Spotify can guarantee her a higher paycheck, she and artists like her might be swayed to re-join. In this instance the unpaid listeners have lost nothing, while the paid subscribers have regained access to one of the world’s biggest names.

Of course, that’s a perfect-world scenario. It’s entirely possible that plenty of Spotify’s more well-known personalities will jump at the chance for a bigger cut. With any luck we won’t see a flood of popular acts remove itself behind this (reportedly) incoming paywall. Time will tell.

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