When I fired up Spotify today I was greeted by this large banner:
Free listening has gone, unless you are happy not to have repeat listens. After five times, that’s it.
I sacrificially endured playing Winchester Cathedral by The New Vaudeville band five times over. I discovered that simply starting a track does not seem to count. On the sixth attempt to play the full track though, I got a slightly modified version of the above banner, and then a message along the top of the Spotify app:
As a point of interest, this particular track is on a large number of different compilations of 60’s compilations. Spotify seems to consider each appearance a different track. So I was able to endure a sixth play of the track by picking a different compilation.
Why has Spotify made this unpopular change? The suggestion in the official blog post is that it was forced upon the company, either by financial necessity or the insistence of the music industry:
It’s vital that we continue offering an on-demand free service to you and millions more like you, but to make that possible we have to put some limits in place going forward.
There are over 9000 (mostly negative) comments post, but as far as I can tell no further official comment there.
Spotify’s chief content officer Ken Parks was available for interview and quoted by various sources; for example he told the Reg:
We’ve shown that the model is doing extremely well, but as things stand we need to tweak the service to ensure everyone has access to legal music in the long term.
Similar tone, but still no hard information. As for CEO and founder Daniel Ek he tweeted:
Things are not always what they seem…
which if it means anything means “watch this space” I guess.
The affect of the change is easy to predict. There will be more subscribers, but fewer users. Spotify will be less attractive to advertisers, but will get additional subscription income. Since it is still a good deal with the basic subscription, I would expect income to increase overall, but that is only a hunch.
I like Spotify’s performance and usability. The one thing I have against it is the annoying tendency of tracks to disappear suddenly. I played Paul Simon’s latest, So Beautiful or So What, on the service and enjoyed it. Then the next day it had disappeared. Even subscribers to the unlimited service do not get everything, only those tracks which the various rights holders permit.