Spotify to restrict some music to paying subscribers only

Spotify is to make some music available only to paying customers in a major change to its service.

Until now, all music on the service has been available to both free and paid users but Spotify has now agreed with multiple major record labels to restrict some of the biggest new releases to members of its premium tier only, according to the Financial Times.

The premium tier currently costs £9.99 a month enables offline playback and ad-free listening.

Spotify has the largest paid user-base in the music streaming industry, with a reported 50m paying subscribers and another 50m free users. Those figures far outstrip Apple’s 20m users and Tidal’s 3m, and Spotify has for a long time attributed at least some of its scale to the value of its comprehensive free tier as a marketing tool.

By restricting some music from free users Spotify stands to gain a reduction in royalty fees paid to the labels per stream, and a chance at exclusive releases from artists like Kanye West, Taylor Swift and Beyoncé, all of whom have restricted new albums to the paid tier of competing services such as Apple Music and Tidal.

Labels believe the free tier, which pays lower royalties per stream, can serve to cannibalise other audiences, hitting album sales and lowering the incentive to upgrade to premium. And for some artists, there’s a point of principle underlying the debate: when Taylor Swift took the decision to pull her songs from Spotify, she wrote that “music is art, and art is important and rare. Important, rare things are valuable. Valuable things should be paid for. It’s my opinion that music should not be free.”

Swift’s songs are still available under time-limited free trials on services including Apple Music and Amazon Music, as well as on YouTube.


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