Spotify is getting an ad-supported mobile version—previously, you had to be a paying subscriber to get mobile access to the service from your iOS or Android phone. Oh, and you're going to get Led Zeppelin! Yes! Finally! Both the new product, and Zeppelin will be available today.
OK, so first the important content news: Spotify will be the first (legal) streaming music service in the world to have Led Zeppelin. Last year, at the company's fall event, we got Metallica—now, we're getting Zeppelin. Somebody at Spotify has a thing for electric guitars.
At the centre of Spotify's new mobile push will be a new feature that allows you to "Shuffle Play" from your existing playlists. Additionally, you'll be able to listen to the slews of user-created playlists, as well as the stuff curated by Spotify's editorial staff.
Shuffle Play is not true on-demand listening, but in the words of CEO Daniel Ek, "The best free music experience in the world." Is that the case? Well it's pretty similar to what Nokia offers with MixRadio. MixRadio, however, doesn't have quite the overall offering that Spotify does. At the same time, this is a huge play by Spotify. Free! Who doesn't love free—even if it does come with ads every couple of songs.
Immediately following the Spotify presentation at their downtown New York office this morning I had the opportunity to play with the new service. As CEO Daniel Ek pointed out this morning, it wasn't easy to negotiate the rights for free mobile streaming on your phone, and in order to do so, the company has had to eliminate the possibility that you're going to be searching for individual songs. In the free smartphone app product, you're always going to be listening to shuffled playlists.
For example, when you search for Led Zeppelin, Spotify will display a whole listing of songs, but they'll all be grayed out and if you try to select, say, "Black Dog" the big green "Shuffle Play" button will blink at you, as a reminder that you can't listen to that specific song unless you subscribe. What the free mobile Spotify WILL do, is let you listen to a shuffled listing of the existing songs.
The use case that Spotify Product Manager Donovan Sung thinks is going to be the killer is the ability to shuffle play the playlists you've made elsewhere. So if you have a huge listing of starred songs, or a running playlist of music you like right now, you'll be able to shuffle play that—there's no other service that'll let you do that for free on a smartphone.
What else? A few notes. Today, the Spotfy tablet app's free version will be identical to the desktop version in features—the main remaining difference between this and the new smartphone app is the ability to listen to individual songs on the go with the free product. Also, before you get any idea about making single song playlists as a way to get around the regulations, Spotify requires that you have about 20 songs (in playback time) in a playlist before you can shuffle play it for free on your smartphone.
Overall, Spotify's free offering pretty much murders everything else out there. It's sure to get the company buckets of new users. Whether those users will become subscribers remains to be seen.