Rumour: Spotify to Cut Free Streaming, Introduce Premium Exclusives

By James O Malley on at

Spotify could be planning to limit the streaming of certain albums or tracks to premium subscribers, according to whispers in the music industry.

Digital Music News reports that the major music labels (Sony, Warner and Universal) are playing hardball in negotiations over Spotify's licensing of their catalogues - and as part of the deal, which needs to be done before Spotify's license runs out on 1st October, one of the new conditions could mean less music available on the free tier.

Spotify's free tier has never been popular with the music industry - which instead wants customers to pay up for the music they listen to.

The suggestion is that a transition could occur in "early 2016", though exactly what the subscription model will transition to remains to be determined. One suggestion is that free listeners would only be able to listen to a couple of tracks from certain premium albums (think new, high profile releases) - having to pay up to listen to the rest.

Another suggestion is that new releases could only be available in full for a short amount of time, before requiring users to pay.

The intention of the changes would be to shift more users on to Spotify's premium tier. As DMN notes, though both free and premium have grown over the last year, the free tier has grown at a faster rate.

Apparently what makes the negotiations especially tricky for Spotify is the departure of former executive Ken Parks, who was of the the company's lead negotiators. The launch of Apple Music as the company's first credible major competitor too presumably gives the labels extra leverage to turn the screws a bit more too.

Personally, I can't help but think that any slide towards this model would be bad news for the music industry. Rather than simply push people towards subscribing surely it will also rejuvenate music piracy, which has been rendered all but dead since Spotify revolutionised how we consume music? [Digital Music News]