A new report has suggested that the music streaming service Spotify could be about to change its free streaming tier in a big way.
Back in 2015 there were rumors that Spotify was set to overhaul it’s free, ad-supported streaming tier. The rumors followed the release of Tidal, the streaming service part-owned by Jay Z (among others), and Taylor Swift’s public feud with Apple Music over paying artist royalties. Indeed, Swift’s back catalogue hasn’t been available on Spotify since 2014, with the singer making the decision to pull her music from the service due to it’s “freemium” tier.
However, along with those rumors came Spotify’s insistence that they wouldn’t be getting rid of their freemium service, with Jonathan Prince, global head of communication and public policy, criticizing Apple Music and Tidal for their dedication to exclusives, calling them “bad the artist” and “bad for the fans.” Despite this, Apple Music has seen the likes of Frank Ocean and Drake choose them to host the streaming exclusives of their albums, while Beyoncé’s Lemonade is still only available to stream on Tidal.
Now a new report has suggested that Spotify might finally be caving and restricting its free service.
According to The Financial Times, the main three record labels — Universal, Sony, and Warner — and Spotify have reached a deal to stagger or window the release of new music to freemium users. This means that those who are paying subscribers will gain access to new music first, while restricting content for free users.
The move opens Spotify up to exclusives from the likes of Taylor Swift, Kanye West, Frank Ocean, Rihanna and Beyoncé, all of whom have partnered with competing streaming services in the past.
As The Guardian reports, the move comes as Spotify is attempting to pay less in royalty fees paid to the labels per stream. The service, which currently boasts 50 million paying subscribers and over 50 million free users, would also be able to negotiate exclusive content, and would put the streaming service in the good graces of the record labels, who believe that the free service affects sales and streams of albums.
It would also placate artists such as Swift, who wrote an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal in which she wrote “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, however, hasn’t removed her music from YouTube, and unlike Drake, who hasn’t shared his latest tracks on the platform, has continued to share music on the video streaming giant.)
Spotify’s premium service costs $9.99/£9.99/AU$11.99 a month, and gives users the option to download songs to listen to offline, removes adverts, and gives users the ability to stream music at a higher quality.
The streaming service has yet to respond to the reports.