independent

Saturday 19 April 2014

Free Spotify mobile too good to be true?

Music streaming platform Spotify have announced a new free mobile service, but it's not without limitations

Hitting the right note: Spotify co-founders Daniel Ek and Martin Lorentzon

Spotify announced their free service yesterday, but there are restrictions that haven't made the headlines.

When you sign-up for your Spotify account you'll have access to a world of music, with all the playlist and recommendation features you should require.

Once this taste is up however, you'll enter a restricted version that leaves you craving the premium, but then that's the business plan.

Spotify now comes in three flavours:

  • Mobile Free - Lets you listen to a shuffled version of a playlist or artist's catalogue. This is great for free, but tricky if you're looking for that one specific song for that one special moment. There are adverts and no offline feature.
  • Desktop and Tablet Free - This is the familiar ad-funded version of Spotify that many will be familiar with on their desktop computer, now available on tablets. You'll have to suffer occasional adverts, but you can select individual songs. No offline version here either.
  • Premium - Costs €10 a month but allows use across devices, access to the highest quality setting for audio, no ads and the ability to download and play offline.

As a business plan, it's a proven one, with freemium becoming the biggest money-making model in the mobile games industry. You simply give the user a good but limited product, and when their usage reaches a point, they'll pay to remove the limitations. A balance needs to be struck between providing a good initial user-experience while making an upgrade worthwhile.

While the consumer has a simple choice between paying a subscription or submitting to the shuffle, the topic of Spotify amongst artists is far more complex.

Recently Radiohead's Thom Yorke said "I feel like as musicians we need to fight the Spotify thing," and called the music industry's support for the Spotify "the last desperate fart of a dying corpse". Radiohead have pushed the direct distribution route ever since their seventh album, In Rainbows, was self released with a pay-what-you-want model. For a band that already has a direct route to fans, Yorke's comment "Spotify is suddenly trying to become the gatekeepers to the whole process" is understandable.

In contrast, Metallica, who famously sued file-sharing service Napster for $10m, endorsed Spotify by making their whole catalogue available on the service in late 2012.

The debate over whether artists are receiving fair payment continues to rage, with indie artists sharing their disappointing figures, while Spotify point to 70pc of their income going back to license holders.

Though the virtues of Spotify can be debated all day, Irish mobile users can now avail of the free service and make up their own minds' as to whether €10 a month is worth the perks.

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