Business News Digital Top Stories

Spotify announces free mobile streaming, Led Zeppelin exclusive

By | Published on Thursday 12 December 2013

Daniel Ek

As expected, Spotify announced two big developments at a press conference in New York yesterday. The first was that it is now offering mobile streaming to all users, free and paid, and the second that it has secured exclusive access to Led Zeppelin’s full back catalogue for streaming.

While Spotify has, for some time, offered free access to its personalised radio service in the US, the new mobile offer for all free users will be somewhat more sophisticated. Freemium streamers are able to play any artist’s full catalogue on shuffle and playback all of their playlists created in the desktop app (again only on shuffle). They will also have access to Spotify’s curated playlists, which it’s possible some people actually use.

At the press conference, Spotify CEO Daniel Ek said: “Today we’re giving people the best free music experience in the history of the smartphone and the tablet. Whether you’re going to the gym, or having a party with friends, just sit back and let Spotify serve you great music for every moment of your life”.

He is certainly right that this is currently the best mobile offering for freemium users, and Spotify is the first company to secure this level of ad-funded free streaming on mobile. Though in 2014, with competition in the streaming market set to hot up to a make-or-break point for many – what with the launch of YouTube’s music service and the long-awaited Beats Music platform in the US – Spotify presumably sees this as a pre-emptive move to better compete in the coming year.

Interestingly, free users who access Spotify via tablet devices will have full access to the same level of functionality enjoyed by premium tablet users, ie without the limitations, the company apparently having decided that tablets are not mobile devices. This distinction, says Spotify, was down to customers using its tablet app differently to how they use the mobile phone-based app, in particularly spending more time building playlists on it, which they then listen to on their phones or elsewhere.

Pre-empting criticism that these new extra-benefits for free users would reduce the incentive for freemium consumers to upgrade to premium, which is more lucrative for both the digital firm and rights owners, Ek said that he believed, and that research backed up, that the more users Spotify enticed with a better free service, the more could be converted to its pay-to-use option. And while the free mobile functionality now on offer is impressive, paying users still get more on mobile – namely full album playback and offline streaming.

In addition to all this, Ek also announced that Spotify has secured exclusive access (for one year, it’s thought) to the full Led Zeppelin catalogue for streaming. Led Zep have long been a significant hold-out on digital services, only arriving on download stores in 2007 and never before licensing their music for streaming. Although it’s probable that a generous deal was put on the table – the band were also in discussions with Rdio and Rhapsody – Ek yesterday thanked Led Zep “for believing in us”.

As the first two Led Zep albums appeared on the service – the catalogue being drip-fed two at a time until Sunday (with six releases appearing on the final day) – Spotify also launched its new merch sell-through facility. Visitors to Led Zeppelin’s profile in the Spotify desktop app are offered the chance to click through to the bands official website to buy t-shirts, as well as listening to their music.

In addition to these new developments, the ten-hour monthly time limit on listening was also dropped from free accounts in territories where it still existed, and Spotify upped the number of countries where it is available from 35 to 55.

It remains to be seen how Spotify’s competitors – both new and old – respond to these changes, but the new mobile offering definitely keeps it ahead for the moment.