Spotify have today announced a raft of major changes to their free-to-listen music streaming service that quite drastically cuts back the amount of tracks people will be able to listen to without signing up for a premium price plan.
Free users who have joined Spotify any time before November 1st 2010 will, from May 1st, have their free listening quota cut from 20 hours of music a month to 10 hours, with a 5-play limit on each individual track. Those who signed up after November 1st 2010 have exactly 6 months from the date they joined before the changes will be rolled out to their accounts too.
Users who pay for the Unlimited desktop service or Premium mobile and desktop service will not see any changes made to their boundary-free usage allowance.
If you’re a free user, it’s a pretty drastic cutback on what was previously available. The Spotify blog which announced the changes has already been hit with reams of messages from users saying they will now abandon the streaming service.
“This smacks of pure greed,” said one user going by the name of goodbye_spotify.
“I don’t think you could have found a better way to alienate your users even if you had deliberately set out to do so. There’s no way I could ever consider upgrading to a premium account now. I’ll just stick with my open account until I run out of free plays or further restrictions like these make it completely unusable. Thanks. It was fun while it lasted.”
It’s an attitude shared by many, but frankly they’re missing the point. Spotify has opened the gates for a completely different way of consuming music, not seen since the boom in illegal mp3 downloads and sharing. Spotify of course has the benefit of being completely legal, and with the growing support of record labels who are finally beginning to wake up to the idea that the old business model that they distributed music through is increasingly redundant, Spotify stands on the cusp of a revolution.
For starters, they’re increasingly making the desire to pirate albums unnecessary, as the catalogue becomes increasingly comprehensive and the user interface of the software so simple and appealing. With physical record sales declining and increasingly less convenient in the age of the iPod and smartphone, the only major alternatives are iTunes and a return to rampant piracy. iTunes track downloads at roughly 79p a go, when compared to the £9.99 a month cost for unlimited access to over 6 million songs with Spotify, now appears incredibly poor value for money. Piracy, which should never be condoned regardless as it damages the livelihoods of the artists we love, runs with it not only the annoyances of poorly ripped tracks, viruses and fakes, but of course the looming threat of prosecution.
If anything, now is perhaps the best time EVER to sign up for a Premium Spotify account. A recent overhaul of the mobile apps makes editing playlists on the go far more easy, the social/sharing aspects are growing from strength to strength and an increasing number of devices, including Sonos multi-room speaker systems and Onkyo home cinema kits, are adding the music streaming app to their list of built-in features.
Spotify, in reality, has never been a completely free service. Free users have always had to put up with plenty of adverts between tracks, and that, even in the days of unlimited access, was enough to wind some people up. But what do we honestly expect; that a service this good can survive unfunded? It’s high time we started paying for Spotify and supporting innovation, especially if we want to see our favourite musical artists begin to make a decent living again in this age of falling record sales.
The Spotify Premium service, allowing you to sync playlists to mobile devices and access an incomprehensibly long list of songs, costs the same as buying just one CD a month. Signing up to the Premium service right now also comes with a 7-day free trial period, while throughout May the Spotify team are planning a generous 30-day free Premium service trial too. If £9.99 a month sounds too much, opt for the £4.99 desktop-only option; half the functionality, half the price.
Call me naive, but that sounds like incredibly good value for money to me. It’s time to shake off this cheapskate culture when it comes to digital music consumption and dust off our wallets.