On Thursday morning, Spotify announced that it will extend its free, unlimited offering, so anyone can listen to as much music as they want, as many times as they want, on the desktop version of the software.
[Update: In a surprising turn of events, the entire tech press missed the fact that Spotify never imposed those much-ballyhooed listening limits in the U.S.]
The mobile, television, and set-top box versions still require a Premium account, pictured here, which still offers advantages including better sound quality, offline playback, and in the case of the $10/month version, the ability to use the service on smartphones, televisions, and other non-computer devices. However, Spotify is now publicizing a 30-day free trial that allows users to try the service on smartphones and other devices too.
The company declined to specify how long the extension of its free listening option would last, before those listening limits – 10 hours per month and/or up to five plays for any song — will kick in again, although its announcement described this as an extension, not a permanent change in policy:
Well, it’s now been 9 months since we launched in the US. Time sure flies when you’re having fun! To celebrate, here’s some great news…We’ve been so overwhelmed by the US response to Spotify that we’ve extended the honeymoon for unlimited free listening.
But wait, didn’t Spotify add a six-month limit to free listening in January? Yes; those limits were to kick in for any user after six months of their using Spotify. That means Spotify has had about three months now, to see how U.S. early adopters dealt with the limits, so the company was able to see how users’ listening behavior changed when the limits were introduced, versus those users who faced no such limits.
For whatever reason, the company decided it wasn’t worth limiting free listens, for now, anyway.
Why would Spotify do that? They’re not saying — other than that the unlimited listening feature will be extended for some unspecified amount of time. This opens the door for speculation, so we might as well give it a shot. Here are some reasons Spotify might have extended its unlimited listening feature:
- Record labels might have given Spotify some sort of break on royalties, allowing it to continue free, unlimited listening without breaking its bank.
- Spotify might want people to have more time to use its apps. In three months, users listened to 1,500 years of music, but they can’t continue to do put up those kind of numbers per user if some users face ten-hour-per-month limits.
- After hitting the limits, there’s little to stop people from just switching over to free trials from MOG or Rdio, neither of which requires a credit card either.
- Spotify might be succeeding in its reported attempt to raise more investment, increasing the value of the labels’ stake in the company, on paper anyway, which might have alleviated their need to receive per-play fees for each song, even if the songs play for non-paying users.