December 11, 2013 at 2:24 pm

Spotify Goes Free (for Shuffle) on Mobile, Adds The Zeppelin We Require

spotify free iosSpotify made two landmark announcements at a Manhattan press event on Wednesday.

The first: a free version of its iOS and Android apps that lets anyone with those smartphones play any track on Spotify, via Spotify playlists. It differs from the free desktop version, in that the playlists always shuffle, so you can’t play any track on-demand (this could help Spotify pay a cheaper DMCA radio license for some of those tracks).

The second: Led Zeppelin, after a false alarm last summer, is now available on-demand on Spotify (album schedule below) — the first time Zeppelin has been available free, legal, and on-demand outside of on video streaming services. 

The first is great news for people who have wanted free Spotify on their smartphone — or for that matter, free music in general on their smartphones or tablets. Though you do have to listen on shuffle on Android and iOS smartphones, you get access to all of your own playlists on Spotify, those of your friends, and all the ones for jogging, moods, etc., plus entire artist catalogs to shuffle through – all for free. And on tablets, you get the same on-demand access you would on a computer, also for free, and also with ads [updated].

The second is great news for those who appreciate that people who don’t like Led Zeppelin probably don’t like rock ‘n roll music.

A few of things stand out right off the bat, from the announcements (we were invited but could not attend the press event due to a move and associated issues):

  • The main reasons to upgrade to Spotify Premium are now removal of mandatory shuffle and ads, and the ability to use Spotify Connect. Will mobile users still want to pay for Spotify if they can play pretty much whatever they want for free, even on shuffle? From the start, Spotify’s gameplan was to use mobile as the chief reason for people to upgrade to premium. Spotify might have to make the ads pretty invasive on the free version in order to convince people to upgrade.
  • Will artists, labels, songwriters, and publishers be cool with whatever happens as a result of that? DMCA radio licenses are compulsory, but if this move shifts the ratio of premium to free downward, overall royalties could suffer.
  • This gives Spotify a back-up plan if on-demand music becomes too expensive.
  • This makes iPads and Android tablets more attractive (they’re now worth somewhere between $0.01 and $9.98 per month if you weren’t already paying for Spotify, depending on your music habits).
  • Will mobile advertising be (or soon become) as profitable as ads are on the desktop? Pandora had a tough time selling ads on mobile, but experts cannot all be wrong that eventually, mobile advertising will be profitable (and not just the usual “take a left, there’s a sale on coffee!” example people used to trot out).

You can get free Spotify for Android or iOS. Again, the big difference here is that this version offers on-demand access to whatever artists and playlists on Spotify you want to hear, whenever you want to hear them, but only on shuffle, unless you upgrade to premium.

Spotify also launched in 20 new territories today, bringing its total to 55: Andorra, Austria, Belgium, Bolivia, Bulgaria, Denmark, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Monaco, The Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, UK, Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay, USA, Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore and Taiwan with more than 24 million active users, and over 6 million paying subscribers.

Led Zeppelin’s albums are rolling out in chronological order on Spotify:

  • Wednesday, December 11 – Led Zeppelin (1969) and Led Zeppelin II (1969)
  • Thursday, December 12 – Led Zeppelin III (1970) and Untitled fourth album (1971)
  • Friday, December 13 – Houses Of The Holy (1973) and Physical Graffiti (1975)
  • Saturday, December 14 – Presence (1976) and In Through The Out Door (1979)
  • Sunday, December 15 – The Song Remains The Same (1976), Coda (1982), BBC Sessions (1997),How The West Was Won (2003), Mothership (2007), and Celebration Day (2012)
  • Anonymous

    Good overview of both the challenge that Spotify presents to the music industry – downward pressure on per track returns to rights holders in return for increased volumes of overall consumption – and the those it faces itself – how many people can it really get to upgrade to Premium from such an, apparently, generous free offer? My guess is that the gorilla in all of this is YouTube which has succeeded (for itself and some artists/content owners) in generating significant revenue from ad-supported free content. Spotify must be hoping that the gap between what it can generate from advertising and what it pays for content will narrow – because it surely can’t be expecting most people worldwide (5% at best?) to become Premium subscribers.