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January 16, 2014

Spotify Opens the Free Music Floodgates

A very big day arrived for both Spotify and its listeners, as Spotify dropped all the limits attached to Web-based listening on Spotify's service. Where formerly, free Web users had a six-month grace period of free listening, or even a 2.5 hour time limit per week, the limits have been completely dropped, and those willing to put up with advertising during the streaming music will be able to do so without any kind of roadblock.

Spotify has been rapidly working toward an overall supremacy in the market, especially since rolling out several new features and platforms to help spur user numbers. There was a new version of the smartphone app, which turned into a free app supported by advertising from its original subscription price of $10 a month, and just recently, tablets got a similar boost with ad-supported on-demand listening.

The other major figure in the market right now—though there are more than a few other competitors out there—is Pandora, who lost the listening cap back in 2011. Pandora Mobile offers many of the same features as Spotify, but Spotify will actually take a bit of an edge over Pandora Mobile in one key point. With Pandora Mobile, those who search for a specific artist will only hear that artist's work one time in five. But Spotify will allow that artist at all times, only removing the order of the songs from users' control.

That's an advantage that should serve Spotify well in the months ahead; an advantage that Spotify will be sorely in need of as other competitors emerge. There's the new streaming service from Beats to consider, Europe's big name Deezer, and the rising tide of Apple and Google looking to get much more heavily into streaming music, a development that could be a disaster for streaming services as Google and Apple own many of the platforms from which music would readily stream, and thus control a substantial user base from which to operate.

Spotify's choice to drop listening limits is likely to prove the start of further gains for the company. Not only does this allow the listeners more freedom while allowing the company to still realize cash gains, this allows Spotify to build its numbers still further by offering a quality experience to users. That user base is going to give it a lot of potential to compete against Google and Apple, should those two go this route as some reports suggest might be the case.  With other competitors like Rdio flagging, however, this may be a bad sign for Spotify...or a good one.

Still, one thing is clear: Spotify will have a fight on its hands in both the short term and the long term, as streaming audio continues its rise. Only time will tell if Spotify can keep its upward momentum going, or if it will ultimately fall prey to the growth of competitors in the field.

Edited by Alisen Downey

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