Spotify launches free on-demand listening on tablets, free playlist shuffles on phones

Spotify free
Caitlin McGarry

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Like two-thirds of Spotify's global users, I have willingly rented-out my earholes to the Swedish company's advertisers in return for free access to nearly all the world's music (minus a few negligible nothing acts).

Unfortunately, Spotify's complimentary à la carte service hasn't extended beyond the desktop or Web client unless U.S. users were willing to pay $10 a month for a Premium subscription—until now.

As of today, the company will give the same freemium desktop experience to tablets via the iOS or Android apps. Free streaming is also expanded on smartphones, though in a slightly different way. Freeloading smartphone users will be to listen to their premade playlists or those that they follow through an ad-supported shuffle function, but they won't have direct access to on-demand.

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Listening to Daft Punk for free in the revamped Spotify Android tablet app. 

Similarly, Spotify will now allow free-tier smartphone users to pick one artist and shuffle through their entire catalogue, with the ability to move forward and backward through the tracks.

The premium tier is not going away however. Premium users will banish the ads and retain the ability to play on-demand across the entire Spotify network—including smartphones—as well as the ability to download music for offline use.

While you Spotify Free users may be thinking of all sorts of ways to game the system using playlists to create a Premium experience, the company has prepared for your sneakiness.

Though there is no minimum number of songs for a playlist, Spotify will play "related tracks" if your playlist contains too few tracks (a Spotify rep vaguely set the number at "around 20.") These added tracks will not affect the track listing on the actual playlist.  

Smartphone users will have the ability to shuffle through any album on the service regardless if it is in a playlist or not. Of course, since most albums have less than 20 tracks, Spotify will also insert tracks when listening to an album. 

So, if you have a few hundred tracks starred in your Spotify library (yes, your starred tracks counts as a playlist), you won't have any related tracks inserted as you shuffle through. However, if you create a playlist with just "The Humpty Dance," Spotify will make free-tier smartphone users listen to a few additional tracks and ads, so it's not a pure on-demand experience.

The end goal for Spotify is to maintain a mobile on-demand experience for Premium subscribers. 

Led Zeppelin!

And as an added bonus, the company announced today that they will have exclusive streaming access to the entire Led Zeppelin back catalog.

However, it won't be ready right away, Spotify will be adding two Zep albums a day, beginning with Led Zeppelin and Led Zeppelin II eventually bringing all nine studio albums to the service. 

This new service throws a big ol' gauntlet against the PandorasiTunes, and Google All Accesses of the world. We'll see how they respond in due time.

All images by Caitlin MCGarry

Updated at 12:06 PM EST to include the info on minimum tracks on album playlists as well as the pace of Zeppelin albums being added to the service. 

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