Spotify could soon switch to a new content model, under which only paying subscribers will have access to certain sections of its vast catalog. According to a Digital Music News report citing unnamed sources, the streaming-music service is most likely to make the change sometime early next year.
But the sources warn that the modalities have yet to be worked out, and a number of different plans are currently under consideration. Apparently, the streaming-music giant is deliberating whether to make entire albums inaccessible to non-paying users, or to have a system where they’re still able to access some songs from a particular album. Time-limited exclusivity is also an option. The report suggests the final implementation could even be a combination of the above approaches.
The story behind the story: Digital Music News sees an invisible hand in all of this, quietly twisting Spotify’s arm. It suspects this might have something to do with the fact that Spotify’s existing licensing deals with Universal, Sony, and Warner are all set to expire on October 1, 2015. It’s likely that the “big three” labels are playing hardball in a bid to extract as many concessions as they can from the streaming behemoth—a practice they’re well known for.
In our view, this development could ultimately benefit, not hurt, Spotify. A significantly restricted free tier might nudge many of the company’s users towards its $10-per-month unlimited subscription service. It could also help the Stockholm-based company get back into the good graces of the likes of Taylor Swift, who pulled her catalog from the service late last year to protest Spotify’s free streaming tier.
Swift told the Time magazine back then: “On Spotify, they don’t have any settings, or any kind of qualifications for who gets what music. I think that people should feel that there is a value to what musicians have created, and that’s that.”