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Spotify Considering Major Restrictions on Free Tier, Report Suggests

Yahoo Tech

If you’re a fan of Spotify’s free ad-supported service, you’ll be disappointed to learn that amid apparent pressure from music labels, the company may be forced to limit some of the accessible content, or worse, do away with its free tier altogether.

In what would mark a huge shift toward its Premium service, unnamed sources claiming to have knowledge of the plans told Digital Music News (DMN) that while the details are yet to be decided, restrictions to its free service are likely to be rolled out in “early 2016.”

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“One or two songs”

So how exactly might users of Spotify’s ad-supported offering be affected? DMN suggests new, high-profile albums might only offer “one or two songs” for free streaming, with a switch to Spotify’s $10-a-month Premium tier necessary to access all the tracks. Alternatively, a non-paying user may only have a limited time to stream an album, or may be blocked from new content during its initial launch period. In its current form, Premium plays content without limitations and offers a more comprehensive mobile service than the free version.

With around three-quarters of Spotify’s 75 million-plus subscribers believed to be using the service’s free model, changes along these lines could certainly upset a lot of people. However, in the increasingly crowded and fast-changing music streaming space, users can expect to see multiple models tried and tested as the competing services find what fits best while trying to keep users, labels, and artists onside.

DMN’s report suggests the changes are being considered in response to pressure from the big three music labels: Sony Music Entertainment, Warner Music Group, and Universal Music Group. Interestingly, reports in May suggested Apple had been urging the labels to take a stance against free streaming offerings as it prepped the launch of its subscription-only Apple Music service, though an E.U. investigation that reported back last week said it found no evidence of such behavior.

With label contract renewals apparently still undecided ahead of an October 1 deadline, Spotify is said to be feeling the pressure to find a solution to please all parties.

Related: Taylor Swift is right – music can’t survive if you don’t pay for it

The music streaming giant has also run into problems with a number of big-name artists who oppose the idea of free streaming. Taylor Swift, for one, told Yahoo last year she’s “not willing to contribute my life’s work to an experiment that I don’t feel fairly compensates the writers, producers, artists, and creators of this music….I just don’t agree with perpetuating the perception that music has no value and should be free.” The global star has kept her latest album, 1989, off Spotify, though Apple Music offers it (following a brief but highly publicized spat with the Cupertino company over royalty payments).

Spotify CEO Daniel Ek is said to be unhappy with the idea of imposing restrictions on its free tier, though DMN’s report suggests changes could be in the pipeline. For the move to work out for Spotify, it’d need those free users to switch to its Premium service rather than hightail it to a rival, or give up on music streaming altogether.