I have been a frequent Spotify user since 2009; I was one of the lucky few who were able to sign up for a free account before the doors were closed. Spotify was one of the major factors in my decision to stop pirating music, because I could listen to the “good” tracks on albums legally without having to buy the full album. This is a huge bonus, because quite frankly the quality of a lot of today’s albums’ “filler” tracks is questionable. I use the service almost daily, and I have used it to discover some amazing music, some of which has gone on to become some of my favourite artists and bands. For this reason I was greatly saddened and annoyed at your recent announcement that you will be implementing several limitations on the free service.
From the Spotify website:
- New Spotify users will be able to enjoy our unrivalled free service as it is today for the first 6 months.
- As of May 1st, any user who signed up to the free service on or before November 1st 2010 will be able to play each track for free up to a total of 5 times. Users who signed up after the beginning of November will see these changes applied 6 months after the time they set up their Spotify account.
- Additionally, total listening time for free users will be limited to 10 hours per month after the first 6 months. That’s equivalent to around 200 tracks or 20 albums.
In the announcement you state that these limitations are necessary for the free service to survive, but the way I see it these limits are simply a means of harassing more people into joining your paid service. The Spotify advertisements aren’t so bad, I can put up with advertising. After all, advertisements are already on everything from our newspapers to our mobile phones.
I can even understand the ten hour per month limit; ten hours of music is plenty for some people. I personally would find that limiting, as I listen to three or four hours of music a day and I’d say that about 30% of that is spent on Spotify. The existing limit on the “open” account is 20 hours a week, so why has there been such a drastic cut? Why not 10 hours a week?
The biggest limitation I see is the new limit on the number of times each song can be heard. Five times might be enough time to decide if you like a song or not, and as your announcement states, 7 out of 10 songs that customers listen to won’t reach the limit, even after a year. I see a major problem with this new limit though; playlists. I have built up several playlists on Spotify that I listen to depending on my mood, and these get a reasonable amount of play time. The new five listen limit will render these playlists unplayable in less than a month. I realise that it is possible to buy individual tracks from 7Digial, Amazon or iTunes, but what are we supposed to do when the label or artist insists on a track being sold solely as part of an album?
I have been a big fan of Spotify, even when the 20 hour limit was introduced. I use it to share music with my friends on Facebook, and I’m often introduced to new music by friends through the social functions within Spotify. It has become a social tool, just like Facebook and Youtube, but the new limits will greatly reduce the effectiveness of the social side of the program.
The irony of the situation is that I was considering switching to the Spotify Unlimited plan, and I had been for a while. I thought it was a worthwhile service, and I would probably have used it a lot. Now that these changes have been implemented however, I feel that I am being forced to buy into the plan simply to continue to enjoy the service that I have received for free for almost two years. This move will be seen by many customers as a money-making scheme, however “vital” you claim it is. The fact that new customers don’t get the change for at least 6 months is a slap in the face to every veteran Spotify customer.
I accept that the service is free, and many would argue that I am expecting a lot from a free service, but Spotify has become the norm for many people, and it has certainly helped to curb piracy. Do you really want to risk losing customers to piracy? I thought the entertainment industries were doing everything they could to lower illegal downloading; surely a move like this will only serve to increase piracy.
I’ll keep my account until these limitations begin to affect me, but when they do begin to kick in I shan’t be upgrading to an unlimited account; I’ll be straight over to The Pirate Bay and Demonoid to get my fill from there. I am a good music fan; I buy two or three albums a month (that’s more than your average man in the street). I support independent artists by going to concerts and buying their EPs and albums and I shop at independent record shops whenever I can. I will not however support the major labels and their subsidiaries in their money-grabbing schemes, not when the artists continue to be ripped off with their pitiful royalty rates. Spotify was an incredible idea, and I have enjoyed using the service, but I won’t be bullied into handing over my cash. Not now, not ever.