In a big potential strategy shift, Spotify is allegedly open to some artists temporarily restricting their music to its paid tier. Unnamed sources told The Wall Street Journal that Spotify will consider windowing content based on whether a listener pays for the service. An insider said Spotify would be trying this strategy as a test first to assess the impact it might have on usage and subscription membership.
If this transition does become official, it would be a major shift in policy for Spotify. The company has long stood by its freemium listeners, arguing that the service gives those people who might otherwise consider piracy a legal option for free music access. CEO Daniel Ek has also been a staunch advocate of the free service driving paid subscriptions. Spotify has seen slow but steady growth over the years, exceeding 20 million paid subscribers at last count.
There doesn’t seem to have been any decision about what artist will be the first to trial windowing. But it seems likely that interest will be high. Limiting new releases to paying customers, at least temporarily, was a key sticking point in Spotify’s inability to secure albums from Taylor Swift and Adele. While artists and labels might push for windowing, Spotify would need to answer some logistical questions to make it a reality. Which artists can window? For how long? And, most importantly, if content is less available for the free listeners, will those people be more likely to upgrade to paying customers or to jump ship?