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Since its launch, Spotify’s desktop application has always offered ad-supported access to Spotify’s streaming music library. Those who want to access that same library on a mobile device, however, have always been forced to upgrade to Spotify’s $9.99/month premium plan. According to a report from the Wall Street Journal, that could change, and Spotify could begin offering free, ad-supported mobile access to its service in the near future.

This comes after Spotify reportedly reached an agreement with three major music labels — Sony, Universal Music Group and Warner Music Group — on the rates that Spotify will pay the labels for songs streamed on its free mobile service.

spotify-logoSpotify is one of the few freemium services that I actually pay to use, and that’s because the service offers a compelling reason to upgrade: mobile access. I probably don’t have to tell you that mobile-anything is growing like a weed and has been for some time. Smartphones and tablets are the future for most content services, but music-focused services especially fall into this category. There’s a reason people have been walking around with headphones on since the Walkman hit the scene: people like listening to music wherever they are, and that was true before phones could surf the Web and download music files out of the sky.

With this move, Spotify is going where its potential subscribers are. Using the desktop to hook users has worked well for the company so far, but future growth undoubtedly lies in offering an ad-supported mobile service. According to the WSJ, the company plans to let Spotify’s free mobile users play a “limited number” of songs from its library, though it’s unclear at this time what that number might be.

Spotify currently boasts 20 million active users from around the world, and around 6 million of those users pay for Spotify’s premium service. I think this is a smart move by Spotify — one that will bring more free users to mobile and convert them into paying customers. The plan could backfire if Spotify’s free service winds up being as usable as its premium service on mobile, though play limits should help with that. It’ll wind up giving Spotify’s free desktop users, and even those who have never used the service before, a taste of what it’s like to have that expansive library on the go. It’s a good reason to part with $10 — at least, it has been for me.

We’ll have to see if everyone else agrees.


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