Talking tech since 2003

At an event in New York City today, Spotify let loose on a lot of really good news for the service. The subscription music service now has 5 million paying customers, with a million of those coming from the United States (Spotify launched in the U.S. on July 14, 2011). Spotify can also boast that it has songs from famed heavy metal group Metallica, which is a big win for the service and its users. Finally, the company announced that its highly anticipated Web app will be making its way to all users early in 2013.

The event, held at the Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet, was certainly not without its big surprises.

With the announcement of Metallica’s availability on Spotify, the group’s drummer Lars Ulrich made an appearance, taking the stage with Spotify investor Sean Parker to talk a bit about piracy and the music industry. If you don’t see why this would be a big deal, consider this: back in the late 90’s, Parker was one of the co-founders of Internet music sharing service Napster, which fought a nasty war with Metallica over the sharing of the group’s songs on the service. With those battles in the past and a streaming music partnership in place, the two were able to hang out and talk a bit about where they think the music industry is headed in terms of the Web and sharing. The availability of Metallica’s songs on Spotify now makes it possible for fans of the group to listen to its hit tracks for free.

The Spotify Web app news is welcome, indeed. It’s certainly not an item that seems to be covered with any great tenacity, but I think its introduction next year is going to be a very big deal. Sure, Spotify already has a desktop app as well as mobile apps, but imagine all of those places you couldn’t use the service before that will now be fair game. Libraries, coffee shops, Internet cafes, your friend’s computer — all will become machines that can use Spotify, even without a desktop app installed. This is even better news for Google’s Chromebook line of browser-based laptops, which will gain access to Spotify for the first time once the Web app is released. The lack of such an app is one of the issues I’ve had with Spotify, and I can’t be alone, so having one almost ready to go is a smart move.

And, of course, the fact that Spotify is able to point to a growing base of paying users is a good sign for both the company and its investors. As you probably know, the desktop app can be used for free with some commercials thrown in every once in a while, so the fact that Spotify is able to pull in paying subscribers means that the company is offering enough value in its $5 and $10 packages to convince users to pull out their credit cards. The $5 deal takes away commercials, while the $10 deal adds the ability to use Spotify from Android and iOS devices. As music discovery becomes more fine-tuned on the service, and more users want to take the Spotify experience with them everywhere, those subscriber numbers have a good chance of going up.

All in all, good news, and a good show to boot from Spotify. It’ll be interesting to see where the new year takes the company.

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