Spotify on Wednesday made the launch of a free streaming service for tablets, both iPads and Android devices, and other mobile devices official. So far, mobile access required users to pay for a premium version of the otherwise free -- advertising-supported -- service.
The firm, founded about five years ago in Sweden, said it has obtained the exclusive rights to stream Led Zeppelin's music. Led Zeppelin's catalog will be rolled out over the course of five days, beginning today with the release of "Led Zeppelin" and "Led Zeppelin II." (A list of which day will bring which Zeppelin album can be found at the bottom of this article.)
Spotify CEO Daniel Ek announced the news at a press event at the digital music company's new New York headquarters, saying the free mobile launch comes as the distinction between PCs, laptops and tablets doesn't make any sense anymore.
Making the free features has been costly for Spotify, requiring the company to negotiate special royalties beyond its license for Internet radio streaming, label sources said. The idea, sources said, is to expand the funnel of free Spotify users who, through the process of creating personalized playlists on Spotify, become attached to the service and eventually spring for the premium paid version, which charges $10 a month. The company last week disclosed that 6 million, or 25% of its 24 million users, paid for the service.
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Because labels and publishers have licensed the same set of tracks to all on-demand services, the services all tend to have the same music, making it difficult for them to differentiate themselves.
Adding the Zeppelin catalog is the latest in a string of moves Spotify has made in the past several weeks to pull itself away from the pack. Last week, it tried to woo artists by promising to make its listening data available to verified artists, as well as allow them to sell tickets and merchandise on the Spotify platform.
The announcement, while designed to diffuse artists' ambivalence about the streaming music model, was also seen as a pre-emptive strike against Beats Music, which disclosed similar plans eight months earlier. Beats Music Co-Founder Jimmy Iovine in February announced that the service would give musicians data about who is listening to their music, allowing them to communicate directly with their fans.
Beats Music has said it will launch in January.
Also expected to enter the field next year are YouTube's Music Pass and Deezer, which currently operates in dozens of countries outside the U.S.
At the New York event Ek also touted the success of Spotify, saying it saw 4.5 billion hours of music streamed last year alone. "Our users are so passionate about music," Ek said. And the CEO said the firm's business model of not focusing on music ownership has become dominant. "Access has become the leading model" for digital music, he said about the company's freemium model.
He said the company has reached a conversion rate of "well over 20 percent" premium services despite initial concerns by music labels.
More than 1.5 billion playlists have been created on Spotify so far, with more than 1.5 million currently being added per day, according to Ek. "They are like mixtapes, but for the 21st century, but on steroids," he said.
Ek also highlighted some of Spotify's contributions to the music industry. "We pay out more than 70 percent of our revenue to rightsholders," he said. Royalty payments earlier this year topped the previously set year-end 2013 goal of $1 billion, he said.
Ek hinted at the benefits for artists by touting that Daft Punk's latest album has been streamed millions and millions of time since its launch. "We know how hard it is for artists to make a decent living," Ek also said. "We are leading the way on this one."
Ek said that the new mobile offer is "truly music for everyone," provides the "best free music experience in the history of the smartphone" and helps to "reawaken" people's love for music. He added: "We don't want to make another radio-type service."
The CEO suggested that allowing people to listen to more music helps convert them to premium services. The more they listen, the more likely they are to pay for additional music, he said.
Ek also said that the company is launching in 20 new markets, including Colombia, Hungary, Peru and the Czech Republic. So far, the firm's service has been available in 35 markets.
Wednesday, December 11 - "Led Zeppelin" (1969) and "Led Zeppelin II" (1969)
Thursday, December 12 - "Led Zeppelin III" (1970) and Untitled fourth album (1971)
Friday, December 13 - "Houses Of The Holy" (1973) and "Physical Graffiti" (1975)
Saturday, December 14 - "Presence" (1976) and "In Through The Out Door" (1979)
Sunday, December 15 - "The Song Remains The Same" (1976), "Coda" (1982), "BBC Sessions" (1997), "How The West Was Won" (2003), "Mothership" (2007), and "Celebration Day" (2012)