Spotify has decided to move forward with a direct listing, rather than a traditional IPO, when it goes public later this year or early next, according to multiple reports. While the music streaming service declined to comment on timing, a spokesperson did confirm it has hired Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs and Allen & Co to advise on a possible listing on the New York Stock Exchange.
Spotify was last valued at $8.5 billion nearly two years ago, when it had 20 million paid users. Now boasting more than 50 million subscribers, as well as recent licensing pacts with Universal Music and indie network Merlin, that value has risen to around $13 billion, according to a Reuters source.
A direct listing would give Spotify a way to list on the NYSE without raising any new money or issuing new shares to public investors. For a member of the public to get in, a member of the company would have to sell their share. That lack of public shares would give Spotify the ability to avoid paying the kinds of hefty underwriting fees associated with IPOs on the exchanges. Further, employees could sell their shares without Spotify having to pay underwriters.
Why would Spotify want to go public? One reason is that a year ago it raised $1 billion in convertible debt financing, which can be exchanged for stock in a company at a discount when it goes public. The terms of the deal reportedly require the company to go public by this year, and that with every delay of six months without listing, the interest rate on the debt will increase by a percent.
In preparing for its listing on the NYSE, Spotify has been working on securing multi-year licensing deals with record labels, and is currently about halfway there. On April 4, the service announced a deal with Universal Music Group that lets Spotify reduce payments to the label if it hits certain revenue targets. Then on April 20, a deal was struck with independent label org Merlin, which represents 20,000-plus labels, who collectively make up roughly 12 percent of the global digital music market.
That leaves two more big players to sew up before its listing: Warner Music Group and Sony Music Entertainment. These long-term licensing agreements have long been seen as a crucial step as Spotify clears the path to Wall Street. (The three majors each hold minority stakes in Spotify, adding another incentive to firming up licensing deals soon.)