Spotify is edging closer to a U.S. launch, with a licensing deal reportedly done with Universal Music Group.
AllThingsD reported the UMG deal today, which if true would leave only Warner Music Group without a finalized deal, if other published reports are accurate. Representatives from UMG did not immediately return Billboard.biz’s calls for comment.
Sources told Billboard that a UMG/Spotify deal has been complete for some time and had just been waiting for new CEO Lucian Grainge’s signature, but that information was unverified at press time.
Earlier in the week, TechCrunch’s Mike Arrington speculated that the service will use its rumored Facebook deal to launch in the U.S., operating as a sort of de-facto digital music service for the social network. He also pointed to a new funding round from Kleiner Perkins and DST valuing the company at around $1 billion.
The news comes the same week that Apple finally unveiled the details of its iCloud service, which is more of a licensed locker service akin to Google and Amazon’s products, rather than the subscription music service that is Spotify.
One of the speedbumps holding back Spotify’s U.S. entrance was its insistence on an ongoing free service tier. Spotify doesn’t want a simple 14-day free trail like most subscription services here offer. It wants to offer users a limited amount of ad-supported streaming a month as a means to convert users into paying customers.
It’s not the only service pushing for this feature: Subscription music services like MOG and others are aching for a similar capability. If Spotify indeed does finalize its label deals and through doing so incorporates a free service offer, it could serve as a template for others to introduce something similar.
As for timing, if and when Spotify does finally reach a deal with WMG, it will likely launch in beta mode as soon as possible, allowing all those currently using it on an invite-only trail basis in the States to share it friends as it ramps up its marketing for a broader campaign.
The company clearly expects a U.S. launch soon, as it has been staffing up its New York-based North American office this year.