The cut to Spotify Free makes the service worse for paying users too

17-spotthumb.jpgI’m a big Spotify fan, I pay £10 a month for it, and listen everyday, as I have for about a year and a half.

I was sad to hear about the cuts to the Spotify Free service. It has been well documented how hard it has hit the Free users. They’re now only allowed to listen to 10 hours of music a month and – worst of all – play a song five times. Five times ever.

Okay, I hear you – people should pay for music, those records don’t pay for themselves and someone has to keep new bands in synths and studio time. But I still don’t think this is the right way for Spotify to go. They have made their Free service essentially useless. It’s more of a cruel tease than a viable service now and basically – lots of people have stopped using it.

And that affects more than just the free Spotify users. It affect the paying ones too. And this is why Spotify should reconsider these moves.

For me it is the social playlists that made Spotify truly great. That Spotify Social development which synced up your account with your Facebook friends was a master stroke of genius, that let me browse and pillage the playlists of all my friends. I didn’t just get to hear about the new band they love, but about all the bands they loved, laid out in playlists that I could just switch on and browse through whenever I wanted.

Blogs would make Spotify playlists too. I have discovered so much new music that way.

But since the 1st of May – or rather 3 days later when their allowances ran out – my friends have stopped using Spotify. If they can’t listen to a playlist they’ve made more than 5 times, there’s not much reason for them to make it in the first place. So they’ve stopped doing it, and I’m running out of playlists. And that takes away one of the main pleasures of the service for me.

Spotify – you made the Freemium model popular – stick with it. Don’t squeeze out your free customers out to the point where the service is more of a tease than a decent service in its own right. That 10 hours a month, 5 plays of a song ever deal is just too harsh to keep people using it.

Comments on the blog post announcing the cuts are telling. Average Spotify blog posts get around 100 comments.

This one got 9085 comments and runs to 182 pages. Some are supportive. Many are not: “Bye bye Spotify.” Others specifically lament the maximum 5 plays for any song ever.

We’ll get in touch with Spotify to see what they have to say about this and what changes are likely in the future…

In the meantime, let us know if you have any comments on this…

Anna Leach


  • I don't have the money for Spotify Premium and YouTube lags on my laptop (so annoying, you won't believe it). When I first found Spotify it was three years ago and it was brilliant – I could listen to anything I wanted for as long as I wanted and there wasn't even a cost, just a few ads every now and then which I was *totally fine with*! You can't really go anywhere on the Internet these days without seeing ads so this wasn't anything new. It's become totally useless now and I'm really annoyed – how are you supposed to just listen to a song 5 times ever?! It's completely absurd, frankly and I really feel like Spotify have made their service a waste of time and just… I'm really disappointed :(

  • I agree with Anna, Jon, Stanton and Ric.

    Spotify was brilliant… Amazing! Friends were dying to get invites before Open came out. Everyday at university I would have spotify on about 5 hours a day (thank goodness I graduated last year). Then they integrated facebook with it…. brilliant for discovering music tastes of friends to recommend them music.

    I saw that Spotify protected their original free users by not imposing the same strict rules – I was overjoyed. Then this horrible news came in about what they were doing to even their long time loyal (albeit free) users.

    From 1st May I haven’t used spotify… at all. It’s sad. I can’t afford to pay £120 a year for music I don’t own – especially when I don’t earn, so it’s a slow but sure move to grooveshark on computer and a complete move to we7 radio on android (no add, no app cost, use without internet access – near perfect playlists. I’ll never go to downloading from p2p illegally… I’m just not like that.

    I’ll miss the whole social and warm looking interface of spotify. As Nelly Furtado says, “All good things come to an end”.

    As for the increase in playlists, maybe half those 9 million free users thought of the bright idea of creating new accounts! Saying that, I think the statistics the boss of spotify is bringing out are skewed. I’m grateful for what you’ve done for me in the past though, I really am.

  • I’m one of those darn pesky Spotify Free users who

    i) has no intention of subscribing to the Premium version
    ii)has more or less stopped using Spotify since the 1st May 2011

    I am *not* one of those pesky Spotify Free users who thinks

    i) that this development is a fundamental infringement of my human rights
    ii) who has written abusive “Bye Bye Spotify” on their wall

    Basically, it’s their site and their rules, all that has happened is that the restrictions they’ve placed has made it difficult for me to use the site as I used to, so I use We7 or Grooveshark (or even YouTube) to stream music. Yes, I do miss Spotify, and yes, perhaps I think they have made a mistake, but at the end of the day, it’s a commercial decision taken by them.

    I do, however, think that part of the reason they’ve done this has been pressure from record labels to limit access and promote downloads. The “5 plays only” is curiously similar to the previous copy control (was it Sony?) that allowed you to copy a track 5 times. I guess the consequences were that had they not done so, they may have lost a substantial proportion of their catalogue.

  • They’re not making any money. They’re a business. They need to make money. So what on earth are they meant to do? Tell your cheap friends to find £5 a month to fund their music habits. They’ll thank you once they realise they hated the adverts.

  • There’s another thing that I hadn’t noticed about the severity of the cuts Spotify have introduced. I haven’t tested this out myself yet so I could be wrong but, as far as I can gather from the Spotify FAQ pages, subscribers using the free ‘Spotify Open’ service are only allowed to listen to 2.5 hours of free music a week MAX. (new subscribers get 5 hours allocated for the first six months) Spotify refer to this as the ‘weekly streaming allocation’ after which, I guess, you just can’t listen to anymore free music until they give you your next weekly allocation of 2.5 hours. 2.5 hrs x 4 weeks is basically your 10 hours of free streaming music a month. If this is the case, then I can see the ‘Spotify Open’ model becoming, as Elise implies, nothing more than a ‘track down that song I just heard’ website so you can decide whether you want to buy it or not. It’s a little bit like a sophisticated version of the 30 second taster tracks on Amazon you listen to before deciding to buy.

  • Great post – I’m just a little confused by the backlash. Just for the record, I used Spotify free for a year or more prior to upgrade. But now I pay for Spotify Unlimited. I appreciate the service is great for, and benefits it’s free users (or did), but it’s only £4.99 for unlimited music every month. It’s less than two pints of lager, less than a packet of cigarettes (I think!), less than a London travelcard – it’s really incredibly cheap to legally listen to whatever you please, without ads…

  • I was a free user, and although the 10hours won’t affect me much as I mainly use Spotify to find ‘that song on that advert’ or to listen for 10mins at a time, the 5 song limit has caused me to uninstall Spotify and move to Grooveshark. I would agree that for users who listen to hours of music, Spotify is worth subscribing to, but for someone like me who is a very very casual user, it’s simply not worth paying when I know I’m unlikely to use it to its full potential. Such a shame.

  • I said something similar (albeit a lot shorter) on Twitter recently. Basically the whole social sharing aspect if Spotify – the ‘Copy HTML Link’ functionality, the “hey, check this out”… it’s now crippled. Five plays ever being the biggest killer, 10 hours per month is harsh enough, I burn through that in two days with friends. But the five plays thing means eventually the service will be completely useless for my non-paying friends (I am now a premium subscriber although will soon cancel if the free service doesn’t improve) in turn it will then become useless for me – it’s like being on yahoo messenger when all your friends are on Skype/MSN – cold abd lonely. The cool social spark that launched Spotify, the invite only system that got friends begging friends to invite them – all of it is gone if the free model is useless too :(

    I’m now looking to Apple to save me with it’s cloud streaming audio service – a subscription is fine if the service, integration and social aspect is all there. Apple has a big community of iTunes users who’ll lap it up. Spotify came so close to being perfect lol.

  • You make a fair point Anna, I too have friends who have now stopped using Spotify Free and gone on to other services instead. There’s still a huge archive of playlist though: check out some of the playlist sharing sites such as

    As a premium subscriber myself, I feel most of the recent changes at Spotify have not affected me. I stopped downloading MP3s when I subscribed to Spotify a couple of years ago, so the new MP3 download store is irrelevant to me. I suspect the 5-play limit was set up with the direct intention of pushing casual listeners into buying the odd track: they’ve heard it five times so they must surely know whether they like it enough to buy it. I talk a bit more about this on my blog at btw.

    The 10,000-odd comments are mostly trolls venting: Spotify took their free toys away! There’s actually a group of “we love Spotify” Likers on Facebook set up as a direct reposte to that frenzy – it had over 30,000 Likes the last time I looked.

    Time will tell though. Spotify have as good as admitted defeat with the ad-supported + premium subscriber model. It clearly didn’t drive enough users to subscribe and with 9 million freeloaders, that’s a heck of a lot of royalty fees Spotify needs to pay…

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