Spotify reportedly under pressure from music labels to limit free streaming

Universal Music Group is said to be pushing for changes to the amount of music users can listen to for free

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The Independent Culture

A new row has erupted over Spotify, which is reportedly now under pressure from Universal to encourage more users to pay for its premium music streaming service.

Universal Music Group, which is the world’s largest music company, is said to be pushing for changes to the amount of music users can listen to for free on Spotify.

This would provide more royalty payments for bands and individual artists.

The service was shaken last year by the departure of Taylor Swift, who removed her entire catalogue from the streaming service after arguing that musicians should not "undervalue their art" by letting fans listen to their songs for free.

Earlier this month her latest album 1989 claimed a total US sales figure that is in excess of 4.5 million.

"It's my opinion that music should not be free, and my prediction is that individual artists and their labels will someday decide what an album's price point is," Swift said.

"I hope they don't underestimate themselves or undervalue their art."


Spotify, which has 60 million users and 15 million paying subscribers around the world, has resisted tightening or changing the free aspect of its service, claiming it would slow the conversion of free to paying users.

Free music streaming with advertising generated $295m for music labels in 2014 in the US alone.

"Without free, pay has never succeeded," Jonathan Forster, who heads the Nordics region for Spotify, told the Financial Times (£).

"We're one of the greenest shoots of growth in the industry. We don’t want to destabilise that. We think that this model works."

Lucian Grainge, Universal's chief executive, told the Recode conference last month that the music industry needed to "accelerate paid subscription" in streaming.

"Ad-funded on-demand is not going to sustain the entire ecosystem of the creators as well as the investors," he said.

Simon Wheeler, director of strategy at Beggars Group, which owns the 4AD and XL labels, told the FT said that criticism of Spotify’s model was "unfortunate" as Spotify has been "more successful than any other company in converting people from free to paid".

Spotify users can currently listen to as much free music as they want for an unlimited period of time, although they cannot choose tracks on its mobile app or listen to it offline.

A Spotify spokesperson declined to comment when contacted by The Independent.