At an event in New York today, Spotify CEO Daniel Ek announced a new free streaming service for Android and iOS smartphones. "We don't want to make another radio-type service," Ek said. "We want to make something that's really great — that really fits into people's lives." Thus, the focus for Spotify Free on mobile is a Shuffle feature that lets you pick an artist or playlist and hear a stream of shuffled tracks. In other words, the service isn't straightforward ad-supported streaming on-demand, but is instead more random, like Spotify's free Radio feature on mobile.
You can pick an artist or playlist to listen to, but you can't pick which songs you're going to hear, or in what order you'll hear them. And there will be ads every few songs, like in Spotify's free service on web, "which is a lot less than commercial radio," Ek says. Users get six skips per hour, just like inside its Radio feature. On tablets, Spotify's new free service more closely mirrors its desktop / web offering, meaning you can pick any song or album and listen to it on demand, with ads.
"We're giving people the best free music experience in the history of the smartphone," Ek said. "Spotify for mobile is no longer just for people who subscribe to Premium... and the more you play, the more likely you are to pay." Spotify's new mobile apps, available now, look much the same, save for a green "Shuffle" button that appears inside artist pages and playlists for free users. If you try to game the system and create a playlist of just one track or just one album, Spotify adds in suggested tracks that will play every few songs.
"The more you play, the more likely you are to pay."
Before today's event, Spotify had spent much of 2013 making good on the products it announced at a similar media event last December and focusing efforts on international growth and raising money. Those features include Discover, a news feed of recommendations and songs friends like, the Follow button for friends and artists, Connect, cloud-syncing across devices for your song progress, Browse, a catalog of playlists to listen to, Windows and Windows Phone 8 apps, streaming in Ford vehicles, and the continued rollout of its web-based music app.
Spotify appears to be in the lead globally in terms of paid subscribers and revenues, with 24 million users and 6 million paid subscribers, but the company's losses have grown as it invests in the future. Google, on the other hand, debuted its Google Play Music Unlimited service this year, which put pressure on Spotify. Rdio, once considered Spotify's chief rival, has struggled as it searches for a new CEO and expands its marketing campaigns.
Setting aside features, Spotify also expanded its repertoire of exclusive on-demand licensing agreements. Users can now stream most of Led Zeppelin's catalog on demand — a first for the band, which has until now only offered music for purchase through iTunes, Amazon, and Google Play.