According to the official Spotify Terms of Service, unlimited free music streaming will disappear at the end of next week for early adopters that started using Spotify in the United States on the launch date. Specifically mentioned in the ToS, it states ” The Spotify Service can be accessed as an ad-supported free-to-the-user service having no monthly cap on listening hours or a cap on number of plays of a unique track during the first 6 months following creation of your Spotify account, but thereafter a cap of 10 listening hours per month and a cap of 5 plays per unique track.” Therefore, users that started listening to Spotify on July 14, 2011 will be limited to 10 hours each month and won’t be able to listen to the same song more than five times. That divides out to about 20 minutes of music each day during a typical 30-day month.
Spotify users that wish to continue listening on an unlimited basis will have to upgrade from the ad-supported version to a premium subscription. Broken into two different pricing plans, Spotify Unlimited costs $4.99 a month and allows unlimited music listening without advertisements. Spotify Premium is priced at $9.99 a month and adds the ability to download tracks for offline listening as well as provides mobile device support, music encoded at bitrates up to 320kbps and exclusive content such as early album releases.
After the unlimited music, six-month trial expires for American users, Spotify may see the user base shrink as music lovers jump over to other services like Pandora and Rdio. Pandora recently removed the 40-hour listening cap on the free, ad supported version of the service, but still offers the Pandora One service ($36 a year) for any users seeking an ad-free experience as well as higher bitrate encoding. Check out our Spotify Radio versus Pandora showdown for more information. Rdio offers free music streaming, but the amount of time is dictated by a gauge at the top of the screen. However, the company also offers premium subscription plans. Rdio is also the only company that offers a family plan with a discounted rate on two or three unlimited streams at a time.
According to a recent article in Bloomberg Businessweek, some major artists haven’t fully jumped on the streaming bandwagon and are still skeptical of music services like Spotify. Musicians and groups such as Adele, Tom Waits, Coldplay and The Black Keys don’t believe they will make as much money from streaming as they would with sales on iTunes and other sources. Some of these bands plan to copy Hollywood’s distribution plan and stagger an album release between physical, digital and streaming services. Similar to a company like Netflix, Spotify would get access to new music after an album has already spent an exclusive period of time in other retail channels.