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Spotify’s music download option indefinitely shelved worldwide

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Spotify halted the download sales of its music through its UK service, Pocket-lint found earlier today, and this change doesn’t just apply to Spotify’s free users. Apparently its premium subscribers aren’t immune and have also been restricted from downloading music.

Spotify’s strategy to edge into iTunes market share has all about crumbled despite having amassed over 20 million subscribers, of which a fourth pay for the service. Spotify responded to Pocket-lint’s findings and confirmed that it indeed, for now, has shut down its music download feature. “We recently updated Spotify to further simplify the service and pave the way for new features announced at the end of last year. In-app purchases aren’t part of this update but we’re not ruling out their return. Credits/gift cards already purchased are still redeemable,” Spotify says. And the U.K. isn’t the only country that has been affected. All countries that had music downloading enabled – the United States wasn’t a part of the program, for the record – will also find that part of the service discontinued.

If you’re looking for an alternative streaming application that allows you to download tracks, you can try Rhapsody (which has 16 million songs available). Spotify’s music catalogue, however, looks like it was recently bumped up and now boasts 20 million tracks, up from the 16 million figure it was at a month ago.

Like Spotify’s response indicated, both free and subscribing users can opt to download songs using Spotify’s downloadable gift card, “as long as it’s one of the cards that features ‘Downloads’ as an option,” and existing songs that you may have downloaded prior to the update won’t be affected. But it’s still an inconvenience, and could send a reasonable user flocking to iTunes.

Spotify hasn’t provided any further details or a concrete explanation for its decision. Despite the loss of this feature and any negative ideas it could spell for Spotify, a Nielsen and Billboard report published today paints a favorable picture for music downloads in 2012, even in the face of many streaming application launches. Music sales grew by 3.1 percent in 2012 for a total of 1.65 billion units sold, and digital album sales shot up 14 percent.

The best explanation for the shuttering of Spotify downloads is simply that subscribers weren’t using the function. A source close to Spotify told TechCrunch as much. In other words, very few will miss the music download option. On a second note, the source says that its bundle download program – essentially encouraging you to buy dozens of tracks at a discount – was a dud.

Maybe users prefer the comforts of iTunes, or find that buying a track when paying to listen to the same track for free defeats the purpose. Whatever the case may be, it’s safe to say this feature is going to be shelved and forgotten.