The fast-growing music streaming service Spotify has introduced it first free, ad-supported service for smartphones and tablets, the Swedish company said Wednesday. The digital music firm also said it has launched in 20 new global markets, meaning it's now available in 55 countries.
Previously, listeners could only listen to Spotify's library on mobile devices if they paid a subscription of about $10 a month.
There's a catch, though. Unlike the on-demand offering, which lets people listen to songs on demand, the free mobile service allows people to shuffle songs in playlists. If users want to listen to a certain artist, those songs will be shuffled, as well.
Spotify is hoping to draw more users with the free service, which also plays commercials, and get them to upgrade to the premium version.
“Today we’re giving people the best free music experience in the history of the smartphone and the tablet,” said Daniel Ek, Spotify's chief executive and founder, in a statement. “Just sit back and let Spotify serve you great music for every moment of your life.”
Spotify is trying to stay competitive in an increasingly crowded digital music industry. Beats Electronics LLC, the high-end headphone company started by Dr. Dre and Jimmy Iovine, is launching its long-awaited streaming service dubbed Beats Music in January, after tech giants Google Inc. and Apple Inc. have already entered the arena.
Spotify, which started in Sweden in 2008 and debuted in the U.S. in 2011, has 24 million active users and 6 million subscribers. It recently completed a financing round of around $250 million.
Like other streaming services such as Internet radio company Pandora Media Inc., the company has experienced significant push-back from artists who say it doesn't pay enough in royalties. To address this, Spotify has published a primer on its business model that said it pays roughly 70% of its revenue to rights holders.
In addition to announcing its expansion and its new free mobile version, Spotify said it has added the album catalog of the rock band Led Zeppelin.
It made the first two albums, 1969's "Led Zeppelin" and "Led Zeppelin II," available on Wednesday and will roll out the rest over the next four days.
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