Spotify quietly locks lyrics behind paywall in bid to convert free users to paying subs (Report)

In another attempt seemingly aimed at pushing more users towards its Premium subscription service, Spotify has begun restricting access to song lyrics on its free tier.

While Spotify hasn’t issued an official announcement, the company did confirm to TechCrunch that features can vary over time, between markets and across devices. This response suggests the change may be more than just a limited test, although Spotify has yet to confirm any specific affected regions or users.

Spotify’s confirmation to the news outlet follows posts on Reddit from disgruntled users who encountered messages indicating a limit on how many lyrics they could view.

This move by Spotify comes after earlier indications that the company was testing restrictions on lyrics for non-paying users. Last fall, select users encountered limitations when attempting to access lyrics, with a message directing them to the Premium subscription service for full access, saying “Enjoy lyrics on Spotify Premium.” Spotify confirmed to The Verge in September that it was conducting a test of this feature.

“At Spotify, we routinely conduct a number of tests, some of those tests end up paving the way for our broader user experience and others serve only as an important learning,” CJ Stanley, Spotify’s co-head of global communications, was quoted by the news service as saying at the time.

Although initially described as a test, Spotify has since transitioned away from this terminology, suggesting a more permanent implementation.

Despite the lack of clarity from Spotify regarding the rationale behind the paywall, TechCrunch speculates that it is a strategic move to drive more users towards its paid tier. In the fourth quarter of 2023, Spotify added 10 million net subscribers, up 15% year over year, ending last year with 236 million paying users.

However, the effectiveness of Spotify’s paywalling of lyrics strategy remains uncertain as lyrics are readily available through alternative platforms and services, such as Genius, Apple‘s Shazam, or Musixmatch, diminishing the value of Spotify’s premium offering.

Spotify started rolling out interactive lyrics for all of its free and Premium users globally in November 2021, over a year after launching real-time lyrics on Spotify in 26 markets.

Aside from testing restrictions on lyrics, Spotify has explored plenty of other ways to convert free users to Premium subscribers including giving Premium subscribers access to 15 hours of free audiobook content per month from a selection of 150,000 titles, and restricting some features such as manually ordering songs or using functions like rewinding, or repeating tracks, in India.

Less than a month ago, Spotify co-founder and CEO Daniel Ek hinted at the company’s plans to launch audiobook-only and music-only subscription tiers.

“We want to offer as much flexibility as possible in this next stage of Spotify… because we are at the size where we want to appeal to an even larger base of consumers, to turn to one of our subscription offerings,” Ek said.

“So that obviously means that you’ll see things like, for instance, the audiobook-only tier… you should expect to see a music-only tier as well.”

Music Business Worldwide

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