It’s the old conundrum: how do you make people pay for something that they’re used to getting for free?
Swedish music streaming site Spotify has been delighting its fans with fast, comprehensive access to tunes online for six months. Now, they’ve launched a subscription service. It’s cheap as chips – the "all-you-can-eat" package costs from 50p per day – but is that a few pennies that the British public are unwilling to spend?
No, is MD Brown’s answer.
"We know from subscription services that have been out there, subscription is still a model that has real legs," he told The Guardian. "It’s not just about giving you the same service with a pricepoint."
And he’s got a few ideas to get users reaching into their pockets. "Spotify isn’t one of these companies that’s going to tell you ‘there’s 20 things we want to do’," he says, cagily. "But portability is an obvious one. If you can execute well on the iPhone, for example (Pandora on iPhone has seen several million installs), Spotify as a pay service might see a nice subset of that in the UK."
It’s all very well to talk about the distant future – how many people might end up subscribing, but what about now? Of the million users currently bopping away to Spotify, how many are paid up members?
"The majority are obviously going to be free at this stage," Brown admits. "We have a nice proportion – a decent proportion, but we can’t disclose numbers – of paid subscribers. That will get more interesting."
Interesting is the word. Having seen Pandora, a similar music streaming site, go bust after legal wranglings over fees and royalties, and Napster, which was also touted as the evolution of music streaming – die a death, can Spotify really break the curse of free-to-paid for?
RB will keep you informed.
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