Spotify, the popular European music streaming service that's still trying to figure out how to break into the United States, is making some changes that will hit current users of its free service like a gut punch. Announced today in a blog post, the total listening time for free users has been cut in half from 20 hours a month to just 10 hours. Ooph. And starting May 1st, any user who signed up to the free service on or before November 1, 2010 will only be able to listen to individual tracks five times per month (if you signed up after, there's a 6 month grace period).
"The changes we're having to make will mainly affect heavier Spotify Free and Open users, as most of you use Spotify to discover music -- on average over 50 new tracks per month, even after a year," Spotify said. "Plus, the average user won't reach the limit on plays for 7 out of 10 tracks, after a year of using Spotify. For those of you using Spotify to find new tracks to enjoy and share with friends, these changes shouldn't get in the way of you doing that. Rest assured that we'll continue to bring you the biggest and most diverse music catalogue available."
News of the changes has sparked speculation on what was really the driving force behind Spotify's decision to shake things up. The U.K.'s PaidContent brought up three possible scenarios:
Simply put, Spotify may have made the changes because it can.
To offset the cost of bandwidth and/or royalty payments.
Pressure by the record labels.
Plausible as all three sound, Spotify rejected the notion that there's a hidden agenda, saying "It's not due to bandwidth issues and it's not a premium conversion strategy -- we want to make that extremely clear. It's not related to the U.S. launch."