Spotify Ditches Its 5 Play Limit For Spotify Free Users In The UK

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Freetards rejoice. Spotify has ditched the 5 play limit imposed on UK users of the free version of its music streaming service, Spotify Free, which until today kicked in after six months usage and meant that no one track could be streamed more than 5 times — it would become greyed out after the limit had been reached.

Removing the cap, which was introduced in April 2011 (along with a number of other changes to its free offering), brings it in line with other European markets where Spotify began ditching the 5 play limit in March, notes Music Ally.

The U.S., Australia, and New Zealand have never had a cap, while in Europe, France seems to be the hold out. What hasn’t changed, however, is the 10 hours of streaming per month limit associated with the Spotify Free tariff, as the company continues to nudge users towards becoming paying customers.

Here’s what Spotify has to say on its blog:

We’ve got some mighty fine news for all Spotify Free users. From today, there’s no more 5 play-per-song limit. You can listen to your favourite songs as many times as you like.

That’s right, no more greyed-out songs. The tracks that you couldn’t listen to before will once again be available for your listening pleasure.

Give it a try.

As I noted when Spotify first introduced the 5 play limit, along with a cap on the number of listening hours overall for its non-paying customers, the idea of drawing a line in the sand between paying users and non-paying users made sense within the context of Spotify’s freemium model. And for many, the inconvenience of ads, however repetitive they are, wasn’t enough of a reason to upgrade to a paid account. Introducing false scarcity was always going to be more effective. In that context, capping free usage to ten hours per-month was an easy message to convey, while the 5 play limit seems idiosyncratic to say the least and, as I speculated at the time, probably came at the request of the major record labels who Spotify remains entirely reliant upon.

Perhaps the oddest thing about Spotify’s new terms for non-paying users, however, is that after 6 months they’ll only be able to play each track up to a total of 5 times. This, of course, produces artificial scarcity and therefore it could be argued that it will push more users to pay for a subscription. But it also feels arbitrary. Why five plays? Is the sixth play more expensive to serve than the previous five?

More broadly, however, despite today’s small change to Spotify Free, it appears to remain the case that a free, ad-supported music streaming service without any limits remains nonviable. The economics simply don’t work, however hard you try to crowbar in a freemium model.

Meanwhile, despite reports of its imminent world-wide launch, no word yet on when Spotify plans to bring its U.S.-only free mobile Internet radio feature to its mobile apps in the UK (or elsewhere outside the U.S.). Rightly or wrongly, the Internet radio model, which imposes arcane rules such as how many tracks by the same artist can be played sequentially etc., has a different royalty rate to a pure “on-demand” offering.