Spotify finally rolls out real-time lyrics to global users

After years of ignoring consumer demand for in-app lyrics, particularly in the U.S., Spotify announced today it will make a new Lyrics feature available to all global users, both Free and Premium, across platforms. The feature is powered by lyrics provider Musixmatch, and expands on a prior deal Spotify had with the company to offer lyrics to users in India, Latin America and Southeast Asia.

Last year, Spotify introduced real-time lyrics that sync to the music to users in 26 worldwide markets, after initially testing the feature in 2019. This was the first time 22 of the 26 markets had ever gained any form of lyrics support, the company said at the time. That deal later expanded to 28 markets. Spotify users in Japan have also had access to lyrics through a standalone deal with SyncPower.

But users in other markets have only had access to “Behind the Lyrics,” a feature launched in 2016 in partnership with Genius which offered lyrics interspersed with trivia about the song, its meaning, the artist and other commentary. Meanwhile, through Spotify’s community feedback forum, thousands of users over the years expressed to the company they would prefer a feature that provided real-time lyrics, instead of lyrics that are interrupted with facts and other background information.

Those users will now get their wish.

Spotify confirmed to TechCrunch it will be sunsetting “Behind the Lyrics” to make way for the new Lyrics feature.

Lyrics will be available across platforms from the “Now Playing” view or bar, depending on the platform.

On mobile, users can swipe up from the “Now Playing” screen to see the track’s lyrics scroll by in real time as the song is playing. On the desktop app, you can click the microphone icon from the “Now Playing” bar instead. And on the Spotify TV app, you’ll navigate to the top-right corner of the “Now Playing” view to enable Lyrics from the lyrics button.

The company says the feature will be available on the big screen via its app for PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Android TV, Amazon Fire TV, Samsung, Roku, LG, Sky and Comcast.

The new feature also offers built-in sharing from an included button on the bottom of the screen on mobile, which allows users to select the lyrics they want to share and the destination.

There is no difference in the Lyrics experience for Free or Premium users, we’re told.

Real-time lyrics on music apps have had a complicated history. When lyrics aren’t provided by music publishers, companies turn to a third-party provider. But those providers don’t always play fair. Google, for example, was accused by Genius in 2019 for plagiarizing its lyrics collection, which Genius tracked by cleverly embedding secret codes into its lyrics to spell out “red-handed.” Those lyrics later appeared in search results. But Google said the blame was with its partner, LyricFind. It didn’t drop its partnership, as there are few alternatives for major lyrics deals — the companies tend to work with either Genius, LyricFind or Musixmatch (or a combination).

That’s why it made headlines when Apple in 2018 announced a partnership with Genius for lyrics across thousands of its top songs, and two years later became the exclusive web player for Genius. Among other services, Pandora says it works with LyricFind and Amazon works with both LyricFind and Musixmatch, its website states.

With this expansion, Lyrics will now be available in all markets where Spotify is offered, eliminating one of the big competitive advantages these rivals have over Spotify.

The company says Lyrics will begin rolling out globally starting today.