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Spotify wants more paid subscribers, so it’s giving away more music for free

The music service hopes a new app will help it hit big growth goals.

Several mobile phone screens showing the Spotify app Spotify
Peter Kafka covers media and technology, and their intersection, at Vox. Many of his stories can be found in his Kafka on Media newsletter, and he also hosts the Recode Media podcast.

Spotify — and the music labels — want more people to pay for music. So they are going to give more music away.

The streaming music service is rolling out a new version of its free, mobile app, which gives users more access to songs. The idea: If people get more stuff without paying, they are more likely to end up paying in the long run.

The new mobile app gives free users the ability to play more songs on demand, from 15 pre-populated playlists — some of which are personalized for individual users, like its popular “Discover Weekly” feature. (Hat tip to Bloomberg’s Lucas Shaw, who sussed this out earlier this month).

Spotify has always let users listen to on-demand music for free via an ad-supported option — it’s the main thing that set the company apart from other streaming services in the past.

But it has limited full, free access to its library of songs to desktop users, and limited what free users could get to on its mobile app. Today’s move doesn’t remove those limits entirely, but gives users more opportunity to sample. Paid users get full access to Spotify’s entire catalog, on-demand, without ads.

The context: Spotify is now a public company and needs to hit growth numbers it has supplied to investors. It has told them to expect as many as 96 million paid subscribers by the end of the year, up from 71 million today. Its partners — and potential competitors — at the big music labels want more paying subscribers, too.

Spotify’s first-ever earnings report is scheduled for Wednesday, May 2. Expect to get a new set of user numbers then.

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