Spotify Slashes Free Music Listening By Half

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Thanks for your “unbelievable support,” reads a post from Spotify founder and CEO Daniel Ek–and oh by the way, we’re slashing what you’re allowed to listen to in a month by half.

Well, that’s not exactly how Ek puts it, who instead writes almost clinically that “total listening time for free users will be limited to 10 hours per month after the first 6 months.”

But it adds up to the same: A free-access free-fall from what had been 20 hours per month prior.

Forget newspaper pay-walls, say hello to music-barricades–or at least more restrictive listening quotas on the road to the premium tune-age kingdom. And before you blame Spotify, it sounds like the company’s hands were tied, that perhaps even the industry’s hands are handcuffed. Or to hear a “well placed source” at TechCrunch Europe put it, “the [record] labels put a gun to Spotify’s head.”

No one (well, no one I know of) enjoys the sensation of the business end of cold steel death pressed to their temples. In this case, the gun was possibly the record labels, squeezing Spotify for royalties to force its hand. Or it could just be the whole inverse economies of scale thing, where ad revenue never catches up to the flood of free-takers (though drilling for extra revenue seems the less likely of the two–after all, the company just raised $100 million in cash).

My take: Spotify’s the first domino to fall–expect others to follow. The heady freemium days of massively “complimentary” music are over, or at least veering toward serious curtailment. And inexorable as that seems, it’s also not the solution: Spotify’s waging war with what just about every other facet of the entertainment industry’s battling: Rampant, guiltless, effortless, fundamentally anarchic piracy.