With Amazon, Apple, and Google now offering music services that are at least partly based in the cloud, the popular European streaming service Spotify appears to be edging closer to a U.S. launch: It has signed a licensing deal with Universal Music Group, its third agreement with a major U.S. music label.
According to several reports (see below for links), Spotify has now inked deals with EMI, Sony Music, and Universal, and is apparently working to secure an agreement with the fourth, Warner Music. Spotify, which launched with a free, ad-supported service that offers unlimited music, has been trying to bring its service to the U.S. for about two years but has struggled to reach deals with the major labels, which have been resistant to Spotify's advertisement-based business model. Instead, they've looked more favorably at subscription-based services, which provide a more guaranteed revenue stream.
As a result, Spotify recently began imposing limits on the amount of music accessible to users of the free service, hoping the move will push more people to its paid subscription service, which offers unlimited music without any ads. According to reports, Spotify is looking to charge a $10-per-month fee to remain competitive with other subscription services here in the U.S.
Spotify is said to be eying a July 2011 launch. If so, it's entering a music landscape that's grown increasingly crowded. In addition to other subscription services such as those offered by Rhapsody and eMusic are new cloud-based locker services from Amazon, Apple, and Google. The main difference, of course, is that these new locker services provide access to music you already own, while Spotify offers access to music you don't own, with new tracks being added all the time.
Given all the new music services that have recently launched, we'd like to know which ones you find the most appealing and whether you'd be willing to give Spotify a try if it secures deal with all the major labels. Also, do you think $10 per month is a fair subscription fee to have unlimited access to all that music?
All Things D: When Will Spotify Finally Come to the U.S.?
Wall Street Journal: Spotify Nears U.S. Launch After Universal Music Deal
—James K. Willcox