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Spotify to begin to limit free streaming

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Music Died
Robert Schittny/Getty Images

About six months ago, the Internet music community collectively Tebowed in awe before the greatness of Spotify. It seemed too good to be true: Here was a service with an incredibly deep well of music that streamed at very high qualities, all for free.

And if you ponied up a mere 10 bucks a month, you could take everything with you via the Spotify app. With all these things laid before us, why would anybody listen to music any other way again?

But like all great revolutions in digital music, the inevitable fallout had to come sooner or later. Everybody conveniently forgot that the “unlimited” free streaming would narrow to a limited amount after six months, and that deadline is fast approaching for first adopters.

If the Euro model is any indicator, free users will be limited to around 10 hours a month, with individual songs capped at five spins in that same time period. So now free users will not only have to put up with the ads, but also will run out of digital mileage in the time it takes to spin Matthew Sweet’s Girlfriend ten times (which you couldn’t do, because it will send you away once you hit that fifth time through “Nothing Lasts” — irony!).

Of course, Spotify is hoping that you’ll upgrade to premium. And honestly, for all the music the service provides, $10 a month is a pretty great deal for unlimited streaming, plus the ability to take your music with you through the app. Though Spotify boasts that they’ve converted over 12 percent of their free users into paying customers in the first six months, the sudden streaming limitations on the free service will probably turn people off entirely. In situations like this, people don’t pony up. They tap out.

Plus, Spotify has a lot of other elements working against it lately. To wit: The Spotify app, which recently received a big update, is no longer compatible with older models of the iPhone and iPod Touch. So even though you pay your monthly fee and you have a perfectly reasonable piece of expensive hardware, you are left out in the cold. What’s worse, the app crashes with no explanation, and it takes a bit of digging though the bowels of the Internet to figure out how to fix it. So sure, a subscription to Spotify is only 10 dollars a month, but to take full advantage of the service, you may need to toss in an extra $200 for a compatible iPod.

You can also expect Spotify’s menu of music to become even more…spotty. When the Black Keys put out their latest album, El Camino, they withheld it from streaming services, most notably Spotify (which tends to get new releases right away). While that move was unpopular with the subset of fans who love the band and were hoping to legally stream their new album, it ultimately proved to work pretty well; the band debuted at No. 2 on the Billboard album chart with 206,000 copies sold.

Would they have moved the same number of copies even if they had made the album available on Spotify? It’s possible. But that example is all record companies will need to make the connection that withholding from streaming services equals big-time physical sales.

What’s your take on Spotify? Will you bail out now that the free streaming is capped? Or is it still a good deal?

Read more on EW.com:

Spotify USA is real, and it’s pretty spectacular: An EW review

Spotify stalking: Everything I never wanted to know about my Facebook friends’ taste in music

Spotify launches in the U.S.