Go back

Spotify Launches Free Mobile Tier

Dear visitor,

Yesterday, Spotify announced an exciting new development which allows music lovers to use a limited version of Spotify, for free, on their phones. This new free tier does not have the unlimited, on-demand and offline functionality of our Premium plan, but instead allows users to listen to their playlists and discover new artists in “Shuffle Mode”.

Spotify’s desktop free tier has been an essential component of our ability to compete with piracy and encourage people to listen to music legally. Over the last 5 years, this free tier has helped us to attract 24 million users, 25% (6 million) of whom now pay £/$/€120 a year.

A big part of the value of subscribing to Spotify has been the ability to take your music with you on your mobile device, something free users could not do. So why have we launched a free mobile service? Well, the world has changed! When Spotify launched, smartphone adoption was in the single digits, but now, smartphones are ubiquitous, and, in many cases, are now the primary devices most people use to access The Internet and their media. Smartphone access is no longer a luxury, it’s the norm.

This new norm means that the vast majority of mobile music consumption is taking place through services that pay little or nothing back to the music industry in royalties. Just ask any teenager how they listen to music on their phone, and they’re likely to show you an app for ripping music videos from YouTube. Spotify’s mobile free tier enables us to compete with mobile piracy and other services that are free on mobile. From there, we will continue to convert free listeners to paying customers and continue to pay higher rates to artists than other services.

We’re not giving everything away for free, though. The new mobile free tier is designed to allow curious music lovers to get a taste of Spotify for free but with a number of restrictions that will encourage subscription in even greater numbers. Users on our free mobile tier will not have the on-demand or offline functionality that our Premium users enjoy on mobile, they won’t be able to choose specific tracks from albums or play single albums in full. Instead free users will only be able to play playlists or artist catalogues in “Shuffle” mode, which is comparable to other popular online radio services.  (For more info on the limitations and the differences between mobile free and Premium please see the bottom of this blog post).

How does this affect artists? Spotify’s royalty model will remain unchanged by this, and the details on these pages still apply. The mobile free tier will help us to grow quicker, which is good news, because the quicker we grow, the quicker we will generate even higher royalty payments like those projected here. Every day, thousands of users try to use Spotify on their mobile devices, but many leave when they find our prior mobile experience limiting. These users go back to piracy or other poorly monetized services. By offering a free mobile service, Spotify will be able to rapidly increase the number of users who explore the service long enough to fall in love with it and then to join our Premium tier.

In addition to generating higher royalties, the increased mobile user base will be able to utilize Spotify’s artist tools. These music fans will be able to Follow you on Spotify, easily share your music with friends, and buy your concert tickets when you are playing in their cities. Very shortly, they’ll also be able to purchase your merchandise, right from their mobile devices. This isn’t just an opportunity for Spotify to convert more users; it’s an opportunity for artists to convert more curious listeners into active and valuable fans.

Spotify’s free tier is now available to users in all of the countries where we are live. For more information, please see this blog post, and if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact us.

-The Spotify Artist Services Team

Follow @SpotifyArtists  on Twitter or sign up to our Artist Services newsletter for regular updates on best practice, product updates, financial information and other useful information for artists and their teams.


How is this different from the premium mobile experience?

Our goal was to make the best-possible free mobile music product and keep what is unique about Spotify, while not degrading the value of the Premium experience. Differences between free and premium on mobile:


Free vs premium



  1. Online only:  Offline Mode is still only available to Premium subscribers
  2. Ads:  Free users still experience audio and display ads on their device
  3. Continual shuffle mode:  The free product is always in shuffle mode.  This means that listeners can’t choose the exact order of the songs they’re listening to or access a song on-demand.
  4. No tracks on demand:  Free users can’t choose a specific song to listen to.  Instead, if someone taps a specific song, they can add it to their playlist, or start a radio station.  This includes a users’ own local files.
  5. Limited skips: Free users are limited to six skips per hour.
  6. The addition of “Suggested Tracks”: Spotify will occasionally add related tracks into the listener’s queue.  This happens when the user has run up against a few additional restrictions within our licensing agreements with regards to playing consecutive tracks from individual albums.  Suggested tracks are always related to the content the user has chosen and in testing have not been problematic for listeners.
  7. A playlist must have at least 20 songs
  8. A playlist must consist of at least three albums
  9. Even if you list the same track 20 times in a row, it still only counts as one 
  • Jonny G

    I love Spotify

  • http://www.techmansworld.com/ Michael Hazell

    This, quite honestly, blows. Free users are treated very harshly with this move, and of course you’re always turning the blind eye to folks who may not be able to afford premium every month. For those folks, they might as well go back to piracy because they can get anything they want, whenever.

    You guys really need to create a program where free users can still listen to tracks on-demand, because otherwise you’re really just shooting the bird at us.

    • http://SpotifyArtists.com/ Mark Williamson

      Hey Michael,

      We try to include as much great functionality in our free service as we can. However, we don’t own the music that is played on Spotify and so we have to work with the labels and publishers to figure out what kind of functionality we can offer on the free service. We believe that the free shuffle service on the phone was better than not having a free version on the phone at all. At the same time, we’ve also made tablets free on-demand and of course you can get unlimited, free, on-demand access on your desktop (albeit with ads).

      We’re continually looking into how we can improve these services. Rest assured though, we care a great deal about our free users. It’s by giving free users a great service that we show them the value of upgrading to premium.

      Appreciate the feedback,



      • http://www.techmansworld.com/ Michael Hazell

        I appreciate your answer, but it still doesn’t really do free users any justice who wish they could afford/have premium. There’s people who don’t have premium because they are cheap, lazy, etc and there are others who would love to have it, but can’t.

        While Spotify indeed doesn’t own the music it distributes, in a way the free tier is kind of like a “punishment” to those who wish they did have the service. Especially those who were coming from the realm of piracy. How do you keep these users happy, without pushing them to go back to what they did before? Spotify does do quite a few things on mobile that really try to push you to shell out money.

        My proposition has always been to allow premium features, in exchange for perhaps slightly more ads OR have a different kind of approach. I know of a website that allows users to legitimately fill out surveys from different companies who offer compensation for it. Perhaps Spotify could let you fill out a couple of surveys per month in exchange for free premium?

        The main reason why I am even bringing this point up is because I see a lot of complains about this kind of stuff on numerous forums. Me posting here is a way to bring all of those complains, directly in front of Spotify staff. So Mr. Williamson, what is your response?

        • http://SpotifyArtists.com/ Mark Williamson

          Hey Michael,

          Thanks again for the feedback, I understand your frustration but we have to work within the limitations of the licenses we’re granted.

          However, if you have further feedback I’d encourage you to visit community.spotify.com. This website is focused on developments at Spotify which impact artists and is not really the place to have this discussion. Our community has very vibrants discussions about these types of things.

          Thanks again,


        • Robert Taylor


          I’d love a cheeseburger for free every day, but I can’t afford it. But you don’t see me crying to McDonalds.

          Things that are valuable cost money. If you’re willing or unable to pay, then you don’t get access to those things. That’s just how the world works, my friend.

          • http://www.techmansworld.com/ Michael Hazell

            Music isn’t the same as a cheeseburger, lol. I can readily pirate music if I wished to do so, but I don’t want to if I don’t have to.

  • http://www.techmansworld.com/ Michael Hazell

    I like how you guys delete my comment. Keep it up and I’ll begin to speak against Spotify publicly about this.

    • http://SpotifyArtists.com/ Mark Williamson

      Hey Michael,

      We didn’t delete your comment. We do run an approval process on comments and unfortunately your comment came at a time where our moderators were unavailable. Apologies for the delay.