Sound & Vision: Spotify price increase

OPINION: Another year, another price hike. For all the rumours of the Supremium tier finally launching, US subscribers getting another jump in price for a service that general consensus would say hasn’t improved much or is getting better.

I’ve written about how Tidal’s reduction in its subscription prices would increase the pressure on Spotify, but with this increase, it seems that Spotify is confident enough that subscribers won’t jump ship.

You could call that self-assured or arrogant or perhaps even needs must – I think most can’t be bothered to swap their library of albums and playlists to another service they’re unfamiliar with.

And it’s not as if Spotify is known for raising prices in the way video streaming services have in recent years. The price increase in 2023 was the first that it had done since 2011, which I’m sure you’ll agree is a long time to wait for the first price jump – but two price jumps in a year? That’s beginning to look suspicious, especially when alerting US customers with a rather bland statement of continuing “to invest in and innovate on our product features” to bring the best experience – and yet there’s still no real sign of the Supremium tier.

The existence of the Spotify Hi-Fi (or Supremium tier) pops up every now and then suggesting a release is imminent, before it disappears to being idle Internet chatter. You’d imagine a tier that charges a higher price (and offers higher quality audio) would assist in boosting its revenues but for whatever reason Spotify seems reluctant to jump into waters others have happily dive-bombed into years ago. It’s a head-scratcher for me, especially as it could be argued that music, along with other ‘content’, has been devalued in the race to the bottom.

But nevertheless, the price increase should serve as a good thing for artists, musicians, and content creators in terms of revenues and royalties, right? Well actually, no.

Spotify AI Playlist

As has been spotted, with Spotify adding audiobooks to its (current) premium tier, the service claims it now qualifies to pay out a discounted bundle rate to songwriters for streams. That will result in less money being paid to artists, a sum Billboard calculates as being to the tune of $150 million less in the United States – though that seems more of a guesstimate than an actual, quantifiable figure. It could be less but regardless, artists are likely to receive less than they did in previous years.

And just to rub it into subscribers’ faces more, despite the price rises, the hunt for more investment to pay for “innovation” on the service, Spotify has also elected to restrict features to its premium tier – or at the very least ‘test’ to see the response. The lyrics feature has been ushered to the premium tier without an official announcement signalling the change, whether temporary or not.

It’s not a good look when you take something everyone had access to and pull up the drawbridge to seemingly try and get people to pay for the premium tier. It’s as annoying as when Prime Video took Dolby Vision and Atmos to its new tier while keeping schtum about it. That’s not incentivising people to jump onboard or have much faith in the brand.

It all comes across as rather sloppy in terms of intention, and haphazard, as if Spotify is thinking out loud rather than using its inside voice and coming up with an actual plan. It’s the biggest music streaming service but seems to be suffering from the affliction that affects all companies – the constant need to grow and boost revenues and profits, seemingly at the expense of common sense.

All of this contributes to a company that seems to be in a muddle for the last few years. Some companies are too big to fail, and Spotify ranks as one of those companies, but it is behaving in a daft manner and making rather daft comments too, and at some point subscribers will say they’ve had enough. That moment might be coming sooner than later unless Spotify bucks its approach.

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