Spotify shrinks free offering to just ten hours

Spotify has announced that it is to cut the listening time for its free users in half, following pressure from the record industry upset that its users get a 'free ride.'

The company, which is one of the pioneers of the 'freemium' model in streaming music, has enjoyed great success on the back of its free offering: users are able to listen to 20 hours of music per month for free, with revenue generated by the company via both display and audible advertising.

Those who dislike the adverts, or who want access to advanced features like offline listening, higher bitrate audio, and mobile streaming on smartphones, are expected to pay a monthly subscription fee - for which the advertising and time limits are lifted.

To gently encourage users to shell out on a paid subscription, the company announced today that it will be halving the streaming limit for its free users to just ten hours - and introducing a new limit of five plays per song, after which the track in question will be unavailable for that account.

The new limit will come into force at the start of next month for existing users, while new subscribers will be offered six months under the old 20-hour limit before being dropped down to ten.

"We’re a company that has always had big ambitions," claimed Spotify's Ken Parks in a statement to the Financial Times. "We’ve got to balance a number of priorities. Chief among those priorities is to keep the free service, which is what makes Spotify unique, and what you’re seeing here is a balance of these priorities."

Spotify's increasing restrictions on its free users come at a time when alternative services are gathering steam, such as the soon-to-launch Psonar pay-to-play service which offers streaming of a single song for 1p - an option which could prove significantly cheaper for those who hit Spotify's new limits but don't fancy shelling out for a subscription.

With a US launch impending, Spotify's new limits could result in slower growth than its previous free-for-all launch in Europe.