Spotify is free again

Music streaming service Spotify has announced that users can once again sign up to listen to the service for free.

The company allowed users to join for nothing when it launched, but last year ceased to offer free accounts to new members, unless they were invited by an existing premium member.

Now, a new account type, named Spotify Open, allows users once again to sign up for streaming music at no cost – but, like the older free subscriptions, includes adverts every few minutes between tracks. The catch? Spotify Open users can only listen to the service free for 20 hours a month.

The new account is part of a refresh of the company’s subscriptions policy, which sees it introducing Spotify Unlimited – essentially the old, unlimited free service with adverts. Only this time it’ll cost you a penny under a fiver each month.

Spotify Premium, which saves users from the bleating of ‘Jonathan from Spotify’ and the solicitations of various dating web sites, still costs £9.99 a month. It enables subscribers to use Spotify playlists offline on their iPhone, iPod Touch or Android mobile phone.

Existing users of Spotify’s Free service will be able to continue listening for nowt.

The return to offering free subscriptions may signal that Spotify is struggling to make ends meet with its Premium service. The company reported in March that 320,000 users had signed up to its Premium service, and now says the figure is even higher.

But the site has still not achieved the aim of its Swedish founder, Daniel Ek, to launch in the US – and, despite criticism over the low level of royalties it pays to artists, Spotify isn’t covering its costs.

Rival service We7 announced last month that it had begun to cover the cost of streaming purely using advertising revenue.