Spotify signs deal with first US label

Sony has become the first major music label to ink a deal with European streaming service Spotify, bringing the outfit's move to America one step closer.

Sony is one of the four biggest music licensing operations in the world. Along with its three giant colleagues, EMI, Warner and Universal, the company keeps an iron grip on who can listen to what music where - and how much they have to pay for the privilege.

Spotify's American invasion has been held back for months as music industry lawyers squabble over the bottom line, but Sony's decision to get into bed with Spotify will almost certainly see the other members of the Gang of Four scrambling to follow suit.

Spotify is reportedly planning to bring to the US the same two-tier service that has proved so popular with European punters across the pond, offering millions of tracks free of charge to anyone willing to put up with an annoying advert every fifth or sixth tune, or an expanded and unlimited service without the hard sell for what will probably turn out to be something in the order of $10 to $15 a month.

Spotify started life in Sweden in 2006 and quickly spread across Europe, picking up subscribers and advertisers as is went. It now has over 10 million registered users who can enjoy 10 million individual tracks - but has yet to make a profit.

Breaking into the lucrative US market could change all that.