Spotify halves amount of free music

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Free use halved

Spotify has announced that it will cut in half the amount of free music each user gets per month.

The digital music service offers both a free version, which is supported by adverts, and a premium, subscription version that is ad-free.

The current allowance for fans that use the free content is 20 hours per month, but the new changes will push that down to just ten hours. Users can also expect to be limited on the amount of times they can play an individual song; where there was no limit on this previously, after the changes take effect a song can only be repeated five times.

Spotify wants to make it clear that new users will not be affected by the changes for six months, but for traditional users, the new rules will come in to play on 1 May 2011.

Spotify started off as an unlimited free music-streaming programme, but over the last two years it has started to cut down on the amount of free music that is available. In a bid to encourage users to upgrade to Spotify Premium, the company has also started to increase the volume of adverts between tracks.

A relief for the music industry

The developments will come as a relief to record producers who have long seen free music streaming as a threat. It has been reported that Spotify is making these adjustments in preparation to launch in the US, where it will need permission from the industry's leading lights, so moving towards a subscription-only service can only help in this regard.

Spotify has received mixed feedback after confirming the changes on its blog. One user commented, "so long Spotify", whilst another applauded the announcement "great news, about time!"

Spotify's chief content officer Ken Parks told the BBC: "Our chief priority is to keep the free service, which is what has made Spotify so popular. Everything we do is designed to ensure our users continue to have access to an amazing free experience."

Spotify currently has over six million listeners, one million of which subscribe to the premium service.