Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

[UPDATED] The Spotify Song Has a Familiar Chorus: U.S. Launch Talks Back to "Square One"

UPDATE: Spotify tells the Telegraph that the Billboard piece is wrong, and insists that it will make it to the U.S. by the end of the year.
When will Spotify, the best music service Americans can’t use, finally make it to the U.S.? No time soon, according to a new report from Billboard. The trade magazine says the much-hyped service has gone “back to square one” in its negotiations with the big music labels, who have licensed their catalogs for a European version but not a stateside one.

Billboard also cites sources suggesting that Spotify still hopes for a U.S. launch this year. But Spotify has been hoping for/promising a U.S. launch for so long that there’s a Tumblr site dedicated to cataloging those unfulfilled aspirations. It’s called Not-ify.

What gives? Ask around and you’ll hear two different theories about the holdup. They’re not mutually exclusive:

  • Spotify wants to replicate the model it has in Europe, where users can listen for free, then pay for upgrades like mobile and/or ad-free access. But the labels are no longer interested in supporting free streaming sites: Now that Lala and Imeem have gone away, the only free on-demand service in the U.S. is News Corp.’s MySpace Music, and they don’t seem that enthusiastic about that one.
  • Spotify has raised a big pile of money from VCs, and the labels are demanding a big chunk of that for themselves.

I’m also not clear whether the holdup is with all the labels, or just some of them. Sources close to Spotify have hinted to me in the past that the company has had deals in place with some of the big four music labels for some time but was waiting to lock up at least three of them before launching.

Then again, those same sources suggest that Spotify is willing to avoid the U.S. altogether if it can’t get the deal it wants. Choose the story you like, I guess.

Meanwhile, if you’re itching to subscribe to a music service that lets you listen to all the music you want, without ads and on your PC and on mobile devices like Google’s (GOOG) Android handsets and Apple’s (AAPL) iPhone, you’re in luck! There are plenty of options.

Go ahead and try any of the following, which offer more or less the same stuff, at the same $10 a month price point:

$10 a month too much? Okay. Best Buy’s (BBY) Napster offers an ad-free, all-you-can-eat service, without mobile access for $5 a month. Meanwhile, MySpace Music, which is co-owned by News Corp. (NWS) and the labels themselves, remains free and ad-supported. And the company’s line is that will remain so (though it doesn’t rule out a paid option).

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