Peter Kafka

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Spotify Clears Its Throat for a U.S. Launch in "Coming Months"

Spotify can’t come to the U.S. until it nails down more deals with the major labels. But here’s another indicator of the music service’s confidence in an American debut sometime…soonish.

It’s a note to the European company’s select group of freeloading American users, letting them know they’re going to have to start paying sooner or later. And it says Spotify is “looking forward” to a U.S. launch in ‘the coming months.”

From: Spotify
Date: February 8, 2011
To: xxx
Subject: Spotify Payment Problem- ACTION REQUIRED!

Hello from Spotify!

You are one of only a few people who has access to a Spotify promotional test account in the USA, and we hope you’re enjoying listening to Spotify through our Premium or Unlimited service.

We are really looking forward to launching the service in full in the USA over the coming months, and hope that you will continue to use the service and be one of our key advocates.

We need to make some small system changes to our payment system for our USA launch, and so in order to make the transition for you as smooth as possible, we have credited your Spotify account with 1 month worth of FREE Spotify Premium/ Unlimited!

In return for this, we ask that you please do the following:

• Visit our website
• Login with your username and password.
• Select a payment method (Card or Paypal) and click ‘Change’
• Click ‘I Accept/ Continue’ to accept the new product in US Dollars
• Provide us with your payment details once more, so that after your FREE
month has expired you will be able to keep listening to music through Spotify.

Your next bill is due to us on ’14/02/12′, so please provide us with your payment details before then, otherwise you will revert back to Spotify Free and if you have Premium you will lose access to Spotify on your mobile. On this date, you will then be billed in Dollars!

Thanks for your help, and please feel free to reply to us directly if you have any

Obviously this note isn’t anything like a confirmed launch date. In order to do that, Spotify needs U.S. deals with the big music labels, and so far only has Sony signed on.

Industry sources keep telling me a deal with EMI is this close, but they’ve been saying that for weeks now. Which doesn’t mean that it won’t happen. Just that it hasn’t yet.

And no matter what happens with EMI, Spotify can’t go anywhere unless it has Universal Music Group, the world’s largest label, on board. Again, lots of people tell me they’re confident a deal will get done soon, but…

In any case, the note does point out one of the reasons so many plugged-in Americans you know are raving about Spotify, even though the service doesn’t formally exist here–Spotify has quite cleverly been handing out free test accounts to lots and lots of people who might rave about it.

That includes VIPs and their families, all sorts of music industry people and media people, including yours truly.

And if you’re getting Spotify in the U.S., you are indeed getting a really, really good service: Free, unlimited music, anywhere you want it, whenever you want it, without ads.

Which is not what Spotify’s “real” users actually get. The ones who use the free service have a cap on the number of hours they can listen for free, can only listen on their PCs and will encounter a smattering of advertising. To get the real deal–mobile, no ads, no limits–they’ll need to cough up the equivalent of about $13.50 a month.

So far, about a million people are doing just that, people familiar with the company tell me. But how many will go for it if, or when, it gets to the U.S.?

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Another gadget you don’t really need. Will not work once you get it home. New model out in 4 weeks. Battery life is too short to be of any use.

— From the fact sheet for a fake product entitled Useless Plasticbox 1.2 (an actual empty plastic box) placed in L.A.-area Best Buy stores by an artist called Plastic Jesus