Spotify is moving lyrics behind a paywall in a likely bid to lure subscribers to its rumored Hi-Fi tier

 An illustration of people at a concert
(Image credit: Spotify)

Users of Spotify's free ad-supported tier are turning to sites such as Reddit and other social networks to share the news that song lyrics are being put behind a paywall: a message is popping up to say "there's a monthly limit on lyrics... every time you tap 'show lyrics' it will count towards your limit. To get full access to lyrics, switch to Spotify Premium". 

The limits appear to be in test mode, because different users are getting different messages and most aren't getting them at all, but Spotify isn't denying that the lyrics are going to become a paid feature. Speaking to TechCrunch, a spokesperson gave a non-denial: Spotify's features can vary over time between markets and across devices.

The move is clearly designed to push more people towards the Premium tier –although in a world where lyrics are freely available online, it's questionable how effective such a strategy will be – and suggests that Spotify really, really, really wants more people to give it money. That adds weight to recent rumors that an even more premium tier, dubbed Supremium, is close to launch.

Could Spotify's free tier go away?

As we reported yesterday, screenshots of what appears to be Spotify Supremium have leaked. They show an "Enhanced Listening" tier offering lossless audio on both desktop and mobile devices, with sound quality of up to 24-bit via Spotify Connect on compatible device. That means Tidal and Qobuz may still be ahead in the quality stakes. while the leak suggests that 24-bit FLAC audio is coming, the leaked images include on-screen text saying that it will only be available on certain songs. 

In addition to launching a more expensive Supremium tier, Spotify is expected to bring its price increases to the US later this year. It's already upped its subscription charges in some other markets such as the UK, and the hikes in the US are expected to be in the region of a dollar per month for solo subscribers and two dollars for duo or family subscriptions. We don't yet know what the Supremium tier will cost. 

The latest changes to the free tier make it less useful, and of course that's the whole point. But it's interesting to compare what Spotify is doing with what TV and movie streamers are doing. They're trying to get more people onto their ad-funded tiers, not fewer people, because ads are where they see the money going. 

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Carrie Marshall

Writer, broadcaster, musician and kitchen gadget obsessive Carrie Marshall (Twitter) has been writing about tech since 1998, contributing sage advice and odd opinions to all kinds of magazines and websites as well as writing more than a dozen books. Her memoir, Carrie Kills A Man, is on sale now. She is the singer in Glaswegian rock band HAVR.