Spotify gives indie labels option to put music behind limited-time paywall

Spotify may still be going strong with 50 million-plus subscribers, but new licensing deals are putting the squeeze on those who choose to listen for free.

The music streaming giant just completed a multi-year agreement with Merlin, a leading digital rights agency that handles over 20,000 independent labels. The agreement lets Spotify keep a sizable portion of indie artists streamable on the service.

While it's certainly good that Spotify isn't struggling to keep its list of 30 million tracks available to listeners, the announcement notes labels under Merlin "can also participate in Spotify’s recently announced flexible release policy." 

This means new releases can be made exclusive to paid Spotify subscribers for a period of time before becoming available to those who listen for free.

Limited exclusives for all

Spotify's "flexible release policy" was announced earlier this month when the service renewed its license with Universal Music Group. This gave the label the option to make certain albums exclusive to Spotify Premium subscribers for up to two weeks.

Now, in addition to major record labels, indie distributors can decide whether they want their new music to be made available to all subscribers at the same time, or if they want to stagger releases. 

The move to limited exclusives was inevitable, as reports previously hinted Spotify had trouble keeping its library equally accessible to both paid and free listeners, following increasing pressure from major music labels.

While nothing has been formally made exclusive just yet, it's more than likely remaining major labels like Sony Music and Warner Music Group will want in on the same flexible release policy in their revamped agreements as well.

This could mean it becomes the new norm for high-profile releases to be temporarily locked behind Spotify's $9.99/£9.99/AU$11.99-a-month tier. 

While we feel the features of Spotify Premium make it a must-have service for music buffs, we can see free listeners who already put up with ads becoming disenchanted with the idea of walled-off music. We just hope that time doesn't come before the new Gorillaz album drops next week.

Via Engadget

Parker Wilhelm
Parker Wilhelm is a freelance writer for TechRadar. He likes to tinker in Photoshop and talk people's ears off about Persona 4.