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Will free Spotify soon disappear?

Mounting pressure from record labels and artists like Taylor Swift may force Spotify to drop free major albums or cancel free streaming altogether.

Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press/AP/File
Taylor Swift performs during her 1989 World Tour in Vancouver. The movement to end free music streaming gained momentum last year when Grammy-winner Taylor Swift abruptly pulled her music from Spotify, arguing that the company's free music streaming tier devalued her music catalog.

Rumor has it that Spotify's free music streaming service is about to undergo a radical overhaul — and unfortunately, it's not the kind of overhaul you'll like.

According to Digital Music News, the Swedish-based music service will soon shift toward a premium-only, gated access model. If the rumor is true, then this means in the near future certain albums may only be available to paying Spotify members, severely limiting the music available to customers that rely on the service's free tier.

Free Subscriptions Might Have Restricted Access to Big Albums

So if this comes true, what kind of limitations should listeners expect? A source close to Digital Music News described one scenario where free users would only have access to one or two songs from a high-profile album release, whereas paying subscribers could listen to the entire album without restrictions. Likewise, some new releases may only stream on Spotify's paid tier, either for a limited amount of time or indefinitely.

Music Labels and Artists Fighting Free Service

The rumor comes just as Spotify renegotiates its music licensing deals with Sony, Universal, and Warner Bros. Its current contracts are set to expire on October 1 and in order to keep the music labels onboard, Spotify may have to limit — or possibly kill — its free music streaming plan, which Sony and Universal argue generates less revenue than its paid plan, despite recent numberssuggesting the contrary.

The movement to end free music streaming gained momentum last year when Grammy-winner Taylor Swift abruptly pulled her music from Spotify, arguing that the company's free music streaming tier devalued her music catalog.

Competition from Apple's new Apple Music, which doesn't offer a free streaming tier, is also adding pressure to what has recently become a crowded, cutthroat market.

This article first appeared on DealNews.

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