Spotify streamed 4.5 billion hours of music in 2013

Hope the world isn't sick of "Thrift Shop" – Spotify announced it has streamed more than 4.5 billion hours of music over the last year, and will be rolling out a free mobile app.

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Spotify has hopped the pond and is making waves in the US. Spotify, the first free music player of its kind, is expected to become a major competitor to music download services like iTunes.

Spotify released some impressive numbers at an event Tuesday: Spotify users have streamed more than 4.5 billion hours of music over the last year. That translates to about 38 minutes of music for each person on the planet.

But a second announcement by the company could push those numbers even higher: the streaming music service has opened free streaming access for mobile and tablet users. The move could help Spotify grab a larger share of the online music market from big players such as Pandora, and up-and-comers like iTunes Radio.  

Previously, the only people who had access to Spotify’s mobile applications were those paying $10 per month for premium ad-free access. Now the tablet app will function just like the free desktop version. The smart phone app, however, will be a bit different. Users will not be able to pick which song they play –instead the app automatically shuffles the playlists. The reason stems from licensing agreements.

Both the tablet and smart phone app will have ads, just like the free version on desktop.

"This is the way the next generation will build their music library," said Spotify CEO Daniel Ek according to CNET. "It's not about purchasing one song or other. It's about adding it to a collection."

The streaming numbers and new mobile options come after a major year of growth for the company. Last December, Spotify had 5 million subscribers, which increased to 6 million in March – the last time the company released numbers, according to CNET. The December 2012 numbers also showed that Spotify only served 17 countries. Mr. Ek announced Tuesday Spotify would expand into 20 new markets, giving the company a presence in 55 markets total.

However, the music-streaming business is booming and Spotify will have to continue its growth if it wants to compete. Currently Pandora has 72.4 million active listeners, with more than 200 million registered users overall, and streamed more than 1.49 billion hours of music in November 2013 alone. In October, Apple announced its new iTunes Radio had 20 million listeners in its first five weeks (plus 500 million people have iTunes accounts around the world).

Spotify isn’t down and out yet. In November, the company announced it had raised $250 million in investments, which could bolster further audience-expanding projects.

But then again, its success could just hinge on the ebb and flow of Macklemore’s career: according to Spotify's "2013 Year in Review" the most-streamed song in the world was “Can’t Hold Us” by Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, featuring Ray Dalton.

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