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Spotify’s insulting ‘Basic’ plan completely misses the mark

Perhaps finally sensing that people who use Spotify want music and not podcasts and audiobooks, the streaming service is throwing those folks a bone. Well, sort of.

On Friday, Spotify introduced a ‘Basic’ plan for subscribers in the United States, which enables them to avoid an incoming price increase, by dropping their access to audiobooks.

In recent times, Spotify has offered 15 hours of audiobook listening per month as part of the Premium membership perks. The company just put the Premium Individual plan up to $11.99 from $10.99. So users adopting Basic don’t get a price cut, oh no, they just get to stay at the current price.

In a blog post today, the company wrote: “On Spotify, users discover and enjoy music, podcasts, and audiobooks, with various plans that meet our listeners’ needs. We offer subscriptions for every stage of life and household, depending on how listeners like to stream. And we’re now offering even more options for eligible U.S. subscribers.”

However, this doesn’t mean your Spotify subscription will simply allow you to enjoy music uninterrupted, as was once the case. There isn’t a way to just pay for music anymore and ensure the paltry royalties go where you want them to.

You’ll still be subjected to audiobooks permeating through the apps, only now they’ll only be available to purchase. You’ll still be subjected to, and be paying for by proxy, podcasts to be littered throughout the app’s homepage. Your subscription cash will still be funding Joe Rogan’s bank account whether you choose to listen to his drivel or not.

And if Spotify Basic trims back on the add-ons, you’d be entitled to assume perhaps that Spotify Premium might include the long-awaited Hi-Fi option, which subscribers have been waiting around 1,200 days for now. You’d be wrong.

The most recent rumours suggest that’ll be a $5 a month add-on, if it ever comes to fruition. Spotify is still thought to be haggling over pennies with rights holders to ensure they have to pay them as little as humanly possible.

Squeezing artists

Spotify rarely plays fair though. Last month it was alleged the company has been leveraging audiobooks as way to save $150 million on royalties because it has been able to claim Premium is no longer a “standalone portable subscription” and is now a “bundled subscription offering.”

That changes the rate formula the company has to abide by, as laid out by Phonorecords IV. The National Music Publishers Association, among other stakeholders, call this a “a cynical and potentially unlawful move” that is a “perversion of the settlement we agreed upon in 2022.” (via Billboard).

It’s not clear whether those opting for Premium Basic (sounds like an oxymoron the airline industry would use to tempt you into paying £100 for two inches of extra legroom) will be exempt from this alleged “perversion”.

The MPNA meanwhile is claiming that Spotify is leveraging musical content within the podcasts it provides without the proper licenses, and has sent the streaming service a cease and desist letter. These aren’t isolated incidents, where rightsholders have felt aggrieved. They’re just the two that have ocurred in the last month.

A lot of music fans feel like a Spotify subscription is short changing their favourite artists. They know the royalties are a fraction of what artists once received from physical media sales. They’ll try and help out. The vinyl revival, I believe, is part of that. They’ll go to a live show that costs double what it would have five years ago, and they’ll buy an overpriced t-shirt at said gig. Everyone’s trying to make ends meet.

These are measures that are necessary to keep the art alive, keep their favourite artists making music and experience with the modern convenience streaming has ultimately provided. Spotify continually makes this harder on everyone despite racking up a billion dollars in profit in the first quarter of the year.

But at least you get to keep your rate if you don’t like audibooks, hey?

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