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Spotify is quietly moves lyrics behind a paywall

Spotify has apparently found a new way to push its free users to a paid subscription: It’s putting lyrics behind a paywall. Following various reports citing frustrated posts from users on Reddit, the company is quietly confirming the change — but without a direct statement. Instead, the company told TechCrunch simply that Spotify’s features can vary over time, between markets and across devices. The response indicates the change to lyrics may be more than just a test but that Spotify isn’t yet prepared to make an official announcement about affected markets.

There were some indications that Spotify was heading in this direction, however. Last fall, the company was spotted locking down lyrics for nonpaying users. Free users who tried to access the feature would see a message that read, “Enjoy lyrics on Spotify Premium.” 

However, at that time, a Spotify spokesperson clarified that the changes were “only a test” that was taking place with a limited number of users in a “pair of markets.” Spotify is no longer referring to the changes as a test, though it’s unclear why it wouldn’t document access to lyrics as being a premium feature somewhere on its website — like on the page where users can upgrade plans or within its help documentation. That could be because the company is still testing the monthly limit on lyrics for free accounts; free users report seeing messages that tell them how every time they tap “Show lyrics” that counts toward the new limit.

Spotify didn’t offer any more detail about why it’s now paywalling lyrics, but clearly, it’s a bid to push more people to its paid tier. In its most recent quarter, the company reached more than 600 million monthly active users, ahead of estimates, and paid subscribers were up to 236 million+, representing 15% year-over-year growth. However, quarterly revenue had missed analyst expectations of 3.72 billion euros, coming in at 3.67 billion ($3.94 billion USD) instead.

Whether blocking lyrics will push more people to subscribe remains to be seen. Lyrics are easily available and free via the web and in other apps that work alongside Spotify, like Genius, Apple’s Shazam or Musixmatch, for example.

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