Spotify Offers Free Music on Mobile Devices

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In hopes of growing its user base, music streaming service Spotify is offering more free listening options to users. The company announced Wednesday that it is bringing a free, ad-supported version of its service to tablets and smartphones. Previously mobile users could only access Spotify’s radio service for free.

The new tablet version of Spotify will mimic the free desktop app by allowing users complete control over what music they choose. The free smartphone version, available for iOS and Android, will allow users to shuffle randomly through their own playlists, playlists by friends and artists’ catalogues. Users won’t be able to select individual songs on demand with the mobile version, and neither the tablet or mobile apps will let people download songs to their device, a feature of the premium version of Spotify. The new features will be available today.

The company also announced that music from iconic rock band Led Zeppelin is being added to the service today. The band’s catalogue had previously been unavailable from on-demand music streaming services.

Though Spotify is enhancing its free options, the company has long emphasized that its goal is to convert people from free users into subscribers that pay $9.99 per month. It generates significantly more revenue through subscriptions than through ads. As of March 2013, the company had 24 million users, of which 6 million are paying subscribers.

The shift to more free options comes as even more competitors prep to enter the already crowded music streaming space. YouTube, already the most popular website for watching music videos, is planning a more organized music streaming service for early 2014 with a focus on making mobile listening easier. Beats Electronics, the company behind the popular Beats by Dre headphones, will launch a streaming service focused on hand-curated playlists in January. Meanwhile new Internet radio service iTunes Radio is steadily racking up listening hours, while Pandora remains a music streaming juggernaut with more than 70 million monthly listeners.

Spotify has ambitions to trump all these competitors and generate more revenue for the company and the music industry in the process. More free music will certainly give the service more happy users. It’s unclear whether it will eventually lead to more money too.