Updated: Spotify Tries Live Concert Broadcasts; New U.S Murmurs

Spotify aims to add live broadcasts of music concerts to its premium services as one more potential reason people might pay to subscribe, as well as to free users.

The live broadcasts were starting in France with an MGMT gig from Paris on Friday evening, available to free users from within the app and to premium customers from Spotify’s French blog.

It’s a sponsorship campaign done with Blackberry, which has been allying itself with music, and Spotify confirmed to paidContent:UK that it hopes to do more in future.

Aside from requiring a subscription for non-computer access and higher bit-rate, Spotify’s pay-for incentives include pre-release album windows and occasional contests for things like gig tickets.

In reality, neither of these is a significant reason to pay up. Together, they may start to add small, incremental reason to subscribe, on top of mobile access and non-exposure to ads.

A slice of the live market could prove lucrative – it’s the fastest-growing part of the music business, the reason why so many old acts have reformed lately.

If Spotify is serious about these top-up offerings, then it may need to regularise them, because they feel like filler – currently, subscribers don’t know which early release or gig they may get from one month to another.

U.S. plans

Spotify’s MGMT broadcast comes amid renewed scepticism, cited by CNET’s Greg Sandoval, about Spotify’s U.S. chances…

Spotify still aims to launch there by year’s end.

Sandoval says Apple has been telling labels that launching a free music service would undercut their ability to sell downloads, sales of which have plateaued in North America. But we already know about U.S. labels’ reticence toward the free model, since WMG’s CEO has spoken about it a few times….

What’s more, Spotify appears to accept this reality and, though word is any U.S. launch will likely be accompanied by some variation of its free offering, we would expect this to be limited…

What some observers overlook, however, is that, even at home in the UK, the service is limited rather than a Europe-wide free-for-all – new Spotify users can only stream free Spotify for 20 hours per month – it’s the free part of a freemium mix. Today, 500,000 of Spotify’s 10 million users pay, the company says.

Labels are looking to new unlimited-access services like Spotify as a way to reduce their iTunes dependency. Apple (NSDQ: AAPL), if it’s serious about launching its own rumoured unlimited-access service, will require a change to the existing license terms it has for a la carte downloads – but, by virtue of operating those downloads for the last six years, Apple today likely enjoys label relations that Spotify doesn’t.

A new story has popped up in the New York Post, which says Apple does intend to launch an unlimited model, priced $10 to $15 a month. But there’s no citation nor any further detail.

What this all boils down to – the labels want to re-ignite the digital music market by helping the transition from per-track to unlimited-access, but they want to do so on their terms…

If they are about to forever obliterate the notion that music should be priced in individual units, without going down the blanket-licensing route, they’ll want to leave an unlimited-access model that properly recompenses them long in to the future. Whether it’s Apple or Spotify, these are likely the negotiating points happening behind closed doors right now.