Spotify Lays The Groundwork For U.S. Premium Billing

Not to report on the start-up’s every utterance, but Spotify may be increasingly confident of an upcoming U.S. launch at some point in the future, if latest runes can be read that way…

U.S. music industry types to whom Spotify had long ago given free test accounts are now being told they will be migrated to Spotify Premium, for which they must pay…

Spotify’s email to them, published by AllThingsD, says: “We are really looking forward to launching the service in full in the USA over the coming months.” Switching off free suggests that Spotify’s wooing, education phase may be over.

While all that chugs on, so do the polarised opinions and misunderstandings, which can swing from ultra-positive to uber-pessimistic, depending on your particular prejudice and on Leo’s position in Çapricorn…

DigitalMusicNews reported label concern, from last month’s Midem industry shindig, at supposedly low Spotify royalty payouts. Metronome reports similar label sentiment.

Fast-forward a few days, however, and now everyone’s seemingly discovered that, in fact, Spotify is actually the number-one music retailer in Norway and Sweden, and the number-two digital source of European label income

That’s according to the music industry itselfArcticStartup wrote it up from last month’s IFPI annual report, which we reported here.

But this is not a new revelation – the effect Spotify, coupled with new laws, has had on Scandinavian digital music piracy and income has been clear for over a year now (see our archive reports).

Yes, Spotify and its royalty collectors are frustratingly secretive about the structure of rates it pays out. But what we know from the horse’s mouth is that, last year, Spotify paid €45 million to labels in seven countries.

Seatwave CEO Joe Cohen tells me: “It’ll be over €100 million this year, which is now real money. The rhetoric is all pre-negotiation.”

The last point is certainly an interesting theory – could it be that U.S. supposed “reluctance” to sign Spotify is not reluctance at all but, rather, angling for the best possible deal?

After all, label bosses, and WMG’s CEO in particular, remain eager for new-wave subscription and mobile services like Spotify’s, to come and smash the dominance of iTunes in a market where download sales have plateaued.

Spotify is also hiring a U.S. financial controller to join its GM in New York.