Now that Apple has finally launched its mixed-reality headset, it could soon be time to lay another long-running tech question to bed: when will Spotify actually launch its hi-res tier?
According to Bloomberg’s latest speculation, the answer may be later this year. It reported yesterday that Spotify is planning a ‘Supremium’ tier that will be more expensive than its standard subscription, and will include lossless music and access to audiobooks.
This appears to be an evolution of the ‘Platinum’ subscription that was floated in a survey of subscribers last autumn. A few months later, in March 2023, The Verge reported that Spotify HiFi had “been ready to go for more than a year”, and quoted Spotify’s co-president Gustav Söderström as saying “we’re going to do it in a way where it makes sense for us and for our listeners… we want to try to do something that is our own and unique.”
Charging more for hi-res music may not be unique, but it certainly bucks the trend for the biggest music services. Apple Music added hi-res and spatial audio for no extra cost in May 2021, leading Amazon Music to ditch its own, more-expensive hi-res tier in response.
This is one reason why Spotify delayed the planned launch of its ‘Spotify HiFi’ tier, which was announced in February 2021 as coming “later this year”. As Söderström admitted in March this year: “The industry changed and we had to adapt.”
Clearly, persuading subscribers to pay more purely on the strength of lossless music is a challenge. Could audiobooks be the killer feature though? Amazon’s Audible service costs $7.95 a month for its basic tier, and $14.95 for the full ‘Premium Plus’ tier.
There may be a sweet spot for Spotify, pricing-wise, in a combined music-and-audiobooks subscription that costs, say, $15 a month. But it will depend on the catalogue – Audible has a clear advantage with established titles, but Spotify’s strategy is likely to focus on the longer tail and independent authors – and on the demand from Spotify’s users.
(And just as Apple Music disrupted Spotify’s HiFi plans, so Amazon could disrupt its Supremium plans by quick-launching some form of Amazon Music + Audible bundle.)
We (and most certainly music rightsholders) will also be keenly interested in how Spotify’s new tier works on the royalties side, in terms of gauging the value of music compared to audiobooks, and dividing the subscription spoils between the two.
For now, it’s all speculation. There is some official news from elsewhere in Spotify’s business today though. The company has given its desktop app a revamp, with ‘Your Library’ and ‘Now Playing’ views more akin to the mobile version.
Spotify has also signed up another big name for its podcasting empire: comedian and broadcaster Trevor Noah. He’ll be hosting a weekly show from later this year, which will be “available on numerous platforms” – part of Spotify’s new strategy to move away from exclusivity on these flagship podcasts. As long as he’s not *coughs nervously* a ‘f***ing grifter’ it should go well, eh?