SXSW: Spotify still not here [Updated]
Spotify, the wildly popular European music service, still has not crossed the pond.
The Swedish company last year said it expected to rock the U.S. in early 2010. In the weeks leading up to the South by Southwest music festival in Austin, Texas, American music geeks were salivating over the prospect of a launch into the world's biggest music market.
But at a keynote Tuesday at SXSW, Spotify's 26-year-old chief executive, Daniel Ek, told the audience the equivalent of "stay tuned."
"We want to get all our ducks in a row with ... publishers, which is a huge task here in the U.S.," Ek said, citing ongoing efforts to nail down licensing deals with more than 5,000 music publishers and royalty collectors. He added that the company wants to release a new version of its software to "to make Spotify more connected, with easier sharing and management of music."
"We've always said we wanted to launch in early 2010. We still hope that will be the case," Ek said in an interview with the Times following his keynote. "That said, I don't think it matters for us if it's two or three months later. The U.S. is the world's biggest market. And to use an American phrase, we really want to hit it out of the park."
Spotify currently has more than 7 million users. Of those, about 320,000 pay a monthly fee to subscribe to its premium service, up from 250,000 last year, Ek said.
What makes it so popular? In a word: Free. Spotify users can stream from a catalog of more than 10 million songs without having to pay a dime. The service is ad-supported and targets those advertisements based on what you're listening to.
For 10 euros a month (U.S. pricing has yet to be set), subscribers can get rid of the ads, unlock an application that can be downloaded to smart phones, including iPhone or Google's Android, and listen to select tracks offline. The software also offers most tracks as paid downloads similar to iTunes.
Spotify is currently available in just six European countries. It's a huge hit in each -- especially so in Sweden, where it was founded, and in the U.K., where most of its servers are housed.
Ek explains in the video below why Americans should care about Spotify.
[Updated, 2:45 p.m. Added a quote from a private interview after the keynote. Added a video of Ek. Swapped the top photo for a higher quality version taken during the interview.]
-- Alex Pham and Mark Milian
Photo, top: Alex Pham / Los Angeles Times. Right: Spotify