Spotify testing surprise downgrade — this free feature could soon be paid

Spotify logo displayed on phone
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

Spotify is one of the best music streaming services out there and many people choose it because of its free ad-supported tier. However, Spotify may be taking steps to force its free users into ponying up for a $10.99 monthly subscription.

According to some Reddit users in the r/truespotify subreddit (h/t The Verge), Spotify has started testing removing one of its popular free features — music lyrics. For those who are unfamiliar, Spotify has a feature that allows users to follow along with a song’s lyrics as it plays. These lyrics are provided by Musixmatch and have typically been available for Spotify Free and Spotify Premium members alike.

But select free users are now discovering that the lyrics feature is disappearing. Instead, they’re receiving a message that says “Enjoy lyrics on Spotify Premium” with a call-to-action button to “Explore Premium.”

For its part, Spotify says this is just a test. In a comment to The Verge, Spotify co-head of global communications CJ Stanley said “At Spotify, we routinely conduct a number of tests, some of those tests end up paving the way for our broader user experience and others serve only as an important learning.” They also said, “In keeping with our standard practices, we’re currently testing this with a limited number of users in a pair of markets.” They did not elaborate on which markets specifically this is being tested in nor did they provide any further details.

Spotify’s test is likely a sign of things to come 

An image of three smartphones display the new Spotify redesign for 2023

(Image credit: Spotify)

Here’s the real issue — Spotify isn’t profitable. And it needs to get subscribers if it ever wants that to change. Unlike streaming video services for TV shows and movies, which are finding ad-supported tiers to be more profitable, Spotfiy’s ad-free tiers are what make it money. So while Spotify says that this is merely a test, I think it’s fair to take this as a warning of things to come.

Especially since everything else Spotify is doing is signaling that they need more money. They recently raised the monthly subscription of their Premium tier from $9.99 a month to $10.99 a month, though they’re far from the only music streaming service to recently raise their prices

Here’s the real issue — Spotify isn’t profitable. And it needs to get subscribers if it ever wants that to change.

And that’s not the only thing potentially coming that will incur users more costs. Spotify 'Supremium' is rumored to eventually bring lossless audio to Spotify users, but it’s tipped to come as part of a greater bundle of features for $19.99 a month. 

That’s a lot of money to get a feature other music streaming services already include in their $10.99 a month premium tiers. But it may be the only way Spotify finally turns a profit. Don’t be surprised if this current “test” is a sign of things to come for Spotify Free users.

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Malcolm McMillan
Senior Streaming Writer

Malcolm McMillan is a senior writer for Tom's Guide, covering all the latest in streaming TV shows and movies. That means news, analysis, recommendations, reviews and more for just about anything you can watch, including sports! If it can be seen on a screen, he can write about it. Previously, Malcolm had been a staff writer for Tom's Guide for over a year, with a focus on artificial intelligence (AI), A/V tech and VR headsets.

Before writing for Tom's Guide, Malcolm worked as a fantasy football analyst writing for several sites and also had a brief stint working for Microsoft selling laptops, Xbox products and even the ill-fated Windows phone. He is passionate about video games and sports, though both cause him to yell at the TV frequently. He proudly sports many tattoos, including an Arsenal tattoo, in honor of the team that causes him to yell at the TV the most.