Spotify launches a redesigned app with on-demand playlists for free users

Spotify’s new, improved experience for free users will roll out globally over the “coming weeks.”

At an event in New York City today, Spotify revealed a redesigned app experience for its 90 million free customers. It’s the first major change to Spotify’s free tier since 2014, and visually it looks a lot like what The Verge reported earlier this month. Free listeners will now get on-demand access to 15 “select” playlists; you can play any song you want inside those playlists and are no longer stuck in a world of shuffled playback. You’ll have to deal with shuffle beyond those 15 playlists, but this is still a significant improvement over how things have been until now.

Those aren’t playlists you make yourself, however. The 15 full-control playlists are generated by Spotify based on your listening habits and are constantly updated — most of them daily. They include a total of 750 songs. Discover Weekly, Release Radar, and Daily Mix playlists are included, so it’ll be nice to have more flexibility with those.

Spotify says users have created over 2 billion playlists. The updated app will help assist users with this “playlisting” process by suggesting songs that are similar to those they’ve already added right below the search bar.

Spotify now has an immediate on boarding experience for free customers to tune the app and music recommendations to their taste.

Also, Spotify will now ask free customers to choose their favorite artists as soon as they get started with the app, allowing the service to immediately provide personalized playlists tuned to their tastes. The new Spotify also has a “data saver” mode that’s meant to make life easier for people on capped data usage plans.

Spotify says it’s currently in the process of rolling out the redesigned app experience to everyone.

Spotify R&D chief Gustav Söderström shows off the redesigned experience for free users.

At the start of today’s event, Spotify’s chief R&D officer Gustav Söderström touted the three tentpoles that have brought Spotify success: ubiquity (availability across popular devices), personalization (Discover Weekly, etc.), and freemium. “Spotify is both the radio station and the record store,” he said. The freemium aspect is particular important; Spotify has over 90 million free users. It’s where 60 percent of paid users start out. The company’s goal is to keep free users satisfied and not have them feeling like second-class listeners.

But the company is aware that in recent years, it has prioritized monthly subscribers over free listeners. “Over the last several years, we’ve made Spotify’s premium mobile experience top notch,” Söderström said. “The mobile free tier has stayed exactly the same since 2014,” he said, adding that “discovering music in shuffle mode is a tricky proposition.” But that’s changing with this revamped experience.

Spotify will now recommend similar sounding songs right underneath search to make “playlisting” easier.

One thing Spotify didn’t discuss much today was voice. The company has been testing voice commands inside its mobile app, giving users a route to music that’s faster than thumbing out whatever it is they’re looking for. Söderström said Spotify is investing in voice, but it didn’t have any news to share today. And in a very small international rollout at the start of 2018, Spotify released a standalone “Stations” app that’s exclusively dedicated to playlists. He didn’t comment on how that factors into the overall strategy. Nor did executives on stage make any mention of hardware ambitions. The mysterious in-car player was a no show, but we didn’t expect to see it after Spotify emphasized this would be a software-focused event.

Voice and hardware will have to wait for another event, apparently.