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It’s been nearly two years since Apple officially announced it would offer its entire catalog in lossless audio, a promise the company delivered on by the end of 2021. Yet, two years after Spotify announced its own lossless HiFi plans, the service remains missing in action.
It’s led to some speculation that Spotify had abandoned its plans, particularly as the company hasn’t had much to say about it. However, it turns out that Spotify executives are still working on figuring out the details.
In a recent interview with The Verge, Spotify co-president Gustav Söderström promised that “some kind of lossless experience is still on the way” but stopped short of offering any details on when we’ll actually see it or what the service will look like.
What happened to Spotify HiFi?
Spotify announced its plans for “Spotify HiFi” in February 2021 to much fanfare. The service promised to “deliver music in CD-quality lossless audio format” on most devices and even streamed to Spotify Connect-enabled speakers. The company even worked up a “Power of HiFi” video promo for the new service featuring Billie Eilish and Finneas, although both spoke only on the merits of higher audio quality in general terms without any specific mention of Spotify.
Spotify HiFi was expected to launch by the end of 2021. While the company didn’t announce pricing, there was a strong implication the HiFi tier would carry a higher price tag — which was the norm among other streaming services at that time.
For instance, Amazon rolled out Amazon Music HD in 2019 for $15/month, $5 more than the standard Amazon Music Unlimited Plan. Prime Members received a $2/month discount on either plan, but the spread between them remained the same.
Similarly, Tidal launched in 2014 with high-resolution audio right out of the gate, but subscribers had to be willing to shell out $20/month for the better listening experience — double the price of a standard Tidal plan.
While Spotify was already late to the game, the popular streaming service had clearly planned to do something similar and sell Spotify HiFi at a premium price. Unfortunately for Spotify, “the industry changed.”
We announced it, but then the industry changed for a bunch of reasons.Gustav Söderström, Spotify co-president
Then Along Came Apple
When Söderström says, “the industry changed,” it’s pretty clear that what he really means is that Apple did a massive end-run around the entire streaming industry.
There’s every indication that Spotify was prepared to launch Spotify HiFi on schedule. According to The Verge the company had all the technical pieces and even the business agreements in place to launch the service. Spotify employees have also had access to HiFi for some time.
However, less than three months after unveiling its plans for Spotify HiFi, Apple showed up with its own announcement: the entire Apple Music catalog of 75 million tracks would be made available to subscribers in lossless CD quality by the end of the year — at no extra charge.
As if that wasn’t enough to derail Spotify’s plans, Apple’s offering also included a sizeable collection of tracks that would be available in even higher quality, “High-Resolution Lossless” — a format designed “for the true audiophile.” Then, on top of that, Apple also promised a generous assortment of Spatial Audio tracks, remixed using Dolby Atmos for the ultimate aural experience.
In one fell swoop, Apple redefined the entire music streaming game. Competitors were left scrambling to catch up.
Amazon responded almost immediately by scrapping its HD tier, making the highest-quality tracks on its service available to its entire subscriber base for only $10/month.
Spotify, on the other hand, got very quiet after that. Presumably, company executives were sent back to the drawing board to try to figure out how they could make this fit into their licensing deals. It’s likely the company had already committed to paying a higher price to the labels to supply CD-quality tracks to its subscribers on the assumption that it could charge those subscribers a higher price for that service to maintain — or even increase — its profit margins.
The folks at The Verge pressed Söderström for details about how the industry changed, but the co-president remained somewhat circumspect, saying only, “We want to do it in a way where it works for us from a cost perspective as well. I’m not allowed to comment on our label agreements, nor on what other players in the industry did, for obvious reasons.”
From what Söderström says, it appears that Spotify still wants to try and offer Spotify HiFi as a more expensive plan. However, it may need to figure out what else it can add to the mix to justify the added cost over its competitors, who now offer the same higher-fidelity music in their basic plans. There’s still no word from Söderström on when Spotify HiFi will appear, merely that it’s “coming at some point.” However, we’ve heard that song before, so don’t hold your breath.