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Two years ago, Apple did a massive end-run around Spotify when it announced plans to shift its entire catalog into a lossless music format — and to do so at no extra charge.
It was a move that upended the entire world of music streaming services and clearly spoiled Spotify’s ambitions to launch its own Hi-Fi service. Only three months earlier, Spotify had announced its new HiFi lossless streaming tier, promising it would arrive by the end of 2021. Yet, at the end of December 2021, the entire Apple Music catalog was available in Lossless Audio, and Spotify HiFi was missing in action.
When Spotify HiFi was first revealed in February 2021, everybody expected it would be a premium tier that would cost extra. After all, other streaming services such as Amazon and Tidal were already offering higher-quality formats and charging as much as $10/month more for customers who wanted to enjoy the best possible quality.
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For instance, Amazon Music HD arrived in 2019 for $15/month — $5 more than the standard Amazon Music Unlimited Plan. Although Prime Members could get $2/month off either plan, the spread between them remained the same. When Tidal launched in 2014, high-resolution audio was one of the distinguishing characteristics of the service, but customers had to pay $20/month for the privilege of fully lossless listening, compared to the standard $10/month Tidal plan.
Then Apple came along and ruined their fun. Instead of trying to upsell loyal customers with an Apple Music premium plan, the company that pioneered digital music sales pulled another rabbit out of its hat by offering its entire catalog in lossless audio on the same plan that customers were already on.
As Apple gradually upgraded millions of tracks over a six-month period, Apple Music subscribers gained lossless audio automatically, without the need to even change an account setting, much less pay for a premium account.
Amazon pivoted so fast that we almost got whiplash. The very same day that Apple announced its new lossless initiative, Amazon eliminated its higher-priced HD tier, bringing its 70 million lossless audio tracks to all Amazon Music subscribers.
What Became of Spotify Hi-Fi
As Amazon moved to quickly embrace the new reality of lossless music for all, Spotify got very, very quiet. Clearly, the company’s executives knew that they were in a pickle. Even if they were to forge ahead with a premium Spotify Hi-Fi tier, announcing such a thing in the aftermath of the big changes from Apple and Amazon would go over like a lead balloon.
However, in March, Spotify co-president Gustav Söderström told The Verge that the streaming company was still working on “some kind of lossless experience” but didn’t have much else to say about it other than saying the company’s plans were delayed because “the industry changed for a bunch of reasons.”
Evidence suggests that Spotify had worked out all the technical and licensing arrangements to launch its HiFi tier on schedule. The tracks were already encoded, contracts had been signed, and some employees had even been enjoying the higher-quality tier for months.
When pressed for details, Söderström would only say, “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.”
Reading between the lines, it seems that Spotify has been crunching the numbers to figure out how to justify charging more for lossless audio in a market where it will be the exception to the new norm. Now, it seems it may have found the answer.
A new report by Ashley Carman at Bloomberg reveals that Spotify plans to roll out a more expensive subscription tier that will bundle “high-fidelity audio” with a few other perks.
Dubbed “Supremium” internally, according to people familiar with the strategy, the new tier will be Spotify’s most expensive plan and likely offer a HiFi feature the company first announced it was working on in 2021. Spotify delayed that product’s rollout after two of its competitors, Apple Music and Amazon Music, began offering the feature for free as part of their standard plans. The new tier will launch this year in non-US markets first.Ashley Carman, Bloomberg
It’s not clear what those other benefits will be. Still, the report notes that Spotify will also enhance its current $10/month “Premium” tier by providing access to audiobooks, which are currently only sold through its app. The new plan is to give subscribers either “a specific number of hours free per month or a specific number of titles,” and Spotify may set its “Supremium” plan apart by offering higher limits for audiobook listening.
Both the new “Supremium” tier and the expanded Premium features will launch outside the US first, although Spotify expects to have the audiobooks available to US Premium subscribers in October.
It’s also worth noting that while Apple and Amazon have both recently increased their subscription prices by a dollar, landing at $11/month, Spotify is still charging the same $10 monthly fee that it has been since its US launch. However, Carman notes that Spotify did increase prices in more than 40 other markets last year, so it may soon be forced to do the same in the US.
[The information provided in this article has NOT been confirmed by Apple and may be speculation. Provided details may not be factual. Take all rumors, tech or otherwise, with a grain of salt.]