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Sharing and Scratching Itches Everywhere

How I Became a Spotify Premium User


It’s been 1.5 years since I started using Spotify. Over the past 18 months, what has Spotify, a brand, a software, a logo done to me to turn myself into a premium user? I was never like this before. I would never pay. This is a quest to examine “why I’m paying $9.99 a month”.

When it all started in August 2011, I was browsing the web like any other day. Found this new green music software and thought I’d try it out. Like many new things that we try, we try them with friends. I chatted a couple friends and made them download as well.

On my first day, I starred 2 songs that I was crazy about, both by Adele. Then looking back at my history, I was “favorite-ing” songs on almost every other day for the next week — normal behavior for new users. Then I was adding new songs every week, and probably listening daily as I worked on my problem sets. Still, I wasn’t paying a penny, and MIT’s super speedy internet was free. (Well, included in the tuition.)

At this point, a number of my friends has already left Spotify. Reasons included:

  1. “It slows down my computer”
  2. and “The ads are annoying. (The banners.)”

But that’s okay, because I don’t use Spotify for it’s ability to “share” music. There are plenty of other ways to share music, like listening together.

Playlists: One day I discovered, that certain combination of songs reminded me of a certain time period in history. Thus the discovery of playlists by time. I created playlists for each semester, vacation, internship period. Memories are now kept on Spotify. Great, and it was still free.

Decisions gets made when changes happen. If everyday is a school day for the rest of my life, I probably would never have paid for Spotify. But one day I had to take the Boston T, alone, twice a day, for 10 weeks. Then, a 13-hour plane ride to China, for a month with slow internet, and constantly traveling. I turned to Spotify Premium, for free, which solved my problems for that month.

N-day Free Trail of every product is like that gateway drug. It’s possible to be good again, but it takes effort and persistence.

Another 6 months later, I finally gave in. This time, again, in China. The slow internet, and a new tablet device has made me want to bring my music everywhere I go.

In retrospect, the conversion happened in 3 stages. 

First, accepting that the new is better than the old: The distinct and absolute advantage that Spotify had over my previous music source, Pandora, was being able to listen to songs I like, stop, rewind, loop. To me, there was nothing different from downloading free music from the internet, as thrilling as if illegally. However, this was only true because 1) I had fast internet connection, 2) I didn’t already have a library that I love, and 3) I didn’t mind the ads.

Stage 2: It took over my subconscious. First, Spotify was increasing in value as I add musics and create playlists. Second, the ads. I’ve been noticing that Spotify’s ads are hardly ever about other products. They are mostly music, and Spotify Premium. After months of listening to these commercials and have them play at the back of my mind, I believed in Premium via osmosis. They say that “Premium users smile if you say ‘Spotify Off-line Mode'”. I wouldn’t smile, but I appreciate it. It’s a life saver for when I stand in dreadful airport security lines.

Last stage: A situation rises that made me feel it’s worth it. And it sure was.

I didn’t used to believe in the freemium model. I thought only ‘other’ people would pay. But now I do, and I know that it takes TIME to get hold of your users. 1.5 years or longer.The three steps to acquiring your users:

  1. be better than your competitor for a given vertical
  2. let the product do the work, hopefully it will worth more over time,
  3. and wait for a trigger.

Just because people aren’t paying, doesn’t mean they don’t already need your product.

So what do you love or hate about your music player?


2 thoughts on “How I Became a Spotify Premium User

  1. I signed up for the month long free trial of Spotify Premium today and it’s brilliant. As long as it remains at it’s current price I’m struggling to see why I would ever want to buy/own a CD again. I love music and to have an infinite choice is staggering. Anything I could possibly want is available. I’d happily pay £10 (UK) a month for that. Heck, some people spend that much every day on their lunch !

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