When Free becomes ‘bait and switch’

I opened up my Spotify app yesterday to discover that as a “free” user I was now only entitled to play a track 5 times and to avoid this I should upgrade to a premium account.  I would consider doing this if Spotify gave me access to every single band and track that I like but they don’t,  their catalogue is missing quite alot.  Anyway I prefer to “own” a physical copy of the music, old skool I know.

What really interested me was the negative reaction that this produced with many Spotify users which was akin to the reaction that LastFM had when they cut off free access to their users outside of the UK, US and Germany.

The question that springs to my mind is, is it a good strategy to launch your service as entirely free to your users only to put the pay wall up at a later date after you have gained traction?  I understand it might be an easy way to gain traffic initially but by erecting a barrier at a later date you risk pissing off large numbers of your user base.

To me it seems a better strategy to adopt the freemium route, offering a limited version from the very beginning.  I’d suggest a very limited version just so that people can get a small taste of what you are offering and that way nobody is disappointed from the beginning.

On a similar note Marco Arment the creator of Instapaper has a great post here about taking his free version of Instapaper for the iPad out of the App Store.



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