Streaming music service Deezer has launched its ad-supported tier in the UK and 149 other countries, meaning the company really is now going head-to-head with Spotify.

Deezer says the UK is just the first stage in a “global rollout” of its ad-supported free tier, aiming to reach 600m people. A big claim, considering freemium rival Spotify currently has 20m active users of whom 15m are on its free tier.

Deezer also says it now has more than 3m paying users, by comparison, listening to 60 hours of music a week each every month.

Still, CEO Axel Dauchez is bullish: “For the first time, all barriers to music discovery and reach have been completely lifted. This is a very significant moment for both music lovers and for artists,” he said in a statement.

Deezer is rolling out new artist features for its streaming service, trying to ensure they support Deezer rather than shy away from streaming payouts.

“Outstanding local artists from all corners of the globe, including those from the UK, will have access to a huge new audience, plus powerful new ways to create emotional engagement with fans,” said Dauchez.

So how does this new ad-supported model work? It’s launching in more than 150 countries, but in the UK users will get one year of “unlimited ad-supported, free listening on PCs and laptops” under the new deal, and then two hours of free listening on those devices a month after that. They’ll also get 30 days free use of Deezer’s mobile app as part of the trial.

“Our ad-supported service is a necessary trigger to drive global change by bringing music subscription to mass audiences worldwide,” says Dauchez.

“Our aim here is to encourage music fans to try us, driving ad-supported service listeners to switch to paid subscription over time. Once they have properly experienced Deezer, people do not go back.”

Deezer has also announced more details of its Deezer for Artists (D4A) initiative to chum up with musicians. As previously revealed, there will be analytics, certified Deezer accounts for artists, and dedicated accounts for them to post their latest music.

However, Deezer is also planning to launch a new “affiliation system allowing artists or commercial partners to be rewarded for any new subscriber they bring to Deezer”. Shades of Rdio’s Artist Program there, albeit with the additional ‘commercial partners’ angle.

Deezer also says it will debut something called ‘Deezer Artist Packages’ early in 2013. They sound a bit like Vevo’s Lift programme: “Deezer’s editorial teams will select and champion artists who will be offered special promotional packages specifically designed to help support them at different stages of their career.”