Family plans are proving to be a key driver in the growth of music-streaming subscriptions across the world. In 2016, the IFPI counted 97 million paid subscription *accounts* and 112 million *users* of those accounts – suggesting around 15 million people on family plans. For 2017, it only published the bigger ‘users’ number – 176 million.
Recent reports suggested some tensions from labels around the growth of family plans, however, and that’s useful context for a news story overnight about how Spotify is trying to ensure family members really are in the same household.
Quartz reports that some Spotify Premium for Family subscribers have been emailed asking to confirm their home address through GPS data. “In order for us to offer a Premium discount, we need to make sure all family members live at the same location. Spotify will only use your GPS data to verify your location and nothing else,” explained the company in a website linked to in its email. “By confirming your location, you get to enjoy Spotify Premium for Family, and help to pay artists fairly for their music”.
It’s not exactly a subtle implication that by not confirming your location, you may lose access to the family plan. There are two ways this may spark controversy for Spotify. First: the definition of families as having to live in the same household, from teenagers shuttling between the homes of divorced parents to 18 year-olds heading off to university – even if Spotify’s view would be that this is the point where they can switch to their own student account. Second: the question of how many family-plan users are younger children who’ve been added so that their listening doesn’t start messing up their parents’ Discover Weekly – anecdotally, this is a common thing. Spotify is clear that the minimum age for a family-plan account is 13, so parents who’ve given a fake birthdate so their younger children have less of a leg to stand on when complaining about location data being collected. But even collecting GPS data on 14-15 year-olds risks being seen as overreaching.