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Last week, it was reported that Spotify will test a price increase for its family-plan subscription in Scandinavia. This morning, the company is announcing that it is launching an “upgraded” version of the plan globally, although the press release sent out by Spotify made it clear in the very first paragraph that this is “for the same price of $/£14.99”.

What’s the upgrade? The plan still offers six individual accounts: the subscriber plus five members of their family, as long as they’re sharing a household. There’s also a new ‘Family Hub’ where the main subscriber can manage their settings, including new parental controls to turn on or off the ‘Explicit Content’ filter for younger family members.

There’s also a new algo-personalised playlist called ‘Family Mix’, offering “songs the whole family enjoys” with the option to set who’s listening to tune the selection (or to tune out ‘Baby Shark’ / ‘Let It Go’ / all 164 ‘Old Town Road’ remixes more specifically, depending on your family’s musical dynamics). Spotify has been quietly testing ‘Family Mix’ since earlier this year judging by a couple of online-forum posts (here and here), but this morning is its official announcement.

The upgraded plan goes live in Ireland this morning, but will be rolling out to every country (more than 60) where the family plan is available this autumn. Spotify still isn’t giving specific numbers on how many people are on family plans (this morning’s announcement’s reference to “millions of subscribers” remains purposefully vague, leaving CIRP’s July 2018 estimate that 24% of Spotify’s US subscribers were on family plans as the best third-party guess we have.

As we noted, Spotify is making it very clear that the upgraded plan is “for the same price”. But it’s reasonable to wonder for how long? Or rather: adding more features feels like a necessary step towards any price increase. ‘We’ve been improving the family plan and now we’re putting the price up a little bit’ is certainly a better marketing argument to make to customers than ‘you need to pay more because our licensors are getting shirty about falling ARPU’ for sure.

But Music Ally isn’t wholly cynical about this kind of news: family plans are a significant part of the music-streaming landscape; family co-listening (for all the stereotypes about families isolating themselves from one another with devices and headphones) is something that goes on from the living room or kitchen to the car; and parents DO love the idea of keeping their children away from The Bad Words – even if the kids are likely hearing all those words in the playground / on YouTube / over chat in heated Fortnite moments.

So: improvements to family music-streaming plans are welcome, and today’s news may spark similar efforts from Spotify’s rivals. That in turn may entice millions more people to sign up for these plans. That’s not necessarily a point of friction for rightsholders, although the question of how to get those non-paying family-plan members OFF the plans and onto solo accounts at a later stage is a discussion that may well become more prominent in the future.

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Stuart Dredge

Music Ally's Head of Insight

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