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Spotify agrees to let artists keep new albums off its free tier

Free Spotify users will have to wait two weeks for some new music.

One of the biggest points of contention between music streaming giant Spotify and the record labels that provide it with songs is the service's free tier. Regardless of whether you pay for a subscription or not, Spotify users have access to the same music catalog. That is finally changing though: as reported in Music Business Worldwide, a new deal between Spotify and Universal Music Group will make some albums premium-only for a limited time. It's a reversal of a long-held position that Spotify wouldn't segment its catalog in this way, but it was likely necessary to continue offering all the music it has access to.

Specifically, artists on Universal will have the option to make albums available for premium subscribers only for two weeks. "Starting today, Universal artists can choose to release new albums on premium only for two weeks," Spotify CEO Daniel Eck said in a statement, "offering subscribers an earlier chance to explore the complete creative work, while the singles are available across Spotify for all our listeners to enjoy."

This comes a few weeks after several reports indicated this long-standing conflict was close to being resolved. A two-week premium exclusive window straddles the line between giving artists a chance to capitalize on intense interest in new albums while not keeping those on the free tier shut out for very long, relatively speaking. And with Universal signing this deal, it wouldn't be surprising to see the other two giant labels Sony and Warner sign similar contract soon.

Of course, the question on everyone's mind is whether this will be enough for noted Spotify enemy Taylor Swift to bring her catalog back to the service. She pulled all her music from Spotify just ahead of the release of her 2014 album 1989 and hasn't brought any of it back yet. She has specifically cited Spotify's free tier as her issue with the service in the past. Other notable holdouts like Adele used a different strategy -- she kept her recent album 25 off of all streaming services for a good six months or so but eventually put it out there, including on Spotify's free tier.