Spotify announced last year that it would launch a high-resolution audio layer by the end of 2021, but it appears that it was not a priority for the firm, as it has been parked for the time being — and maybe indefinitely.
A source picked up on a discussion in the Spotify Community part of the company’s website this week where customers were debating competitor lossless options like Qobuz, Apple AAPL +0.5 percent, and MQA, and wondering when or if Spotify HiFi would launch.
The feature’s status has also been modified to “under consideration,” thereby relegating it to a Spotify development area where ideas are considered and debated but not necessarily implemented.
Everything changed in February 2021 at Spotify’s Stream On event, when the streaming service announced that Spotify HiFi was coming and would be a crucial product feature.
It was “consistently one of the most requested new features by our users,” according to the company, and it would debut later in 2021 in some areas for Premium users (i.e., paying subscribers).
The business stated that it will transmit music in “CD-quality, lossless audio,” and that it was working with speaker manufacturers to assure compatibility with their devices via the Spotify Connect function, which permits wireless streaming.
It even signed up Billie Eilish and her brother/co-writer/producer Finneas to serve as pre-release ambassadors for Spotify HiFi, sharing a video of them discussing the care they put into their tracks and why consumers truly need to enjoy music at the aural quality the creators intended.
Not the first one
Spotify wasn’t the first to provide this audio quality enhancement. This has been available on Tidal, Deezer, and Amazon for a long time. As a result, Spotify’s product was essentially a catch-up product.
The issues with the debut of Spotify HiFi could trace back to June 2021, when Apple Music stole its thunder by launching Spatial Audio (with Dolby Atmos support) “at no additional cost” – effectively making it simply another feature for existing members.
Amazon quickly responded by modifying Amazon Music HD’s pricing, moving it from a more expensive tier to being incorporated into all qualifying Amazon Music Unlimited subscriptions without accompanying price increase.
With two streaming behemoths (Apple and Amazon) refusing to charge extra for better audio, what was formerly considered as a compelling upsell feature to entice users to pay almost double what they would for a normal subscription has lost its appeal.
It merely became another component of a typical subscription. Its uniqueness (and capacity to charge accordingly) was gone.
Probably this is why Spotify HiFi has been delayed or postponed as the firm considers whether or not to debut it as an upsell product, or whether it will have to follow suit and simply increase audio quality for paying consumers as yet another feature baked into their existing monthly membership.
Given that regular membership costs have remained static at $9.99 per month for the past 20 years, there is anxiety among competing services that raising prices may allow rivals to grab subscribers in a pricing war.
The tone of Spotify’s wording here feels like it’s shutting down the idea that better audio is the major justification for higher subscription costs. The economics of streaming are thus brought back to square one.