The online music streaming service Spotify has officially launched in Canada.
While several competitors have been offering similar services in this country for years, many music fans had still pined for access to Spotify, which was officially launched by Swedish entrepreneur Daniel Ek in 2008.
Spotify popularized the concept of granting Internet users legal access to a huge catalogue of music to stream without having to purchase songs or albums à la carte.
Users can pay a monthly fee for a premium all-access account or sign up for a limited ad-supported service for free.
Spotify had signalled in 2009 that it was looking to move into Canada within months but never did.
Getting the licensing rights secured for millions of songs is always a challenge for every new market, says Andres Sehr, Spotify's marketing director. But he wouldn't say exactly why it took so long for the service to launch here. Canada is Spotify's 58th market.
"I can't really say there's anything specific that stopped us [from launching in Canada earlier], obviously we're a big global business and our priorities change a little bit," says Sehr.
"The Canadian market is really important for us, it's one of the largest music markets, and I think it's more that we wanted to make sure we got it done right and back at that time as a company it wasn't right for us."
Spotify boasts that it is the largest on-demand music streaming service in the world with 40 million active users – including 10 million paying subscribers – and has a catalogue of over 20 million songs.
Sehr says the company also hopes about one in four Canadian users will pay for an ad-free account.
Users on free accounts can expect to hear about four minutes of ads an hour and don't get full access on mobile devices.
A number of competitors offering virtually the same service launched in Canada in recent years, including Deezer, Rara, Rdio, Slacker, and most recently, Google Play Music.
Other online music services like CBCMusic.ca and Songza allow the streaming of curated radio stations or playlists for free, but users can't play albums of their choice.
According to a telephone survey conducted for the Media Technology Monitor late last year, nearly two-thirds of anglophone Canadians polled said they regularly streamed music online, which was up from 61 per cent in 2012 and 57 per cent in 2011.
The most popular source for listening to music for free online was YouTube, with 53 per cent of the respondents saying they streamed tunes that way. About one in five said they used a streaming service similar to Spotify.
The Media Technology Monitor commissioned Forum Research Inc. to speak with 4,009 anglophones by phone between Oct. 7 and Dec. 1, 2013. The survey results are considered accurate within 1.5 percentage points 19 times out of 20.