Spotify Staffing Up For U.S. Odyssey, Premium Conversion

Signs of movement in music service Spotify’s aim to break America. After pushing back a hoped-for launch from Q3/Q4-2009 to Q1/Q2-2010, global business development head Faisal Galaria is now hiring for New York-based business development execs.

Reasons for the delay actually aren’t totally clear. last month reported U.S. execs’ concerns about the ad-funded portion of Spotify’s freemium model. But that may not be the whole story. Asked about timescale on the fringes of this month’s Le Web conference, Spotify adviser Shakil Khan suggested something more mundane: “That’s the million dollar question.

“The reason behind it is – somewhere the messaging gets lost – we could launch tomorrow. But there’s a lot of associated issues, for example business licenses, Visas, operations teams in various cities, advertising sales guys in San Francisco, in Los Angeles, in New York

“(We’re) trying to hire these people, trying to get everything right so we have the whole package rather than launch a music service which has 20 million users and, three months later, no staff and the whole system goes bust.”

Pandora and Rhapsody already have good traction in the U.S. and Rdio is about to be launched, funded by Niklas Zennstrom and Janus Friis. Spotify has been struggling to get passed the free-vs-paid issue recently (in fact, its model is quite interesting – it seems it will be pay-for by default on every platform other than desktop, and is going for subscription relationships with mobile carriers and console operators).

Spotify is also hiring a person whose sole task will be converting ad-supported Spotify listeners to paid. The spec for the London- or Stockholm-based premium conversion manager says “the development of Spotify Premium Services is seen as critical to support the company strategy”.