Spotify reveals HiFi tier, 80-country expansion, new exclusive podcasts

The company shared details Monday at its first big news event in nearly three years.

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Joan E. Solsman
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Spotify HiFi audio streaming subscriptions
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Spotify HiFi audio streaming subscriptions

Spotify will offer a new subscription tier called HiFi. 

James Martin/CNET

Spotify on Monday laid out its vision for "a new golden age of audio," revealing that it will launch a new subscription tier called HiFi for high-quality audio later this year and that it is expanding to more than 80 new countries in the coming days. The streaming-music giant also unveiled podcast exclusives and a suite of new tools for artists and podcasters. 

Spotify's virtual Stream On event was the kind of extended presentation that other tech companies tend to trot out once (or more) a year. But Spotify, the biggest streaming service by both listeners and subscribers, hasn't held one of these events since 2018 when it overhauled its free mobile tier. Those changes amped up what you could hear with a free account, unlocking on-demand songs that previously were available only to paying customers. Changes like those, and Spotify's obsession with expanding into podcasts of late, have vaulted the company to 345 million listeners and 155 million paying subscribers as of the end of last year. 

At Monday's hour-plus event, Spotify said it'll launch a new high-quality audio subscription called HiFi in select markets later this year, offering CD-quality sound with a lossless compression format. It didn't specify how much the feature will cost or where it'll first roll out, but HiFi is expected to cost about $20 a month to be priced competitively with rivals. And it's probably a safe bet that the new tier will be available in the US, which is the world's biggest music market, as well as Sweden, Spotify's home base. 

Spotify is also embarking on its broadest expansion to new markets yet, which will take place this week. It will widen significantly to more than 80 new markets across Asia, Africa, the Caribbean, Latin America and Europe over the next few days. And the company will also make Spotify available in 36 new languages -- including Romanian, Hindi and Swahili -- so it supports more than 60 languages total.

In addition, Spotify revealed new exclusive podcast programming, such as a podcast from former President Barack Obama and Bruce Springsteen called Renegades: Born in the USA; Batman Unburied, part of a partnership with Warner Bros. and DC Comics; and Ava Duvernay's first podcast project, which focuses on criminal justice. It also said it had scored a deal with AGBO, the entertainment company from powerhouse movie directors Anthony and Joe Russo. The Russo brothers, who have spearheaded Marvel film hits like Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: End Game, will create multiple podcast series for Spotify. 

The company used the event as well to tout new and widening tools for creators, saying that its Spotify for Artists center has matured as the company's hub for people who post music on Spotify and now houses a growing suite of tools and resources. It said it will open its Canvas looping visual to all artists, widen its Marquee marketing tool and launch Discovery Mode as a test later this year for more labels, which lets artists' teams prioritize specific music that they want Spotify's algorithms to favor.

A replay of Spotify's Stream On event is available at Spotify.com/StreamOn and YouTube.com/Spotify

See also: Apple Music vs. Spotify: The best music streaming service for you

Watch this: Spotify CEO talks expansion, reaching 1 billion users