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Spotify rival Deezer launches podcasts, questions freemium services

With Taylor Swift recently pulling her catalog from Spotify to protest its "freemium" model, rival service Deezer is examining the best way to appeal to both customers and musicians. CNET chats with CEO Hans-Holger Albrecht.

Hans-Holger Albrecht, CEO of Deezer Deezer

Music streaming company Deezer announced today that its users will be be able to listen to podcasts and radio shows through its service, in an attempt to differentiate itself from competitive freemium services like Spotify.

Deezer listeners in France, the UK and Sweden can now listen to over 20,000 podcasts, following the acquisition of podcast app Stitcher last year. Podcasts for Australia and the US are coming online at a later, as yet undisclosed date.

Hans-Holger Albrecht, CEO of Deezer, said during a visit to CNET's New York offices last week that the industry needed to make a decision about the viability of "free" services over paid subscriptions.

"We are not depending as much on freemium; it's one of the tools we have to convert people into paying customers," Albrecht said.

While all current Deezer subscriptions in America are paid, European users are able to choose a freemium option. Albrecht says his company is flexible if it determines free music services aren't the best option. He added that the industry needs to decide as a whole how it deals with free music.

"It can't be just the freemium model from Spotify or Deezer that's a problem," he said. "It's also Google and maybe Pandora. Then the whole industry has to say 'You can't do it like this, give music away for free. Let's change it.'"

While Albrecht said the freemium model is currently the best way to channel unpaid users to paid ones, he said there are other options too, including longer trial periods such as three months.

Deezer began in France in 2007 before arriving in the UK in 2011. It came to the United States in September 2014 with the launch of the lossless Deezer Elite service (which is also now in the UK). In the US, the service was initially an exclusive deal with Sonos and has since expanded to Bose devices as well. In January 2015, Deezer began offering a $6-a-month option for "lossy" files to Cricket mobile subscribers in the US.

Deezer reached the United States several months before rival music service Tidal, owned by Jay-Z, and Albrecht said that he has watched its Tidal's recent launch with interest.

"We have a similar product [to Tidal], but we're out there. We're more focusing on selling it than announcing it," Albrecht said.