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Spotify users have streamed 4.5B hours of music in past year

CEO Daniel Ek also says 1.5 billion playlists have been created for the streaming music service.

Spotify CEO Daniel Ek hosts a media event Wednesday in New York.
Sarah Tew/CNET

Spotify users streamed more than 4.5 billion hours of music in the past year, the streaming music company's CEO said Wednesday.

Users also have created and shared 1.5 billion playlists, Chief Executive Daniel Ek said during an event Wednesday in New York. They also create more than 1.5 million new playlists every day.

"This really blows me away that our users are so passionate about music," he said.

In March, Spotify said it had surpassed 6 million subscribers, a gain of 1 million since December 2012, but it hadn't updated its user numbers since then. Spotify also has more than 24 million active users in 35 markets worldwide. A year ago, the company's service only reached 17 countries.

Spotify didn't provide an update about subscribers Wednesday as many people had expected. However, it did say it service will expand to 20 new markets, including Bulgaria, Costa Rica, Hungary, and Peru.

By comparison, Pandora's active listeners totaled 72.4 million at the end of November, and that company has more than 200 million registered users. And in October, Apple said iTunes Radio had notched 20 million listeners in the five weeks after its launch. They had streamed a billion songs at that point. Earlier this year, Apple said more than 500 million people use iTunes worldwide.

Spotify, like most online subscription music services, is burdened by the high cost of music licensing. In Spotify's case, the company pays an estimated 70 percent of its sales to rights holders through direct deals with music labels and publishers. The company in November secured an investment of $250 million -- close to half its revenue for all of last year -- that values the streaming music service at more than $4 billion. That would help it fund added costs from opening up on-demand mobile listening.

Along with the new stats, Spotify on Wednesday also said it will allow anyone on an Apple or Android tablet or smartphone to use its mobile app free of charge, starting today. Previously, users could only listen to Spotify's desktop or browser-based program for free, and only premium members who paid $10 a month had access to the service through other devices.

Updated at 7:45 a.m. PT with information about market expansion and mobile app.