STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - Music streaming web service Spotify said it was expanding into Asia and Latin America, announcing plans to launch in eight new countries as it attempts to catch up with larger rival Pandora Media Inc and keep ahead of new entrants to the sector.
Unlisted Spotify, which has about 24 million "active" users - those who have used it in the last 30 days - and 6 million paying subscribers, said it would now offer its services in 28 markets worldwide.
"We're taking our first steps in Latin America with Mexico, and Asia with Hong Kong, Malaysia, and Singapore," the company said on its blog page on Tuesday. "Plus we're thrilled to make new friends in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Iceland."
Stockholm-based Spotify already offers services in the United States, most of Europe, Australia and New Zealand.
The company, which launched in 2008, is a free on-demand streaming service. People can pay to hear music without interruptions from advertising and the ability to play lists and preferences from any device any time.
Spotify, which strikes royalty deals with record labels, pays about 70 percent of its revenue back to rights holders.
Streaming and on-demand music has soared in popularity alongside smartphone use, but companies like Spotify and Pandora, which had 69.5 million users at end of March, have struggled to make a profit due to the cost of royalty fees.
However, the sector has attracted keen interest from global technology giants like Google, Amazon.com Inc and Apple Inc which see music streaming as crucial to grow their presence in a smartphone-dominated media world.
Apple has held talks with Beats Electronics LLC, the audio technology firm co-founded by influential hip-hop producer Dr Dre and music mogul Jimmy Iovine, on a potential partnership involving Beats' planned music-streaming service, sources have told Reuters.
Social network Twitter Inc also recently acquired a music streaming startup in Australia.
About 48 percent of smartphone users listen to music on their device, making it the fourth most popular media-related activity after social networking, games and news, according to a ComScore survey of mobile behavior released in February.
(Reporting by Simon Johnson; Editing by Pravin Char)