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India is a long-term story for us: Spotify’s India MD

  • Spotify’s MD and head of operations for India on their plans, and the Indian music industry’s potential 
  • The streaming platform is a late entrant in an already crowded space

Spotify has a host of custom features
Spotify has a host of custom features

Last week, after a series of delays and amid a legal skirmish with Warner Music’s publishing arm, Spotify finally launched its services in India. The streaming platform is a late entrant in an already crowded space, following in the footsteps of global competitors Apple Music, Amazon and Google Play, as well as local platforms like JioSaavn and Gaana. But Spotify hopes that its much vaunted recommendations algorithm, as well as a host of custom features, will help it stand out in the music streaming industry.

Lounge spoke to Spotify’s India managing director Amarjit Batra and head of market operations Akshat Harbola about its plans for the Indian market and what it can offer Indian musicians. Edited excerpts:

Spotify is something of a latecomer to India. How important is the Indian market for it?

Batra: Our entry to India comes at a good time because India is quite ready from an infrastructure perspective. India is a long-term story for us because it’s a very large and diverse market. Typically, in most markets, we’re dealing with one or two languages. But India has so many languages to look at, and the uniqueness of film music being more popular than non-film music. I think the trends are also changing very fast. So we’re looking to learn in the short term and then apply our learnings from global markets as well as what we learn in India.

India’s music industry is still fairly small in terms of revenue. What sort of potential for growth do you see, and how can Spotify help that growth?

Batra: Our feeling is that the best years of the Indian music industry are ahead of us. India tops the chart in terms of overall music listening hours—close to 21 hours a week—but when it comes to legal streaming services, the number is not that high. Piracy is still the biggest bane in the country for the labels and the creators, and that’s an area where Spotify is leading the charge.

Harbola: I think we’re very early in the maturity curve when it comes to audio streaming in this market. There’s awareness of streaming, but it hasn’t become a habit yet. And we’re going to work very closely with our label partners and artists to make sure that becomes a habit, because not only is it something we’re invested in for business, it’s also a well- known fact globally that streaming adoption is highly inversely correlated with piracy adoption.

Spotify hasn’t always been very popular with artists globally. What does it offer Indian artists, apart from another streaming platform that will host their music?

Batra: To start with, over the last 10 years, we’ve generated over €10 billion (around 80,000 crore now) that has gone back to the labels and the artists. But our objective is not just to be a revenue source for them, but also allow them to plan better and do stuff in better ways. So we’ve been working on a lot of tools globally, available in Spotify For Artists, which allows artists to look at in-depth analytics and figure out where their fans exist, who’s listening to what, and so on. An Indian artist or label can actually identify the locations where people are listening to their music and plan tours and fan engagement accordingly.

Harbola: There are two offline properties—Spotify On Stage and Fans First—that we work on with artists across the globe. And, of course, we provide access to 200 million plus users across the globe. So if you’re an artist looking to reach out to a global audience, then Spotify gives you the platform and the right tools to do that, and we also have an in-house creative services team which works closely with artists throughout the year.

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