Music streaming giant Spotify finally arrives in India with a Rs119 monthly billing plan

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Palestinian musician Firas Harb uses Spotify app on his mobile phone in Beit Sahour, in the occupied West Bank

India’s crowded music streaming market now has a new global player.

Stockholm-based Spotify today (Feb. 27) announced its much-awaited India launch. “India has an incredibly rich music culture and to best serve this market, we’re launching a custom-built experience,” Daniel Ek, Spotify founder and CEO, said in a press release. “Not only will Spotify bring Indian artists to the world, we’ll also bring the world’s music to fans across India.”

The launch comes 11 months after the digital music company set up an office in India’s commercial capital, Mumbai. Back then, it already had an employee headcount of over 300 in India. Lat year, the firm also hired Amarjit Singh Batra, the former India CEO of the online marketplace OLX, as its managing director for the country.

Spotify will offer more than 40 million songs and three billion playlists in India, according to its press release. The platform seems to have already worked out a comprehensive strategy for the country as it is offering multi-language recommendations across Hindi, Punjabi, Tamil, and Telugu to tap the country’s diverse audience.

Moreover, keeping in mind the fact that India is a highly price-sensitive market, Spotify has been priced at rates that are way lower than in other markets. A monthly subscription for Spotify’s ad-free premium service will cost Indians just Rs119 ($1.67), which is significantly lower than the $9.99 it charges in the US.

Still buffering

The launch comes after many speed bumps.

Spotify was all set to launch by January-end, however, just a few days before that the company was faced with legal headwinds. Warner/Chappell Music (WCM), a division of the American music publishing giant Warner Music Group, filed a lawsuit in the Mumbai high court seeking an injunction to block Spotify from playing songs from its catalogue in India after a dispute over their licensing agreement.

WCM reportedly alleged that Spotify had decided to use the Indian radio-station rule for broadcasters to offer music from the label’s catalogue—which features prominent songwriters such as Katy Perry, Beyoncé, Kendrick Lamar, and Led Zeppelin—without first reaching a consensus in ongoing negotiations.

However, Spotify said that WCM had granted licences to various other services in India, adding, “…we conclude that WCM’s intention is to preclude our entry into the Indian market, denying Indian users access to one of the world’s leading music services and causing irreparable harm to Spotify.”

Though the jury’s still out on the WCM-Spotify conflict, the Swedish company, which already has upwards of 200 million users (96 million paying ones) in nearly 80 countries, has been gearing up to take over India’s music scene. It struck a deal with India’s largest music label, T-Series, securing a music library consisting of over 160,000 songs from Bollywood and regional movies as well as individual artists.

But despite these strategies, it will not be a cakewalk for Spotify to survive the intense competition from the many players already operating in India.

Stiff competition

In 2017, streaming revenues in India grew by 60.8%, far above the average for the Asian region (38.2%). With the proliferation of internet and the simultaneous dip in data charges, the industry is heading towards an even bigger boom.

By March 2020, the country’s online music listeners are slated to surpass 273 million, consulting firm Deloitte estimates. “The mobile internet revolution has led to a rapid rise in the number of connected Indians, making music streaming the preferred way to enjoy music here,” Spotify’s Batra said in the press release.

However, this boom has given birth to several domestic music streaming platforms, while attracting many global ones to India.

For instance, in February last year, Amazon entered India’s music-streaming market launching its ad-free streaming service as part of its Rs999 annual Prime subscription. At the time of launch, Amazon Music already offered a catalogue of tens of millions of songs in English, Hindi, and several regional Indian languages. Around the same time, Chinese internet giant Tencent led a $115 million funding round in Times Internet-owned music streaming platform, Gaana, the current industry leader with over 75 million monthly users.

The bigwigs of telecom—Reliance, Airtel, and Vodafone—have launched their own services over the years, too. Of the lot, Reliance Jio has increasingly become a force to reckon with.

In March last year, Reliance-owned JioMusic merged with global music-streaming portal Saavn in an over $1 billion deal. The merged entity ranked first in Fast Company’s Indian list of Most Innovative Companies 2019.

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