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Can Spotify play its music louder than others in India?


  • Has it hit the right chords with its Indian entry?
  • Can Spotify dethrone the currently no.1 player – Gaana?
  • What unique features does it offer in India?

 

By now, many of us know that ‘Spotify is in India’ and its users have already downloaded and experienced the app to see if it offers anything different from its counterparts. It is also known that India is a huge market for such players given the size of its population and the craze for music. Basically, Indians play music on all occasions and for non-occasions as well, particularly now when it is available for free. A report by Nielsen echoes this feat when it ranked India at the top in terms of the overall music listening hours at 20-21 hours a week (the global average is 17.8 hours a week). Thus, India seems to be an obvious choice for Spotify for its expansion drive.

The world's most popular music streaming service has entered India at a time when the market is already crowded and music lovers are spoilt with a variety of choices. Nonetheless, this new option in the market has gained instant popularity reflected by its user base, which hit a 1 million mark within a week of its launch. The reasons are obvious, one it is already a popular brand in the international market, which has generated enough curiosity for Indian listeners to Spotify experience and secondly, it offers a better deal in India.

Spotify seems to has done a good background work before venturing in this huge market. It has not only made significant customisation to connect with local listeners but is also offering its paid services at a considerably cheaper rate to woo potential price-sensitive users. In India, its premium service is available at INR 119 (USD 1.67) per month, which is substantially lower than its price internationally. Additionally, Spotify’s paid service is also available for a single day, week, month, three months, six months and with an annual plan.

Moreover, several other customisations include; songs available in multiple local languages (only seven at present), playlists made specifically for Indian cities and playlists featuring top songs from Indian movies (movie songs are more popular in the country than singles). Furthermore, another exclusive feature which was introduced, particularly for India is ‘Free with total control’, where users can play every ‘song on demand’ on the free version of the app, while globally it offers only ‘Shuffle Play’ service on its free version.

In addition to users, Spotify apparently has a lot to offer to Indian artists and labels too. It works with several algorithms and tools globally that allow artists to analyse their fan base as per their locations, choice of music and so on and so forth. Hence, based on this, artists can plan their tours and engagements/concerts accordingly. This feature is expected to make Indian artists accessible to global audiences and vice-versa.

Nonetheless, despite this well-prepared entry, the Swedish streaming service provider is facing stiff competition from local as well as global players in the country like Gaana, Amazon Music, Wynk, JioSaavn, Apple Music and YouTube Music (the latest entrant). Currently, Times Internet and Tencent backed Gaana is leading the pack as it is the first to reach 100 million monthly active users (March 2019), which is more than 50% of the country’s active music streaming market. Besides, it is striving hard to retain its no.1 position in India by continuously reinventing. Gaana recently acquired Jukebox Studio because of which it is now accessible in ~5,000 offline locations such as pubs and bars. It is also planning to launch music videos on its platform.

Players like Wynk and JioSaavn are streaming services, which are provided by telecom players Airtel and Reliance, respectively, hence, they offer exclusive services like unlimited streaming and downloads on these apps to their telecom subscribers. Global players such as Amazon Music or Apple Music have an added advantage of bundled services, where they combine their videos (or other services) with music. For example, Amazon offers a combined pack of Amazon prime and music for INR 999 per year. Similarly, Apple Music app amalgamates iTunes library, where it integrates purchased music with iTunes uploads combining personal and purchased music in a single catalogue. This feature is lacking in most apps. The availability of such bundled services makes it difficult for subscribers to migrate to other apps and hence, keep users relatively loyal to such providers. The latest entrant, YouTube Music also has an edge as it is already popular for accessing videos and its premium service costs INR 99 per month (less than Spotify).

Spotify, on the other hand, has an exclusive feature because of which it is loved worldwide, its personalised playlists, customised as per individual’s taste/choice. This simple yet unique feature (facilitated by a special algorithm) ranks it at no.1 in the world. Further, it also offers playlists for all occasions/genre, work, play, workout, parties, weddings, travel, classical, rock and many more. Given its global popularity, it was able to easily loop in Indian celebrities for endorsement of the brand and particularly for its playlists to reach a larger audience.

Hence, all these players are trying hard to play their music louder than others either by offering services at competitive prices or through some exclusive feature/s or by offering bundled services and Spotify is not behind. Below is a snapshot of features and prices offered by these companies.          

 

In a nutshell, driven by its famous algorithm, personalised and localised services, an attractive user interface and extensive advertisements, Spotify is gaining all the attention and thus, keeping other players on their toes, particularly, the country’s no.1 player Gaana. Further, India is a big market with a huge scope of penetration (currently its only 6.5% vs 47% in countries like the United States), hence, Spotify’s chances of attracting subscribers are much brighter.

However, the cause of concern lies in the fact that out of the 160 million monthly active users only 1% are paid subscribers. Even with increased penetration, those willing to shell out for paid music are expected to remain low in the country. Though Spotify offers a lower price in India as compared to other countries, Indian listeners are exposed to other options with even lesser prices. Thus, this tiny paid subscriber pool is bound to drift away towards cheaper options.

Hence, the overall market expansion coupled with Spotify’s popularity and exclusive features will surely help it to add a larger number of free subscribers in India, however, its attempt to make money through paid subscribers might buffer.

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