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We want I-pop to become a global phenomenon: Spotify India MD

Amarjit Singh Batra talks about Spotify's growth plans, its five years in India, and the immense popularity of Arijit Singh

Naini Thaker
Published: Mar 19, 2024 04:49:20 PM IST
Updated: Mar 21, 2024 05:13:21 AM IST

We want I-pop to become a global phenomenon: Spotify India MDAmarjit Singh Batra, general manager, SAMEA (South Asia, Middle East, Africa) and managing director, Spotify India. Image: Neha Mithbawkar for Forbes India

It has been five years since streaming platform Spotify first launched in India—the global streaming giant’s 79th market in the world. “It has been nothing short of a dream for us,” says Amarjit Singh Batra, general manager, SAMEA (South Asia, Middle East, Africa) and managing director, Spotify India. Since the launch, the brand has focused on growing India’s audio creator community, localising for users, and educating the audience to start paying for music streaming. “To be able to do well in a market with so much diversity and unique depth, we’re very excited about what has been achieved. We are equally excited about where we are going now,” adds Batra.

Over the last five years, Spotify has also deeply invested in educating the artist community on how to make the most of Spotify For Artists, a platform that empowers artists and their management to analyse how their music is being consumed. Today, 28,000+ artists from India use Spotify For Artists, up 2x from last year. There has also been a massive shift when it comes to podcasts as a concept, and close to 2,00,000+ podcasts were created using Spotify For Podcasters, in 2023. Since its launch, 400+ brands have advertised on the platform. Says Batra, “Five years is a milestone, but we have a long journey ahead of us.” Forbes India spoke to Batra about Spotify’s growth story in India over the last five years. Edited excerpts:

On how the platform has grown in India
I think we have fundamentally shifted, or at least improved the behaviour of streaming music in this country. Via Spotify playlists, we introduced them to global and local music, all at the same time, in addition to a wide range of podcasts. The first few years were spent in establishing Spotify as a brand in the country. Now that Spotify is a household brand name in India, we want to continue building on this. The industry looks up to us to take the lead on certain aspects such as payments or enabling artist growth. I also feel that there is no other audio streaming platform that focusses as much on music and growing the artist community, like we do.

Also read: Spotify bets on audiobooks

We are also seeing a massive uptick in our business, not only from brands but also in terms of subscribers—that side of the business is growing very fast for us. Despite big investments in customer acquisition, we are also seeing strong organic growth via word of mouth—to my mind that is a very powerful form of marketing. Spotify has more than doubled in its brand love metric since January 2020 till date, currently at an all-time high of 77 percent, and is the most loved audio streaming brand in India.

On localisation
Localisation has been key to our strategy since day one. We have close to 600 playlists catering to multiple regional languages on Spotify—from Punjabi 101 to Bollywood Central and many more. Spotify in India has pivoted from nearly 70 percent international music streaming at launch, to more than 70 percent local music streaming today. The growth in consumption spans several local languages, with Malayalam being the fastest growing for music consumption worldwide, at a growth of over 5,300 percent, followed by Telugu, Tamil, Punjabi, and Hindi. Spotify’s editorial playlists from India have also grown exponentially worldwide, led by Punjabi music. Hot Hits Punjabi witnessed the highest increase at 10,000 percent, while Punjabi 101 grew at 1,400 percent, followed by Hot Hits Hindi and Bollywood Mush.

Additionally, we have tried to introduce some breakout genres in India as well. In all these years, people were mostly familiar with film music, which was also mainly happy or sad songs. There was no distinction between genres like hip hop or pop. Hip hop is a breakout genre that we have identified and we are encouraging many new artists via our playlists—such as Rap91—and on-ground events. So far, we’ve done two Rap91 events, with a variety of artists performing, both of which were extremely successful.

Also read: Could Spotify become the new go-to service for recipes?

Film music has been very popular in our country for years now, but how this can be distributed via a platform like ours is something that our team has been brainstorming about. So far we've done almost 15 films, including Rocky aur Rani ki Prem Kahani and Animal. Both of them were big successes for us, and it has become a benchmark for how film music should be released in the market. We wish to continue doing this for films across languages.

On its competitive pricing strategy
We feel that we have been fairly successful in changing people’s mindset when it comes to paying for music. There is still a lot of piracy, but we feel that we have managed to tilt the needle much further from what it used to be.

One of the reasons for the shift in customer behaviour I would think was our pricing strategy. We created pricing options that were highly competitive. For instance, we had all options from yearly to monthly plans, as well as the sachet options such as one-day or seven-day premium packages. Also, integrating payment interfaces like UPI has also helped us immensely.

On building the artist community
India has always been known for its film music, but recently, we are also seeing a lot of interest in non-film or independent music. To continue building on this, we have been working with the artist community—existing and budding artists—to help them succeed in this very competitive music industry. Be it our Spotify For Artists platform, playlist programmes such as RADAR and Fresh Finds or masterclasses—we are working hard in helping artists build their career. For many artists, the currency of their success has become the number of streams or follows on Spotify. This is a result of the extensive work that the team has put in to build the market. These are soft investments that we are making for India’s music industry.

Also read: Aditi Saigal aka Dot: Winning with words and melody

We feel that a lot of our indie artists have resonance globally as well, with the likes of Anuv Jain, King and many more artists growing fast. The consumption of music from India has grown globally, with 85 percent year-on-year growth in 2023 alone. Indian artists have found listeners in more countries across the globe, with the most exported artists being AR Rahman, Alka Yagnik, Anirudh Ravichander, AP Dhillon, and Arijit Singh. In fact, Arijit Singh is the third most followed artist on Spotify, worldwide. Like K-pop is now a global phenomenon, we foresee the same kind of success for I-pop as well.

On developing a podcast culture
Podcasts have come a long way when you compare it to five years back. We are very bullish on this segment for India as well. We are working very closely with creators as well as brands for podcasts, and it is becoming a very interesting business for us. The education when it comes to podcasts will continue from our end. We are also hosting offline podcast events, which is promoting creators to come and learn from each other. I feel that it is the best time to be in India, especially if you are a creator. And platforms like ours are opening up amazing doors for young creators to become successful. In 2023, four of the top 10 podcasts on Spotify in India were of the mythology/spirituality genre, including the most-streamed podcast of 2023, with the genre growing by >80 percent through the year.

On expansion plans
In 2024 and beyond, the focus for Spotify in India will remain on contributing to the success of artists locally and globally, especially in the world of film and I-Pop fandom, and enabling podcasters to find the best ways to create and monetise content creation. It will also continue providing the best opportunities for brands to advertise on the platform to music fans and podcast listeners (Spotify Audience Network), launching new features that make Spotify more personalised, and making Premium more accessible and relevant for India.

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