Amarjit Singh Batra, MD of Spotify India and general manager, SAMEA (South Asia, Middle East, Africa) fielded questions about the business of audio streaming in an exclusive chat with ET’s Shephali Bhatt.
Amarjit Singh Batra, MD of Spotify India and general manager, SAMEA (South Asia, Middle East, Africa) fielded this and other questions about the business of audio streaming in an exclusive chat with ET’s Shephali Bhatt. Edited excerpts:
Let’s address the elephant in the room right away. Is Spotify doing something to bring Zee Music back? Is there a worry if it doesn’t return?
I can’t comment on the specifics, but there is no worry. We probably have the best catalogue of music in the country today. Globally, we have almost 100 million songs and the largest repository of playlists – over 200,000 user-generated playlists are created in India every day.
Our leading playlist, Indie India, which focuses on independent artists, has grown by 200% over the last year and has added 2.5 lakh new followers in just one year. Today, we have content in almost every Indian language on Spotify. But there are times when some content is there, some is not. It’s part of the process. I wouldn’t read too much into that.
This isn’t a one-off though. Spotify India also had a year-long dispute with Warner Chappell Music in 2019. Is the company trying to send a strong message to music labels?
I think this is a general industry phenomenon that you’ll find in other sectors, too. Spotify has been in this business for 15 years. We are not a fly-by-night operator. Our objectives are much larger than one artist or one content piece. We have over 515 million people listening in across 184 countries. A lot of our focus is to see how we serve them well. Sometimes we need to give our teams a break, too, because they’re working on so many things. So, let’s not put pressure on the teams.
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Also read | Why subscription-focused Spotify wants to double down on advertising revenues in India
Is there pressure on the India team to meet a certain percentage of the targets for the next quarter then? The first quarterly report of 2023 states that the company aims to add 15 million net new subscribers, including 7 million premium/paying ones.
I think Daniel [Ek] is a big believer in India. When we build for businesses, we don’t divide it into regions, or individuals. We’re all going to contribute to that target.
It’s a challenge to get Indian users to pay for music. What makes it harder is that the Indian users get a free-on-demand experience of the app wherein there are no restrictions on the songs they can listen to, which is not the case with the free experience in other markets. But Indians are paying for a lot of things now.
I think they are short-changing themselves by not enjoying music seamlessly by paying roughly $1.5 that we ask them to pay for a month. So, we’re trying to enhance the user’s overall experience of the app to change consumer behaviour. For instance, my team works very closely with artists, labels, and partners to educate them on how they can use Spotify, because there’s so much data available to help artists figure out what they should create, for whom and so on.
What about podcasts? Spotify invested heavily in this vertical but industry-wide listenership figures are going down. Podcast advertising revenue forecasts estimate slower growth, too. Is it still a growth driver for you?
It’s the biggest growth driver for us in the future…
But Spotify discontinued 11 of its original shows in October and recently laid off 200 people in its podcast division globally…
I think a lot has happened in the global economy in the last one or two years. At Spotify, we consciously thought about leading the way to make podcasts an important part of the listening consumption pattern of our audience. In the next phase of the journey, we want to enable more creators to come onboard, equip them with tools like Anchor, to create their own podcasts. Ultimately, we are a tech and platform company. We can add much more value to our listeners and creators if we also invest in that part of the piece.
Also read | Spotify lays off another 200 employees from its podcast unit
So, we’re moving forward in that direction. A large business goes through learning curves. I think it’s very easy to copy somebody. It’s difficult to pioneer something, because then you will do some great things and some not-so-great things. So, Spotify is still going behind podcasts in a big way. We’re just developing new ways to bring listeners and creators into this space.
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