The last two days have surely been ones of bold action on the Indian subcontinent, one of which you’ve most probably heard about and the other one of which you’ve most probably not heard about. In the midst of conflict on the Indo-Pak border, Spotify has taken the decision of decision of launching in India, one that has been long anticipated by many since the Swedish music-streaming giant first started making waves in the digital music market in 2011. What makes this so bold is that Spotify is in an ongoing legal dispute with Warner Media Group over an Indian copyright law, with the latter preventing Spotify from gaining access to the group’s music catalog (I refrain from going into the details as this legal battle is over a 2016 reinterpretation of a 2012 amendment to a 1957 Indian copyright law, but if you still want to know more, here’s what Bloomberg says about it). This means that Spotify’s launched in India without having in its library songs licensed under Warner Media Group.
But what does the emergence of the world’s most popular music streaming app in the world’s second-most populated nation mean for the way people listen to music in it? Most of us play it on YouTube, and most of the ones who use a dedicated music service find Gaana or JioSaavn to be their preferred mode. Yet they all have their caveats. Listening to music on YouTube, which is primarily a video hosting site, means that you’ll never get dedicated music recommendations and always have to bear the additional cost of playing an unwanted video for listening to your music; Gaana falls short on availability of international tracks; Saavn has a poor user interface and weak recommendations, and so goes on the list.
That’s where Spotify can make a mark in the Indian music industry. Spotify triumphs against other music services on parameters such as ease of use, extensiveness of the music library (reports have it that Spotify has launched in India with 40 million songs), as well as accuracy of recommendations. There’s a reason why it’s the world’s most popular music streaming app, and The Verge recommends it as the best music streaming service available.
And the most crucial factor? Spotify’s gone further than the traditional binary free and premium model by introducing an option for having full premium access for as little as a single day. I can see them reaping great rewards if they manage to offer their service at a standard of quality that can simply not be matched by their rivals, as it has been almost all over the globe - particularly due to the fact that they’ve adapted to the Indian markets by offering a free tier.
I see something happening similar to Amazon’s entry into the online retail space in India in 2013, before which the market was ruled by homegrown companies (notable examples of which include Flipkart and Snapdeal). Now, the U.S. retail giant is enjoying wild success in its retail business while also having a a prosperous Prime subscription service. Will Spotify enjoy similar rewards of entering one of the world’s most valuable markets, despite arriving late on the scene and having to face already established competitors? We’ll have to wait and see.