Spotify is about to launch in India. It’s in for one hell of a fight.
India, home to 1.3 billion people and the world’s second-largest smartphone market, is just beginning to get into the swing of streaming music. But, of the nation’s 88 million music streamers, only 2 percent actually paid for subscriptions last year.
And piracy is huge in India. Every second, 285 Indians visit pirated music websites. In 2017 alone, Indians accessed websites offering pirated music 9 billion times, making India the world leader in pirating music. Despite the challenges, the nation’s music lovers are set to double their spending on music by 2020, with the number of streamers set to go up three-fold.
That’s the scene Spotify is about to enter as the newly-IPO’d music service preps its India debut. It’ll meet a lot of familiar challengers there. Amazon’s Prime Music is a recent entrant that has a unique proposition – its price includes access to Prime Video as well as same-day or two-day delivery on your shopping. That gives Amazon one distinct advantage over all the other music services. There’s also Google Play Music and Apple Music, which have been going for a few years in the country.
Spotify will also run into a lot of homegrown music streaming services. Two Indian telcos have three particularly popular music apps – Jio Music, Saavn, and Wynk. Another local behemoth, the media company behind the Times of India, runs Gaana. Through studying user data, Gaana found that its users have a deep emotional desire to share music with their families and friends, so this music app stands out by being very social. Chinese tech colossus Tencent earlier this year put US$115 million in funding into Gaana, setting a fire under its three main homegrown rivals.
Despite the immense competition, smaller Indian startups are still in the fight. Riding on the popularity of Bollywood, Hungama has built the largest repository of Bollywood movies and music. All those services face a battle to get people to go legit and then actually pay up. Saavn co-founder Paramdeep Singh recently explained to an audience at a music industry conference:
“There is a massive retail business of pirated MP3s that are sold on SD cards and side-loaded on to users’ mobile phones. This entire business of selling pirated music to paying users is estimated to be a $1 billion industry.” Right now, that’s much bigger than India’s legit music industry.