Home / Industry / Spotify banks on vernacular music, independent artistes to grow base
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NEW DELHI : Swedish audio streaming service Spotify, which completed three years of operations in India this month, said it is increasingly seeing traction for independent artistes, non-film music, and music in regional languages such as Malayalam, Kannada, Bhojpuri, and Bengali as listeners explore genres other than film music.

The platform clocked double-digit growth in monthly active users last year, with independent, non-film artistes gradually getting discovered and pushed by the service.

Customised algorithms are picking up with users creating 1,50,000 playlists daily, making India one of the top 20 markets for user-created playlists on the platform.

“There has been a definite shift towards local languages on the platform. Earlier 80% of the consumption would be in Hindi, Punjabi, Tamil and Telugu. Now we see the listener opening up to Malayalam, Kannada, Bhojpuri, and Bengali too," said Amarjit Batra, managing director, Spotify India.

Music in the country was earlier largely limited to film soundtracks, which essentially meant a cap on the number of songs that could be released per year.

However, that perception is changing with the rise of independent artistes, especially in languages such as Punjabi that lead the non-film music scene in the country.

In 2021, Brown Munde by AP Dhillon, Gminxr, Gurinder Gill, Shinda Kahlon and Lut Gaye by Jubin Nautiyal, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Manoj Muntashir were among the top tracks on Spotify even though the list was led by Raataan Lambiyaan from Shershaah, a Hindi film.

Yet Top Hits Hindi remained the most-streamed playlist in India in 2021 with 636,000 followers, nearly double from the previous year. New Music Punjabi, Punjabi 101, Today's Top Hits and This Is BTS comprised the remaining top four most streamed playlists on the service last year. There are seven times more locally curated playlists on Spotify today, compared to three years ago. The service has 150 plus original and exclusive podcasts in several languages like Hindi, Tamil, Kannada, Bengali, Telugu, Punjabi, English, Gujarati, Malayalam, and Marathi.

Gustav Gyllenhammar, vice-president, markets and subscriber growth at Spotify said the company took its time to launch in India recognising that it is unlike single-culture markets like Europe and required investments to address the same.

“We have been very positively surprised (by user response). India is one of our top 10 markets in terms of user engagement and one of the fastest growing regions in the world for us. We plan to increase investment in product and technology to serve all languages," Gyllenhammer said.

The company had seen its paid customer base more than double in 2021 as compared to 2020 despite it being a year of hardship, he added. While Batra and Gyllenhammer did not share specific figures for investment in the country, they said the same would happen on three fronts—artiste-specific programmes such as RADAR that highlight the work of emerging, independent musicians, building content including music and original podcasts and tools like Anchor, a free, beginner-friendly platform for podcast creation, that allow users to record and edit audio, besides publishing it.

To expand reach, Spotify has in the past partnered and offered free subscription with brands like VISA, consumer electronics manufacturer One Plus, e-commerce company Flipkart, Citibank, and Samsung, among other consumer sectors. But media analysts said the platform has niche appeal. “The Indian consumer is looking for offerings that bundle music, video and other benefits, if they were to pay for music at all. Rival companies like Gaana, Amazon and Airtel have recognised the same," Karan Taurani, senior vice-president at Elara Capital Ltd said, explaining the bundles that some of these companies offer. Amazon, for instance, offers music, video and shopping benefits for customers. Taurani compared the Swedish audio streaming service to Netflix, which, over time, has been forced to rework strategies and lower prices in India to deepen penetration.

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