The world’s most popular digital music service thinks there is still plenty more to the listening experience. Managing Director Sunita Kaur charts the way forward.
“With the growth of the internet, people are increasingly experiencing information overload. To make your mark today, companies must be able to stand out to customers through a unique offering.”
Today, Spotify continues to coolly plough on despite the looming threat of deep-pocketed competitors, placing algorithms at the heart of its strategy. Prompting a flurry of social media shares, it recently launched two delightful advertisements: a series of global outdoor ads using its listener data insights to amusing effect, and a joke job posting for a “President of Playlists” for everyone’s favourite ex-president, Barack Obama.
But can Spotify continue to innovate, especially in Asia? Is it planning other services to diversify from its core offering? Will Singapore’s own Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong be bestowed with his own playlist?
Not all of these burning questions will be answered, but we managed to grab enough time with Sunita Kaur, Spotify Asia’s Managing Director, to understand the future of the digital music service and her views on music industry trends. Heads up – she’s singing a pretty bright tune.
Doyenne: Print is dead and digital is the way to go. Do you agree?
Sunita: Given that I myself made the jump from print to digital, I would agree that digital is the future and the way to go. I would not however be so bold to say that print is entirely dead, especially in a market like Singapore, where print is still very much alive.
Spotify is however, an entirely digital platform that has seen and continues to see immense growth. Our ever-increasing user base across all ages every day is testament to the growth of digital. We have to constantly be on the lookout for new technology and welcome it with open arms or risk being left behind.
“Spotify’s main focus will always be music and how to improve the music experience. We believe that there is still so much to the music experience that has yet to be discovered.”
D: Has Spotify faced any challenges expanding into emerging markets?
S: The biggest challenge today in developing countries is still piracy. Using our recent launch into Indonesia as an example; pirated music had a 95.7% market share from 2007 to 2015! To lead the battle against that challenge, we want to provide people with the opportunity to start streaming safely and legally through access to copious amounts of music.
Our successful launch in Indonesia is one example. We worked with Spotify’s Indonesian music experts to put together playlists from top Indonesian hits to ethnic music. Post-launch, we still leverage on current market trends to continue appealing to audiences.
That said, we consider many things before launching in a country. We exert resources to understand the markets, its local cultures, laws and regulations to try to figure out how we can fit in. We do not aim to just launch our brand, but a personalized and local version of it.
D: It’s hard for music to make money, much like news and the rest of the entertainment industry. Everyone expects to listen to music for free.
S: That impression was formed during the onslaught of piracy and illegal downloading. The fact that Spotify and other legal music streaming services are gaining so much traction these days show that people actually want to consume music legally – they just need to know how.
This can be reflected in the positive results that we’ve seen so far! While there is that expectation of being able to listen to music for free, people are also willing to pay for music. Our paid subscription option for Spotify is one of our biggest growth areas. We also pay rights holders and they themselves have seen their own revenues growing over time.
D: What are the top three drivers of growth in Asia?
S: Technology, creativity and collaboration. Technology continues to advance every day, especially when finding new ways to reach consumers and allow them access to whatever they want. Companies must be able to embrace, harness and convey this technology to customers in a user-friendly format.
With the growth of the internet, people are increasingly experiencing information overload. To make your mark today, companies must be able to stand out to customers through a unique offering. At Spotify, we use algorithms to figure out what music users like to listen to and curate a personalised experience for them.
Finally, companies must engage other like-minded stakeholders to be able to grow together. We work together with artists, both famous and new to increase and drive brand awareness mutually for us and them. And as I said earlier, we also collaborate with our users by taking their feedback into consideration and creating our playlists with them in mind.
“A huge reason for our success is our pivot from genre-based music listening to moments-based listening. Whether you are waking up, commuting to work/school, or winding down in the evening, we ensure that users are always accompanied by the best possible music.”
D: Spotify is in the business of selling music, but listening competes with other senses like seeing and touching. Will Spotify ever expand into other content formats?
S: Spotify’s main focus will always be music and how to improve the music experience. We believe that there is still so much to the music experience that has yet to be discovered.
One of our main aims is to provide seamless music integration across different platforms. We recently launched audio cards on Twitter as “Twitter Moments” where they let Twitter users discover and listen to audio directly on their timeline. Tweets with Spotify links will play audio and render album art and title/artist information.
D: Spotify arguably remains the main disruptor in the digital music industry. How will you retain this position?
S: A huge reason for our success is our pivot from genre-based music listening to moments-based listening. Whether you are waking up, commuting to work, school, or winding down in the evening, we ensure that users are always accompanied by the best possible music.
We also curate playlists according to trends! During the haze season back in September, we made a dig at it by bringing back our popular “Hazed and Confused” playlist with songs like Maroon 5’s “Harder to Breathe” and Jordin Spark’s “No Air”.
Another factor that allows us to stand out is our “Discover Weekly”, “Release Radar” and “Daily Mix” features. These introductions are all personalised playlists for each and every user on Spotify. Based on listening habits and who they follow on Spotify, users are exposed to new music that they would otherwise not listen to.
Images by Spotify