Spotify now has 1 million users in India counting both free and paid Premium accounts, a representative for the company confirmed to The Verge. The streaming platform quietly arrived in India six days ago amid a legal skirmish over whether the launch would include Warner’s recorded music catalog.
Spotify doesn’t usually release these sort of early metrics, so it’s impossible to say how this 1 million-user milestone stacks up in comparison to other territory launches. But, that number can be looked at in the grander context of the Indian streaming music market.
India’s total population is 1.34 billion people, but only about 150 million, or about 11 percent, subscribe to a music streaming service, according to a report by Deloitte and Indian music-industry body IMI published earlier this year. Of this 150 million, less than one percent of subscribers pay for a subscription and about 14 percent have a bundled subscription (such as Amazon Prime, or through a mobile contract). The remaining 85 percent stream music with free subscriptions. So, while 1 million is a large number, Spotify is reaching less than one percent of the Indian music streaming population, and it has likely signed up few paid subscribers.
The few that do pay for music services in India don’t pay much. For example, an Apple Music subscription in India costs 120 rupees, or $1.69, compared to $9.99 a month in the United States. Spotify is slightly undercutting Apple by offering its subscription for 119 rupees, or about $1.67, along with flexible pre-paid plans that range from a single-day pass to six months of access.
All this aside, India is considered to be music’s “sleeping giant,” with the world’s second-largest smartphone market and falling data rates that see millions of new people sign up for online services every month. Prashan Agarwal, the CEO of Gaana, recently told Quartz he expected the industry to grow to almost 400 million consumers within the next two to three years. This is unlikely to be coupled with a similar surge in revenue. The existing gap between music streaming and value in India is so massive that companies should expect to continue to rely on ads and telecom subsidies as primary sources of revenue.
How Spotify grows in India past the launch frenzy will be telling. Its entry in general is late to the game, and it faces stiff competition from the likes of Apple Music, Amazon, and Google Play, alongside local services like JioSaavn and Gaana, which dominates with about 80 million users. (That’s about half of India’s active music streaming market.) It’s also hard to tell how much the tracks missing from Warner/Chappell Music have impacted the number of people who have signed up for Spotify in India. According to a Nielsen report, The top genre consumed in India is Bollywood, followed by “other Indian film music,” Indian pop, and Indian regional folk. Western pop comes in fifth.
Spotify is currently in a row with Warner over renegotiations for its global deal, which is preventing music from Warner’s publishing catalog from appearing on Spotify in India. Spotify’s chief financial officer, Barry McCarthy, admitted as much in an interview last week. “It’s not really about India,” McCarthy said on stage at a Morgan Stanley conference. “It’s about leverage and renegotiation of the global agreement.”
The fight began when Warner, according to Spotify, “revoked a previously agreed-upon publishing license for reasons wholly unrelated to Spotify’s launch in India.” Spotify then tried to avoid a direct deal with Warner by using a controversial amendment in Indian law, which says “broadcasters” can obtain a license for copyrighted works even if the copyright owner denies use. Warner then issued an injunction, which led Spotify to launch in India without Warner’s recorded music catalog.