The Rise Of Spotify In Singapore And Asia
Sunita Kaur started out handling sales for print media before moving into tech, serving stints at Microsoft and Facebook before joining Spotify as its managing director for Asia.
Ask her why she was interested in the music streaming business, and it is almost hard to tell if her reply is meant to be tongue-in-cheek: “Music streaming is on the path to world domination.” It is a big statement, but the numbers certainly indicate that it is not an unfounded one. The Global Music Report 2017 by IFPI, the international body representing the recording industry, states that “digital income last year accounted for half the global recorded music industry’s annual revenue for the first time, and growth in streaming more than offset a 20.5 per cent decline in downloads and a 7.6 per cent decline in physical revenue”.
Swedish-born Spotify is a major player in the streaming revolution, and since it launched in Singapore in 2013, its success here has been undeniable. One in two Singaporeans with internet access now use this service, and even more encouragingly for local music fans, there are signs that it has helped to reinvigorate the broader music scene by discouraging piracy and giving artists a global platform. With US$5b paid to songs’ copyright holders as of September 2016, it is also doing its bit to make professional music-making viable.
What makes Singapore such a good testing ground for Spotify?
Sunita Kaur (SK) We launched in Asia by introducing Spotify to Singapore, Malaysia and Hong Kong at the same time. Singapore was a good place to start our venture into Asia as it’s a good base to figure out the intricacies of the rest of the region. The adoption rate, changing music tastes—all these things have taught us how to better scale out to other countries. Apart from that, being based in Singapore really lends itself to ease of doing business across Asia, and running Southeast Asia operations from here is also easy. Everywhere is a two- to four-hour flight away.
"Being based in Singapore really lends itself to ease of doing business across Asia"
You have often talked about the importance of localisation. How do you reconfigure Spotify in other markets to ensure it succeeds?
SK Before entering a market, we’d like to ensure that we’ve everything in place. This includes having localised content (not just the app being in the local language but also having a library of local music in place), the right payment structure and partnership based on the country. We want to make sure that everything is ready for the launch.
For Indonesia, we’d the platform localised, so Spotify is available in Bahasa across mobile, desktop and tablet. Alongside fantastic international playlists, Spotify’s Indonesian music experts put together the best playlists from top Indonesian hits to Bali lounge and dangdut. That’s what we aim to do with every market, and what we see music fans absolutely loving.
Another good example is the payment options available to our users in the local market. When we entered Singapore, subscription was only via credit cards, but we then went into countries that had low credit card penetration. In Indonesia, for example, we let users choose from a variety of popular payment methods, including bank transfers and paying cash at a local convenience store, as online payments with credit card or PayPal are not widespread. It’s fantastic to dip in, and test and learn.
How is Spotify expanding beyond the internet?
SK Half of the world’s music revenue now comes from streaming, so we need to continue to build for this fast‑paced audience. In August, we introduced Spotify On Stage in Jakarta, our first live music event in Asia. It featured performers from some of the most streamed playlists available on Spotify in Indonesia. It was another way for us to connect music fans with their favourite acts. Apart from that, we also wanted to use this event as a way to thank our loyal fans in Jakarta.
Some Local Artists you can find on Spotify:
Joel Tan’s (pictured left) alter ego has made original music since 2013, but in the last two years, he’s become a major star in Southeast Asia, becoming the first Singaporean to sign with Universal Music Singapore and selling out two nights at the Esplanade Concert Hall just after the release of his second EP Geniuses & Thieves (2016).
This soulful performer specialises in intimate, melancholic vocal performances. She was signed by US label Nettwerk Music Group last year, and has released one mesmerising EP, Paris 12, and a split single with Charlie Lim.
This eclectic performer toured the region extensively after the release of his jazzy, self-titled debut EP in 2011, including an unprecedented “double gig” at the much-missed Mosaic Music Festival. His remarkably accomplished Time/Space album (2015) deservedly garnered rave reviews and a deal with Universal Music Singapore.
After her infectious self-produced track, 1057, made waves a year ago, Sokko followed up with the bracing H20, then teamed up with big-name New York producer Lucian for Close to You. Her latest single Porcupine was further evidence of her winning ways.
The Sam Willows
Made up of siblings Benjamin and Narelle Kheng, and their friends Sandra Riley Tang and Jonathan Chua, this harmony-rich quartet recorded their debut album Take Heart (2015) with legendary producer Steve Lillywhite and their follow-up is due in October.