Indian music company T-Series still hasn’t managed to knock gamer PewDiePie off his perch as YouTube’s most-subscribed-to channel: it’s on 80.5 million subs at the time of writing, compared to PewDiePie’s 80.9 million. Given their respective growth over the past year, it seems only a matter of time before T-Series is top dog – but in the meantime, it has other fish to fry too in the digital-music world. Witness its deal yesterday to add its 160k-song catalogue to Spotify globally.
“We are bullish about India’s most popular music company tying up with the world’s most popular music streaming service. We are confident that together we will be able to reach new markets and spread the love for Indian music far and wide,” said T-Series chairman and MD Bhushan Kumar. But of course, much of the attention on the deal will focus on its implications for Spotify’s upcoming launch in India. It’s a timely reminder that despite all those rumours about major Western labels stalling on licensing Spotify for India, the local catalogue is just as crucial (and probably more so) for Spotify’s prospects of getting real scale in the country.
Spotify is stressing the global aspects: it says more than four million people already regularly listen to Indian music on its service, while more than 930,000 are ‘following’ its Desi Hub (we’re not sure how you follow a hub on Spotify, but we can say that its flagship Desi Hits playlist has nearly 218,000 followers). It also highlighted the estimated 30 million people of Indian origin living outside India as a spur for the deal – note, this differs from the 15 million figure put out by the UN last year, because that was purely people who have emigrated from India.
Some more points on all this. First: T-Series is undoubtedly huge, but Spotify will surely also be putting energy into licensing the burgeoning independent-music scene in India. You can read our recent feature on independent Indian hip-hop here: it highlighted that there is much more to India than film-music. Second: don’t assume that T-Series is a big differentiator for Spotify, given that its catalogue is already available (and PewDiePie-catchingly-popular) on YouTube there.
Third, though: there’s another possible advantage for Spotify. An announcement by tech firm Samsung that it’s launching a new series of affordable ‘India-first’ smartphones to claw market-share back from Chinese rivals like Xiaomi caught our attention this morning. “The M series has been built around and incepted around Indian millennial consumers,” Samsung’s Asim Warsi told Reuters, ahead of their launch this month. Spotify, remember, is now Samsung’s official music-streaming partner. While Spotify may not be live in India for the launch of these devices, when it does launch there, the Samsung partnership could be an important way to get off to a flyer in the country.