Guess who the most popular musician in the world was last week based on YouTube views? Not Ariana Grande, who’s currently Spotify’s top artist: she was only 21st in YouTube’s weekly rankings for 11-17 January – admittedly before the release of her latest track ‘7 Rings’, which has done 60m+ views in its first five days on YouTube.

No, the biggest artist on YouTube last week – according to its global artist chart– was Indian singer Neha Kakkar, with 265m weekly views. What’s more, the second-biggest artist (Kumar Sanu, with 233m views) and third-biggest artist (Alka Yagnik, with 229m views) are also Indian. With sixth-ranked Udit Narayan (174m views) and tenth-ranked Arijit Singh (127m views) India accounts for half of the top 10 – with the other half all hailing from Latin America, by the way.

Yes, it’s a snapshot: ‘7 Rings’ will catapult Ariana Grande right back up the charts this week. But it’s a timely reminder of just how big YouTube’s scale is in India as a music service: those five artists alone generated more than 1bn views between them last week.

There’s some good background for this in a Wall Street Journal article published this week, which notes that “as 4G data rates have dropped below $2 a month, the volume of video streamed on Indians’ smartphones has grown by 10-fold, adding billions of hours more a year in the past three years”. Analytics firm App Annie claims that this made India YouTube’s biggest audience in 2018.

What reminded us to check the YouTube global charts? A presentation at the NY:LON Connect conference yesterday by Nielsen Music’s Helena Kosinski, in which she presented data aggregated from Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon, YouTube and other streaming services to generate a chart of the 200 most-streamed songs globally in Q4 2018. DJ Snake’s ‘Taki Taki’ was top, buoyed by its featured spots for Selena Gomez, Ozuna and Cardi B. Kosinski also said that of the top 200 songs, the biggest country of origin was the US, followed by the UK – but then India, Puerto Rico and Colombia in that order.

Again: YouTube’s sheer scale (in terms of stream volume) is a big factor here. The stats will buoy YouTube’s argument that it is a platform that reaches a massive audience that may not be willing to pay for music. Equally, as Spotify prepares to launch in India and local services hope to grow their number of paying subscribers, YouTube’s popularity there may be seen as a headache by some rightsholders. Also, though: might YouTube Music have the springboard to be a significant player in paid streaming in India in the future?

You can read our report on the Nielsen presentation here, which also includes material from a follow-on panel about regional streaming services, including speakers from Anghami in the Middle East and vKontakte in Russia, as well as Chinese consultancy Outdustry and distributor FUGA. “For growth you have to look outside of the Western markets,” said FUGA’s Anne Jeniskens, while warning that “you are looking at markets where Western music reaches 10-15% of the market if you are lucky”.

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