It’s been two-and-a-half years since Spotify first brought its music-streaming service to Asia, and the company is moving close to entering two important markets in the region: Japan, where music streaming is beginning to show promise, and Indonesia, the world’s fourth largest country with a population of over 250 million.
Spotify has 75 million users (20 million paying) across more than 60 countries worldwide, but it only supports six markets in Asia. It launched in Singapore, Hong Kong and Malaysia in April 2013, but has moved very slowly in Asia, adding just the Philippines and Taiwan since then. It’s fair to say that a larger rollout in Asia is long overdue, particularly since Apple Music is widely available across the continent.
Japan has been a target of Spotify’s for some time. The company was hiring for a media relations role last year, as Quartz noted, in what was a big hint at its plans. Spotify confirmed to TechCrunch that it now has a team of four on the ground in Tokyo, while it is currently seeking to bolster its rankings with a financial controller, per a job vacancy.
A source inside Spotify, who declined to be named, told TechCrunch that the hire — who would be its first financial staffer in Japan — is an important addition given the complexities of music licenses, and the relative nascency of music streaming in Japan — where CDs still rule for music sales. Keeping an eye on the books and financial flow is all the more important when margins are tighter and pressure is higher.
Japan may be a tricky market but Spotify is already lagging the competition. Line, Japan’s top mobile messaging company, debuted a streaming service in June, and Apple Music then entered the country this summer. Spotify isn’t just responding to those moves, however. Our source said that while is it ramping up there, the country has long been a focus and Spotify is moving cautiously because “music licensing is real tough in Japan.”
“We’re looking to be everywhere in Asia eventually. We’ve had a Japanese team in place for a while but [there’s] no confirmed launch date in the market as yet,” a Spotify spokesperson told TechCrunch.
One launch that will happen sooner, according to our insider, is Indonesia, the Southeast Asian country with a population of more than 250 million and fast growing smartphone sales.
Another job vacancy at Spotify is a music editor for Indonesia [Spotify has since removed the listing], although the role is initially based in the company’s Singapore office. A spokesperson told us that the role is aimed at localizing the service’s ‘Browse’ feature for Asia, and the job description shows plenty of playlist curation, content creation and more.
But it clearly paves the way for a local launch, which we understand the company is close to doing.
Indonesia has emerged as the most promising market for mobile in Southeast Asia, thanks to the continued growth of smartphone sales — up 55 percent over the past year — and increasing adoption of mobile Internet. While the average digital spend per user is well below that of Japan, the U.S. or Europe, the potential is there for Southeast Asia to be a mobile-first region. (Spotify now sees more than half of its activity on mobile.) Signs of business and revenue promise in Indonesia come from the e-commerce space. Rocket Internet’s Lazada, Mattahari Mall, a local outfit backed by $500 million, and Tokopedia, an Alibaba like service backed by SoftBank are all focused on cracking the country.
In terms of rivals, Indonesian music streaming fans can tune into Rdio, Deezer, the French firm that plans to raise $345 million via an IPO this month, MixRadio — which Line bought from Microsoft — Australia’s Guvera and Apple Music.
Finally, Spotify is also hiring a APAC Label Traffic Manager who will “help to ensure that all ad campaigns run smoothly for our label partners” across the region. (Spotify is also live in Australia and New Zealand, which are part of the APAC region.) This role doesn’t hint at new launches, but the fact that the company is being more organized in its approach to label relations and performance in Asia, and Asia Pacific, shows the region is a greater priority.
Despite the moves, there’s no word on when the service will come to India, a market that is tipped to become as important for mobile as China and India.
“We absolutely want to make Spotify available in India as we do across the rest of Asia, but there’s nothing to report as of now,” a Spotify spokesperson told TechCrunch back in May of this year. Since there’s no further update, India-based Spotify fans will need to use a VPN or create overseas account until the Swedish company makes its move.