Spotify restarts Asia expansion with Indonesia launch, eyes Japan and India

Spotify is finally kicking back into expansion mode in Asia. Nearly two years after its last country launch in the region and close to four years after it first stepped into Asia, the music streaming service has confirmed plans to go live in Indonesia at the end of March.

Indonesia could have serious potential for Spotify. The fourth most populous country on the planet, Indonesian smartphone sales are projected to grow by 20 percent this year as its population of 250 million becomes increasingly more affluent and connected to technology.

Last October, we reported that Spotify was close to launch in Indonesia and Japan, too, and the company has been quietly upping its efforts in Tokyo, where it established an office some time ago. In one sign of its imminent arrival, Spotify inked a partnership with Japan’s top messaging app Line which, similar to its agreement with Facebook, lets users share Spotify tracks through the Line app.

Beyond that deal, which is only available in markets where Spotify has launched (i.e. not Japan right now), and in another big hint at an impending launch, Spotify is currently hiring for 12 roles in Japan — including telling positions like head of consumer marketing, head of communications, social media marketing manager — while its central team tasked with market expansions has made trips to the Tokyo office.

TechCrunch understands that, as was the case in October, the challenging landscape for music streaming services in Japan — where CDs still rule for music sales — has delayed Spotify’s Japan launch longer than the company would have liked. Already, though, Apple Music and a competing music service from Line (both a friend and rival, it seems) are among the services available in the country. Thus Spotify wants to act quickly and join them.

Spotify declined to comment on its launch plans in Asia, Indonesia aside, when we asked. But we have come to learn from a source close to the company that it has begun to look at India.

That interest is exploratory at this point, but Spotify would enter a challenging race were it to bring its service to India. Apple entered the country last summer when Apple Music launched globally, but local services like Tiger Global-backed Saavn and Times Internet’s Gaana lead the mobile music space. We haven’t heard much about how Apple Music is faring in India, but Spotify could be a better fit for the country since it offers a free version of its service and has a more robust Android app — both of which are essential in India.

Asia marks a potentially important focus for Spotify, which recently hit the 30 million paying user milestone. Large swathes of the region are mobile-first or mobile-only, with many consumers reliant on their phone to provide all of their entertainment options. That opens an obvious window for mobile music services, but monetization is a huge challenge since Asia is less developed when it comes to paying for digital content and piracy reigns supreme.

Spotify’s initial foray into Asia saw it land in small and fairly Western-influenced countries like Hong Kong and Singapore, markets where it was likely to see uptake, but now the Swedish company appears to have its sights set on larger challenges, starting with Indonesia.