Google Play has joined with Samsung in a bold move for the quickly growing Latin American music streaming market.
Via a promotion launched in September, anyone who buys a new Samsung device (Galaxy S4, S5 and Galaxy Tab) in any of 17 countries gets a free six-month subscription to the service — and beginning Nov. 1, all owners of a Samsung smartphone, tablet or Level product get a three-month free subscription.
In terms of sheer numbers and potential market reach, the partnership is huge: There are 41 million smartphone users in Brazil alone — the biggest Latin market — and 90 percent of those run on the Google-developed Android system, according to Kantar Worldpanel.
In Mexico, there are 25 million smartphones, of which 84% run on Android.
"Having Google play on the front of the device is an easy way to, with a few clicks, already have them go into music,” says Ady Harley, Google’s head of music partnerships in Latin America.
In fact, they’re already into music.
Latin America’s digital music revenue grew 27.6 percent in 2013, and marked a whopping 124 percent growth from 2010 to 2013, more than any other region, according to IFPI.
But volume and presence don’t guarantee success in a market where competition is fierce and established. Most major streaming services, including Spotify, Deezer and Rdio, have already successfully entered Latin America thanks to “bundling” deals with carriers that allow streaming to be paid for as part of users’ phone bills.
Bundling has proven to be the key for the explosion in streaming in a region where credit card use is a luxury; only 19% of adults in Latin America reported owning a credit card, according to the 2012 Global Findex report.
By the time Google came into the market, most carriers had deals with other services. Its challenge will be to convert users into paying subscribers to the service once the trial period ends, without the benefit of a carrier.
That will be particularly tough in Brazil, where the service still requires payment in American dollars. But in Mexico, the service is selling gift cards, much like iTunes has successfully done.
"What we have in Latin America are early adopters," says Harley. "But there's huge potential in the market."
The end date for activating the Google/Samsung promotions is Jan. 31, 2015, meaning users can wait all the way until then to activate their Google Music Play and get their six or three months of free service.
A version of this article first appeared in the Oct. 18 issue of Billboard.