HONG KONG — Spotify India reached more than 1 million users following its first week of launch back in February and now has more than 2 million, according to the company’s head of global markets, Cecilia Qvist.
Qvist revealed the statistics during the fourth annual Rise tech startup conference, which was held in Hong Kong from July 8-11.
Additionally, Spotify Lite — a “small, fast and simpler” version of the regular Spotify app designed for emerging markets where networks may be slower, data costs may be higher and phones may have less storage — was first announced on July 9 and is expected to boost overall user numbers. It’s currently available in 36 markets across Asia, Latin America, the Middle East and Africa.
“It has 90% of the same attributes as our core product but is installing much faster,” Qvist explained. She pointed out that while the regular app is 30 megabits to download, the Lite version is only 10 megabits.
Qvist stressed that Spotify makes a huge effort to localize their product for every new market it enters. “We spend … [a] lot of time to understand the ecosystem, the music fans, the creators and so on before we enter a market,” she explained, noting that this is particularly true for India — a country known for its copious linguistic groups — where Spotify launched in five languages.
Emphasizing Spotify’s global nature, Qvist additionally highlighted the streaming service’s recent share swap with TenCent Music, the company that owns the major Chinese streaming service QQ (among other Chinese services). “We’re very happy with that set-up,” she noted. “We learn and they learn and we are growing our business and they are growing theirs so I think that was a good choice for both parties.”
Qvist further explained that the data Spotify utilizes to track what its users want is obtained in different ways. “We have over 100 editors around the globe,” she said. “They are instrumental to us, because even though the greatest algorithms that you have, in order to be culturally relevant you have to understand what’s going on in the country so they take care of our playlists and so on in the region. Of course we are using AI for how we create playlists and other things, but there is a mix of both.”
Spotify still has a lot more space to expand, Qvist added, noting that the company is looking to spread the service beyond the 79 markets where it’s currently available. “Just look at the penetration of mobile phones, for example, across the globe,” she said. “I think it’s almost five billion, right? And we have 217 million users, so there is much, much more room to grow.”
On the K-Pop: East Meets West panel were Australian YouTube star and recording artist Wengie, sought-after composer David Amber, and Los Angeles-based super agent Danny Lee, who specializes in Korean and Asian artists.
Wengie has over 18 million subscribers on YouTube, making her the most successful YouTuber from Australia. She started releasing original songs in 2017, some of which have charted in China.
Wengie explained that her initial popularity on YouTube came from explaining Korean and Chinese makeup trends and techniques in English, and the huge following she built made the transition to music artist possible. But after enjoying a surge in followers, she made the decision to circle back to her original goal of being a singer.
“I started off making K-pop covers in English,” she said. “I realized I really want to make this thing a replacement for my income, so I needed to focus on something more realistic and [not] copyright things you can’t actually monetize.”
She continued, “Now that I’ve built this platform, it’s a perfect point to go back and re-live [my] passions,” noting that K-pop artists are supremely accomplished at using social media to engage with their fans and push their popularity forward. “They really use social media to bring that closeness and encourage that dedication.”
Elsewhere during the panel, Amber explained how he goes about writing K-pop hits, a process he characterized as building a song from the outside in — as opposed to Western pop, which comes more from the inside out. “I think the main thing with K-pop that they do better than anyone else is the all-immersive experience,” he said. By that he was referring to the choreography, the video production, the live experiences and the like, which is an intense focus for K-pop as an industry. “My job as the composer is to think about all of those things,” he went on.
Lee, former head of YG USA, focuses on promoting Asian talent in the Western World, with an emphasis on K-pop. During the panel, he highlighted the collaborative project he’s currently working on with Wengie. “We identified key markets outside the Western world,” he said. “The Philippines was one of her top five markets.”
As a result of those findings, Lee reached out to a major media company in the Philippines, ABS-CBN, and paired Wengie with one of the top stars in the country, Inigo Pascual. The two went on to record a song in three different languages — English, Tagalog and Taglish (an English-Tagalog hybrid) — and shot the music video in the country. The project, which was completed earlier this year, currently has over 3.4 millions views on YouTube, and Lee revealed Wengie is now headed to Tokyo to try the same formula with an up-and-coming J-Pop star.
This year’s Rise conference saw over 16,000 attendees from 114 countries converge at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre in Wanchai on Hong Kong Island. If featured over 385 speakers giving presentations, doing Q&As and holding workshops, while about 777 startups pitched ideas, looked for investment and made contacts.
CORRECTION: Due to an editing error, an earlier version of this article stated that Spotify Lite had attracted 2 million global users in its first week. Spotify head of global markets Cecilia Qvist was referring to user numbers in India and not for the company’s new data-saving app.