Spotify’s Asia director talks expansion, mobile, and piracy

spotify logo square canvasSunita Kaur, director of Asia for Spotify, spoke with The Next Web about the company’s plans for growth in the coming months. Since its first foray into Asian markets in April 2013, Spotify has been moving slowly. The company is only present in Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore, Taiwan, and the Philippines, leaving huge swaths of the continent untouched.

The company has been waiting to see organic growth, which has been its usual tactic for marketing its streaming services. “We’re not really good with the whole above-the-line advertising, that’s not really us,” Kaur said. But with the Asian markets, Spotify is seeing a need to change up how it gets its name out. Kaur anticipated forging more partnerships with events and with telecommunications companies to increase visibility.

However, Kaur said piracy remains a major stumbling block for the service’s Asian expansion. “That’s the one point that takes up the most time and is the most on our mind,” she said. In fact, Kaur said that when Spotify was entering the Philippines, the percentage of music listened to illegally in the nation was more than 95 percent. Publishers and artists have been combatting piracy for years, and streaming services could potentially assist in the fight by making more digital music available for free. Getting illegal downloaders to shift from unsanctioned digital formats to legal ones might be an easier battle than convincing them to buy more traditional albums.

Although the growth in Asia has been gradual, Spotify as a global operation has been putting up some big numbers. In May, the company announced that it hit 10 million paying subscribers and more than 40 million active users across all of its markets.

Kaur cited the switch to a more accessible mobile product as a big reason for the current audience size. She said the worldwide conversion rate from free members to paying subscribers is 20 percent, so making Spotify more easily available across all platforms helped to bring in lots of new accounts. “Just mathematically, the more people we can get to try us, the more people will buy us,” she said.

Anna Washenko