As January 31st wound down in India, there was still no sign of the blowout party that Spotify had planned to celebrate its long-anticipated launch in the country, which multiple sources told Variety was scheduled to take place today. That launch was postponed within the past few days, according to a source close to the situation, with a new date slated for either February or March.
A rep for the company declined requests for comment.
Some sources say the delay was because the streaming giant has not yet locked down deals for the country with the three major-label groups — Sony, Universal and Warner — although this was not confirmed at press time, and it’s possible that Spotify could have launched in the country without them. Those companies are not as big in India as they are in many other countries, and the announcement earlier this month that Spotify has inked a content deal with T-Series, the country’s leading music and film company, ensures that it will be rolling out with plenty of popular content.
However, Spotify’s launch in India hinges on additional deals that are yet to be finalized. While the app will be available in English, the company hopes to expand into different regional music markets in India, a country with 1.33 billion people and dozens of dialects — music in five languages is expected to be available on the initial launch. While the partnership with T-series covers a wide range of commercial Hindi music, including Bollywood soundtracks, the main regional music dominating India includes Punjabi, Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam and Bengali, which likely means connections with labels specializing in those languages.
Just before Spotify’s public listing last March, the company announced that it had opened an office in Mumbai and hired 300 people, but it faces a steep challenge in India. As Variety reported in November, it will launch with an extended free trial period that sources say will be significantly longer than the 30 days of full-access that was offered in Vietnam and South Africa in 2018. While a Financial Times report earlier this month said that the length of the free-trial period was a major cause of the holdup, a source tells Variety that the sticking point is actually the royalty Spotify initially offered for the free-trial period, which is said to be dramatically lower than the local services are paying.
Even if the licensing is secured, more obstacles remain. In addition to the fierce competition from local streamers like Saavn and Gaana (which sources say Spotify had considered purchasing in the past), Spotify could be staring down a potentially slow conversion from free to premium, and large sections of the country have broadband difficulties; although Internet access is inexpensive in India, infrastructure is still developing in many areas. However, Spotify faced similar challenges in Indonesia and Africa, and launched in those territories anyway.