Eularie Saldanha
Mar 01, 2023

We focus on primary education in India and partnerships with creators in more mature markets: Richard Frankel

The global creative director, Spotify and Arjun Ravi Kolady, head of sales, Spotify India, speak about how the brand works in India, changes in the user's audio consumption habits and more...

From left: Richard Frankel and Arjun Kolady
From left: Richard Frankel and Arjun Kolady
On the occasion of Spotify completing four years in India it has released a 'Sonic Science' research which highlights how audio affects listeners physically and strengthens their ability to recall memories.
 
After spending over a decade with the brand, Richard Frankel, global creative director, Spotify, made his first visit to India for the same. 
 
In a conversation with Campaign India, Frankel, who is joined by Arjun Ravi Kolady, head of sales, Spotify India, discusses how the brand works in India as compared to other global markets, changes in the user's audio consumption habits and Spotify’s USP in the Indian market.
 
Edited Excerpts:
 
What brings you to India? How important is India as a creative market?
 
Arjun Kolady (AK): We invited Rich not only because it’s a milestone from a four-year point of view, but also because this year is going to be pivotal and definitive for us from an advertising business point of view. For the last four years, I’ve been following all the work that he's been driving globally for us. We were just waiting for the right opportunity for him to come in and the schedules were great. There were a bunch of industry engagements that would be essential to have Rich here and we have a pretty packed agenda for him.
 
Richard Frankel (RF): India as a market is massive for us because the addressable audience here is huge. It's the fastest-growing market for Spotify and we're already at a place that we could have only dreamt about. The fact that the team has managed to get to this number in four years is phenomenal. It's more important than ever that we continue to develop our relationships with our key advertising clients and our agency partners in this market because they're an existential part of how the business is going to be monetised in India.
 
You've spent more than a decade at Spotify. You've seen so much change in terms of media and consumption habits... Can you tell us how it has changed?
 
RF: Well, it follows the technology to some extent. When the product first launched, we didn't have the reference points we have now, while we did have reference points of what other great tech platforms had done. Everybody wanted to have a killer app on search. 
 
We built the first version of Spotify in a way that all the world's music for all the world's people would be available for free. It felt like magic to those original listeners and the early adopters that came on board. I knew I had a song from when I grew up and I thought that there was no way Spotify was going to have it. But I typed it in and boom, it started to play in my ears. We moved pretty quickly from search as the centrepiece, to curation and we brought people into the start, helping them find things and discover new music. As technology developed, personalisation became the way we drove that landscape. From about 2015 till now, we've just got better at understanding the data and using it for personalisation.
 
Spotify is a tech platform, but users only treat it like an audio streaming platform. Is this how you want to continue positioning it here?
 
AK: Arthur C said that any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. I remember a conversation with my mom when I told her that I moved from Google to Facebook. She said, “Wait, people work at Facebook? I thought it was just an app.” At one level, the consumer experience is magical in so many different ways. If consumers just focus on the experiences that we provide and the engagement that they have, that's fantastic.
 
RF: All our decisions are made on what's the best thing for a music, podcast or audiobook fan. When you think about it that way and build your experience around that moment, that’s when the tech company charging goes away. Yeah, music comes first, but data drives all the decision-making and the direction we go. If the content is king, context is God.
 
What do users in India consume more - podcasts or music?
 
AK: A significant portion of our listeners also listen to podcasts, but it's relatively newer in India. Music drives a lot of our behaviour, but of course, the value proposition for these two content pieces and the times at which you use them or how it fits into your routine are very different. So while we are focused on both, we've produced a ton of local regionals in every single language. However, we need to do a lot more to build that up and bring it to a larger consumer set, but we see healthy consumption across both.
 
RF: We don't see podcasts cannibalising music, which is fascinating and fabulous and makes the labels happy. But it's interesting to watch the behaviour. Sometimes the cohort that has a real affinity for a podcast will binge it in the same way they would with a Netflix of sorts.
 
Most ads for Spotify India urge users to switch to premium by using slice-of-life scenarios showcasing how interruptions annoy. How different is the main idea for ads in other markets, as compared to India?
 
RF: It depends on the maturity of the market. We're only four years old here. There's a certain part of us that has a better understanding of what the offer is. Here it is more basic education, but once we're in a more mature market, we tend to focus on partnerships with creators as a way of telling stories for ourselves.
 
AK: One thing to keep in mind is that the Spotify free app in India is very different from the Spotify free listening experience in other markets. In India, we launched with free on-demand - which means you have access to pretty much the entire catalogue of music. There are a few things that the premium product has that the free part doesn't. But for the vast majority of users, premium has a slightly higher resolution. We fundamentally changed the product when we launched in India, knowing the market conditions here. So the comparison may not translate very well. There's a value proposition for premium in the US.
 
Spotify and Easyjet used people’s listening habits to influence their holiday destination recommendations. Tell us more about this campaign and how it fared…
 
RF: Well, it was the idea of EasyJet’s creative agency, VCCP in London. They knew that they had an opportunity to push a big reset button post-pandemic, and show up in a new way that was going to be relevant to an audience that they wanted to pay attention to. They know that Gen Z loves to travel and feels like they're global citizens and they wanted to build something that would have the kind of capability of delivering great memories for them. They did a beautiful job and we just worked with them every step along the way, to make sure that audio is not only driving the traffic to the experience but also delivering part of the delight on the back end of it.
 
What are your expectations from launching the AI DJ? Will this feature be available for non-premium users?
 
RF: It’s only in the US as of now, but we don’t believe in exclusivity. We want people to get access to the songs they want whether they have chosen to subscribe or whether they're happy to have us partner with advertisers to monetise those creators they love on their behalf. Just because you decide to listen on our free tier, doesn't mean you should have any less access to the content or the pathways to get to it. That's some kind of important underpinning of the way we think. It will probably come to India at some point, but we've been doing this for a week so it's too soon to tell. If it does work well, we would want to have it everywhere in every language and culture.
 
What kinds of brands does Spotify have onboard in India? Are there specific criteria for getting them to advertise with you?
 
AK: Mostly from media and entertainment - so all of your streaming players, music labels, also FMCG, beauty and food brands like L'Oreal, Este Lauder and Mondelez. We just comply with our policies so that anyone is allowed to come on as an advertiser. However, we don't advertise brands that are into gambling, crypto or anything illegal. We've worked across a variety of over 300 brands.
 
Apps like YouTube Music offer users the option of viewing videos, as well as audio. Why then would a user pick Spotify over this?
 
RF: A lot of people who use YouTube aren't watching it. They're using it for the audio. So why not use a better organised, better compatible version of that to manage all of your audio listening so that you have a better experience all in? If you want to watch a video, of course, you go to YouTube. They have the hero use case for that and they should. However, on the podcast side, we're starting to experiment with a layer of video because we find that a lot of people want to watch these conversations happen.
Source:
Campaign India

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