Spotify in Pakistan – What We Have Been Missing Out On?
Spotify has finally made its official breakthrough in Pakistan and now rests as the dominating music streaming app in the market of music. With only a handful of local competitors such as Patari, Spotify’s 50% market share worldwide is now collaborating with our small, yet thriving music industry.
The country’s large audience of Millennials and Gen Z were feeling left out with only YouTube and Soundcloud available at their service for consumption of music and podcasts. Looks like that’s not the case anymore as the new digital age has removed almost every trace of storage devices in physical forms. We have microsized our collection of music from CDs and cassettes to an unlimited cache of tracks on streaming apps, and platforms like Spotify are now an essential part of the new digital lifestyle.
There are only two types of people- those who don’t listen to music that often, and then there are those fanatics who have curated several playlists over time that serve as a soundtrack to their life. The movies from the 70s to the 90s always had one character who would spend hours working on a mixtape to woo their love interest instead of talking about it because music is a whole other love language. The portable Walkman by Sony was a gamechanger as listening to music became a more individualistic and personal experience but it was an even bigger obstacle to find ways to legally download music and then burn CDs and share them with friends.
Since the MP3 players the music listening experience has only gotten better and now with Spotify you can share your own designed list of songs instead of having to share a link from YouTube. For Pakistani users, you can form your playlist on Spotify from its smartly curated database of songs especially for Pakistani listeners including classics like Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan to Atif Aslam- who is, no surprise, the most-streamed Pakistani artist on the app.
Although, YouTube is still a crowd favourite in Pakistan; Spotify provides the best music listening experience as it offers better quality and diverse song recommendations, unlike YouTube that keeps taking users down the same rabbit hole. Although, Spotify’s option of “Radio” provides choices of similar music from a music library of over 70 million tracks of local and international music and also offers podcasts – those features aren’t yet available in Pakistan.
However, this launch isn’t Spotify’s natural debut in Pakistan. Most users had found a loophole for using the app through a tweak in VPN settings by changing the location to any country where Spotify was available. It allowed them to use the premium feature which provides ad-free streaming without force shuffle, and offline listening.
“It’s a good idea to get a vast catalogue of music for a subscription of only Rs. 300 per month as compared to the standard $9.99 in other countries,” said Bilal, a long-time Spotify user since the prelaunch era. However, he among many users continue to use the premium version for free through the VPN settings trick which raises the question of how Spotify will benefit from local subscriptions when such flaws exist along with websites that provide access to illegally downloading music.
Moreover, even though Rs. 300 isn’t a huge cost to pay but Pakistan has not yet caught up with the digital payment procedures. Hopefully, the partnership between Telenor and Zong 4G will enable users to pay for Spotify’s subscription plans through their mobile balance which is a huge benefit considering most of Pakistan’s youth does not have the facilities of online payment methods and credit cards.
As music sales continue to decline, online streaming of music has increased. Although it has affected revenue generation through the sale of music tracks, it has also made it easier to reach the audience on a larger scale. “Artists in our country are exploited because they’re unaware of how to distribute their music and earn from it. There is no mechanism here that would ensure that TV channels and radio stations would pay them royalties for their content,” said Azeem Hamid from Rearts.
For now, the app lets music distributors handle payments but it has announced to soon launch a direct upload feature for artists. “Apps like Spotify have handed the control to the artists to upload their music directly and earn through streaming. The new artists are aware of making social media marketing to promote their work,” he added.
Like most streaming devices, Spotify also offers artists to monetize their music but the payback is criticised to be little as it does not have a fixed rate.
“The revenue coming through these sources isn’t a lucrative amount but it does provide the motivation to keep creating and investing in more content for the audience,” said Haider, the bassist from the band Bayaan.
“We have seen a considerable jump in the listenership of our songs since the official launch in Pakistan and though it is too early to say what benefit this could bring to the music ecosystem of the country, in a couple of years it’ll be evident that it is an indication of the industry’s growth.”
Spotify has been a big player in connecting musicians and listeners on a global scale, making it easier for musicians to reach the audience and share their art but the new challenge is to find creative ways to keep them listening.
To monetize music and make a good earning from it, artists must distribute their music on every platform where listeners are available. It is not yet evident what the consequences of Spotify’s entry will mean for musicians in terms of revenue generation but for users, it is one of the best services available to explore an ever-increasing treasure of the world’s music library.