Music Industry

Spotify’s Road to World Domination Leads Right Through Asia. Here’s the Economic Reason Why.

[SINGAPORE] – It’s only natural that our worldviews are created as the result of what we see and experience locally. But if we take the time to get outside our bubble, we often see our preconceptions about how the world works are at best incomplete.

This is precisely why I come here to Singapore every year for the All That Matters conference, a three-and-a-half day deep dive into the worlds of music, sports, social media, digital and more.

It’s a compact event, which gives attendees the opportunity to just walk up to anyone and start a conversation–even (and especially) with people with whom you’d never, ever get a meeting. The panels and guest speakers are also fascinating because they offer a look at how the music industry works outside of how we North Americans think it does.

For example, there was a presentation today by Will Page, a Scotsman and professional economist who serves as the Director of Economics for Spotify.

I know, I know. Why would a streaming music company need its own economist? Because Spotify knows that if it’s going to take over the world, it has to constantly monitor changes in demographics and consumer spending power from country to country.

Spotify is now in 61 countries but fully plans to be in all of them as soon as it can. But in order to keep investment coming in–like every other streaming service, Spotify is yet to turn a profit–it has to prove that it’s worth the expense setting up in nation after nation after nation.

Check out what Page dropped on the audience:

  • By 2025, 60% of the world’s middle class will be living in Asia.
  • Spotify expects 2.262 billion people in Asia Pacific to have a smartphone and the means to pay for a subscription within the next five years. That’s room for a LOT of growth.
  • China, once a country known for music piracy, has embraced streaming. It’s estimated that Tencent, the country’s biggest streaming music company, will be bigger than all the music revenues of all of Japan in just three to five years.
  • The only country in SE Asia that saw its music industry contract last year (-20%!) was Thailand. It’s the only country in the region that was without Spotify. (The service launched there last month.) Meanwhile, thanks to streaming, the music biz in the Philippines rocketed up 30%, followed by South Korea (23%) and Singapore (22%).

Here’s something else to think about. In the old days of selling pieces of plastic, record labels were organized by country and territory, which more often than not worked against artists trying to break out internationally. Things were tribal, segregated, separate. With streaming, that’s no longer the case. The buzz term is “border-crossing artists.”

An example would be AMPAM, a Japanese duo that sings in Japanese. Thanks to streaming, they have a bigger fanbase in Indonesia than they do at home. When they perform in Jakarta, they’re greeted by fans singing their songs to back to them–in perfect Japanese. This success was achieved entirely through streaming and without the old byzantine ways of record label marketing.

So what happens when Spotify is in every country in the world? Border-crossing–global!–songs like “Despacito” will become the norm instead of the exception. This opens up the possibility of a truly global music industry, all driven by consumers who get their music by streaming.

This creates the necessity to have the musical equivalent of an International Music Database, a single site where you could go to learn about everyone associated with the music biz. Hey, if you’re going to be totally trans-national, you need to be able to easily find out who you’re dealing with, right?

Things are changing fast in the music industry and in ways most people wouldn’t expect. That’s why you need an economist in the office.



Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

Alan Cross has 37443 posts and counting. See all posts by Alan Cross

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