Spotify in Sri Lanka: Lankan musicians weigh in
By Dimithri Wijesinghe
It has been suggested that Spotify is expected to officially launch in Sri Lanka in mid-January 2021, with local artiste Raini Charuka (Twitter – @RainiCharuka) confirming the same on Twitter.
Spotify is an international streaming platform that offers digital copyright-restricted recorded music and podcasts, including a large collection of songs. It is a service which provides its basic features for free, with advertisements and limited control, while additional features, such as offline listening and commercial-free listening, are offered via paid subscriptions.
As a revenue stream for artistes, while it has been criticised for unfair payment to its artistes, as it stands – unlike physical or download sales, which pay artistes a fixed price per song or album sold – Spotify pays royalties based on the number of artiste streams as a proportion of total songs streamed.
While it is not officially available in our country, you could still access Spotify in Sri Lanka via the VPN route and with this eventual official launch, you may no longer need to access the service on VPN and most importantly, it will lend itself to a dedicated support service, and also better pricing. This better pricing will be similar to the likes of Steam and Deezer, and as Spotify has done for India, the service may follow a regional pricing strategy, making it cheaper and more accessible for Lankans.
Why do we use Spotify when YouTube is free?
We spoke to a number of music enthusiasts who shared that they prefer the service as it is the best platform for discovering new music; there is an endless number of user and musician-created playlists and with the individually tailored Discover Weekly and Release Radar playlists, you are able to discover a wide variety of music.
They also shared that the raw data they give for the top 50 statistics allows you to take a break from what you’d normally listen to and instead listen to what’s popular in other parts of the world.
There’s also a preference for the platform as it is not dominated by record labels, as the Spotify charts and discovery features are user driven. The popular songs are the ones that are streamed the most, not the ones that are chosen and promoted through selective placement, like on YouTube – where the “discover” feature is lacklustre at best and companies often control most of the uploading.
There are also technical difficulties with YouTube; for mobile devices, you cannot minimise the app and hear the song at the same time and the YouTube app running constantly would drain your battery faster. Moreover, most of the time as the music is put up by unofficial sources, they are often forced to either slow down the song or speed it up in order to avoid automatic detection by YouTube’s copyright bots, which really drops the quality of the music you consume and you cannot listen to it as the artist intended it. Therefore, Spotify and other music-streaming services offer an affordable alternative for these problems.
We reached out to a number of local artistes to get their opinions on Spotify making its way to Sri Lanka. Here’s what they had to say.
Spotify being available in Sri Lanka will be a giant leap for local musicians, since Lankans will finally have a way to stream music legally through an authorised dealer which pays royalties to artistes and bands. Now, although these royalties musicians receive are not even a rupee per stream, a collection of many regular streams would result in musicians making a reasonable amount, so I hope Sri Lankans will stream more and support artistes through Spotify Sri Lanka.
Ranush Ratnasekera a.k.a. Ranoosh
Spotify is probably the best streaming service available out of the major services and having it in Sri Lanka is a really good development. It will give Sri Lankan musicians a chance to stream their music to the world and get recognised all around. It will make artistes broaden their horizons on how to capture the world’s ears instead of just Sri Lanka, which is what ultimately should happen. We should take our music to the world.
Making music available and accessible to listeners worldwide is an artiste’s dream. Spotify is another platform dedicated to music with its own community. Hopefully the artistes will find their way into more ears of local and international listeners, labels, and agents and this will eventually lead to tours (post pandemic, if ever) and much-needed revenue. We look forward to discovering unique composers and skilled musicians from the island who stand independently and will be compensated for their artistry in the world of music. It’s a long shot, but still an opportunity which should be used if required.
Further, speaking to Suresh De Silva from Stigmata, he shared that the landscape in which music is consumed is changing drastically. With the change of lifestyles and shifts in trends in the music and entertainment industry as a whole, the platforms people utilise to listen to music has evolved greatly, with the key players being Spotify, Apple Music, YouTube, Amazon Music, Pandora, etc.
He also referred to Spotify being an outlier, standing out amongst the rest, as due to their organisation based on agility to scale and operating on autonomy, as they themselves are on Spotify, De Silva shared that it is no coincidence that during these difficult times they are opening themselves to our market. He added that it is a positive that will allow for a steady revenue stream for artistes. “Spotify is known for its diversity,” he said, adding that they are a brand which pushes people as opposed to products.
De Silva also shared that considering the nature of our current situation, with no live shows and such, everyone is essentially faced with the same situation; whether you are a Grammy award-winning artiste or an incredibly talented local artiste, everyone is faced with difficulty.
De Silva also shared that it is about time that a platform like Spotify is made available in Sri Lanka, adding that Sri Lanka is an untapped region with a great deal of talent. He said he hopes that with its inception here, it will allow for Sri Lankan artistes of multiple genres onto the platform and not just the “mainstream FMCGs”.
We also reached out to Yazmin Yousuf, Co-founder of Decibel.lk, which is dedicated to promoting local music talent. She said that there are a number of local artistes who are already on Spotify, and of course, iTunes is used here quite widely. She shared that with the inclusion of Spotify amongst the streaming services that are available to Sri Lankan consumers and artistes, it will only positively impact our artistes.
She said that hopefully it would be a steady revenue stream for local artistes, who often struggle with establishing that; it is likely that they are not going to keep the international premiums and they may shift it to suit the region, but even still, iTunes may be having a run for their money, she said.
The service has always been accessible and those who use it have been doing so via VPNs and such, and Yousuf said that she can say for a fact that this has been highly anticipated and there will be many who would opt to get on board immediately.