Vasundhara Mudgil: Spotify will take more Indian artists to the global stage in 2022  

For almost a year now, Spotify has been promoting their #AmplifiHER campaign to encourage the representation of women in the Indian audio industry. As part of this initiative, the streaming giant has curated unique line-up of women talent from different spheres of the audio industry.

As Spotify pushes their content, the selected women have also come together to help others. Whether it’s tips to get started on your own podcast with Ritnika Nayan or Heena Kriplani on the process of distributing music for upcoming artists and incorporating tech into music with Nikhita Gandhi.

As the campaign recently drew to a close, Music Plus speaks to Spotify India’s Head of Communications, Vasundhara Mudgil to understand the outcome of the campaign and what’s next to keep women in the spotlight. At Spotify, Mudgil develops external communication strategy for the company in India; establishes and sustains a strong corporate reputation for the brand; and identifies key storytelling opportunities for users, creators, brands, and the industry at large.

Excerpts from an interview -:

What was the impetus to create a campaign like AmplifiHer?

At the end of last year, we started thinking about the causes that matter to the audio streaming sector at a global and local level. The underrepresentation of women was an evident issue based on industry data and anecdotal conversations, and that’s why we launched AmplifiHer.

To increase awareness and initiate the right conversations on this topic, we needed support from female talent in the music and podcast business. These would be voices that share their stories of success and learnings, inspiring others to join the industry. We selected advocates who represent different career choices within the audio profession and through 2021, they shared their journeys of growth.

Were there any findings that were conducted during the run of the campaign that you could share with us?

As a part of AmplifiHer, Spotify commissioned research to better understand the underrepresentation of female talent and how to increase the presence of women in music and podcasts, behind the scenes and in front of the mic. The study done by YouGov, with over 1000 predominantly female respondents from across the country, uncovered three main findings.

Looks matter, pay is unequal: There are expectations for women to look a certain way, and a gender pay gap exists as compared to male counterparts in the audio industry.

Overcoming a male-dominated industry: It’s harder to break into a male-dominated industry and if they do, there is hesitation to be a part of a profession that has limited gender diversity.

Support is lacking: There is a lack of support for women who aspire to join the audio industry, from family, friends, and the society. The need to justify the investment of their time and effort acts as a barrier of entry for women to pursue a career in this field

In fact, one in four female creators surveyed said they had faced gender-based challenges. Bias was also evident in the context of content and gender. In music, more respondents preferred male than female artists for genres such as hip-hop, ghazals, rock & metal, and Punjabi pop, whereas it was the other way around for devotional, folk, and Indian classical. For podcasts, the preference for male voices was higher for topics related to business, games, finance, true crime, and thrillers, whereas for cooking, language, and story and drama related content, female voices were preferred.

In the same vein, Sound Up too has focused on women but this time in podcasts. Has the selection been made? Could you tell us a little bit about the resultant podcasts?

Started as a one-time event in 2018, Spotify’s Sound Up has transformed into a long-term initiative that puts the spotlight on underrepresented voices in podcasting. It launched in India earlier this year, focusing on women as the benefactors.

The ten selected participants are currently honing their podcast skills through training and mentoring led by Mae Mariyam Thomas and Riya Mukherjee, workshops, and full-program support. The creators are working on truly unique podcasts – from one that is inspired by Tumblr memes about vampires, to audio shows that dive into the history of food, and from a podcast that brings together science, tech and ethics, to another that questions the stereotypes and myths around women in India. You can check out more detailed profiles of the participants here.

The company is not leaving behind women who applied but didn’t make it to the Sound Up program. Spotify is reaching out to 1,800 women and hosting an exclusive podcast training session for them.

Is there a vision for Spotify in 2022? A focus on genres, or continued support to women, perhaps?

First, taking more artists from India to the global stage. While we localise ourselves for the market, our strength also lies in the fact that Spotify is in more than 180 markets, and for local artists, this presents a huge opportunity. They can tap into an existing or new fan base in those markets, reaching out to 381 million listeners. This also means that our India team invests time with them enabling them to use the Spotify tools to their advantage.

Second, increasing the number of users who pay for audio. We’ve launched several Premium plans for India, perhaps the most we have for any market in the world.

Through 2022 and beyond, the goal is to bring more and more users onto the subscription tier. We currently have Premium Mini plans that can be bought for one day or one week, and then there are the monthly and annual subscription plans. Besides that, people can also opt in for Individual, Duo, and Family plans.

And finally, building Spotify through communities, including women in audio, independent artists, and beyond. Brand love plays a very important role here, and for us, there are several communities we want to work closely with to grow awareness and preference for Spotify. We’ve already started that work and will continue to dive deeper into it next year, and beyond.

How important is the Indian market to a global giant like Spotify?

India is one of the fastest growing and most important markets for Spotify. Since early 2019, when Spotify launched in India, the market has contributed to the global growth of the business. That’s been recognised multiple times in the global earnings.

It’s not just about the users, but also the time spent by these users on the platform. Because we have been a part of the pop culture conversations in India, and curated music and created podcasts that our listeners want, when they want it, the time spent by users on Spotify is one of the highest in the country today.

We are here for the long term, and to grow the audio streaming market. Spotify has invested in consumer research, partnerships, and a team centred around making the audio experience meaningful for listeners and creators.

What’s on the horizon for Spotify’s India market?

‘Audio-first’ remains a priority. The Spotify experience includes elements of video and visuals both, but the platform continues to focus on an audio first strategy. We are driven by the discovery and personalisation of music and podcasts that matter to our users, and our innovations often centre around how to make this experience better. But there are video experiences we are bringing to the platform as well to make the audio experience even better.

Partnerships to deepen our reach in the market. Outside of all the work Spotify does in India, its local growth story will also come from partnerships with like-minded brands. We’ve worked with Flipkart, One Plus, Citibank, and a few mobile phone and other companies that reach out to a wider audience, but one that would also be relevant for us. We continue to look for brand partnerships to expand our presence in India.

Grow the podcast creator community. The pandemic showed us the immense potential of India’s audio streaming industry, especially podcasts, and even more so on the creator side. Whether it’s brands or individuals, everyone is looking for ways to harness the medium, so they can connect in a deeper, more meaningful way with their fans and audiences. Spotify wants to be the company behind the growth of India’s creator ecosystem. We are investing in training programs and taking talented creators exclusive on Spotify, to encourage more creators to be a part of this journey.

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