Interview: How Spotify is winding up to invade Indian automobile space

Times of bulky cassette players and CD flap jackets are long gone and in-car entertainment systems are as modern as anything back at home. Spotify is now looking at making the most of the advancements in in-car AV technologies.
By Shubhodeep Chakravarty
| Updated on: 21 Sep 2020, 04:29 PM
Advancements in mobile technology and the addition of touchscreens in cars have both helped advance the prospects of streaming music while on the move.
Advancements in mobile technology and the addition of touchscreens in cars have both helped advance the prospects of streaming music while on the move.

The world is at your fingertips thanks to the rapid and massive advancements made possible by internet. As such, at a time when automobile manufacturers are leaning heavily on internet-driven technologies to pack their offerings to the brim with gizmos, the new-age vehicle is fast becoming fully-equipped to offer a plethora of options for a connected and entertaining drive experience.

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Little wonder then that Swedish music streaming and media services provider Spotify is looking to make you dance to the tunes while you put pedal to the metal - albeit in a safe and legal way.

In an email interview with HT Auto, Craig Weingarten - Global Head of Industry, Automotive and QSR at Spotify - explained why and how in-car entertainment is at the cusp of a massive evolution and the role that Spotify aims to play.

Here are the excerpts:

Q: How much has in-car audio entertainment evolved in recent years, especially with the advancement in internet speeds and reach?

A: Drivers today have a wealth of options for audio listening in-car and obviously the mobile phone has played a large part in that. OEMs have been adding infotainment systems that enable everything from satellite radio to being a display and a controller for an iOS or Android device. But the terrestrial radio is still the default choice in large part because of its ease of use: it automatically turns on with the car, it’s easily programmed, and it’s familiar to the driver the minute they buy their first vehicle. There’s “muscle memory" there - the terrestrial radio has basically been unchanged since the first FM radio was installed in a vehicle. And that represents a significant challenge in a space that constitutes more than 30% of daily audio consumption. We believe that this represents a unique opportunity to lead the evolution of in-car entertainment.

Craig Weingarten is Global Head of Industry, Automotive and QSR at Spotify.
Craig Weingarten is Global Head of Industry, Automotive and QSR at Spotify.

Q: How do you assess the prospects for in-car audio entertainment in India from Spotify's perspective? How is the market different from that in western countries?

A: The key will be the addition of touchscreen infotainment systems. Similar to other major automotive markets, consumers are demanding the latest technology in their vehicles, just like they have in their homes with connected TVs and speakers. Most OEMs in India offer this touchscreen infotainment system in certain trim levels of vehicles. As it becomes standard on all trim levels, we believe we’ll see greater adoption of in-car audio streaming at a pace competitive to other markets.

Q: Does Spotify have plans of going into car audio hardware in the times to come? What is happening to reported plans and tests of 'Car Thing'?

A: Spotify is focused on becoming the world’s number one audio platform, and we're continuing tests of a voice-controlled music and podcast device to help us learn more about how people listen to audio in the car. While we don’t have any further news to share at this time, we're always testing and seeking feedback from our users before rolling out new features or products broadly.

Q: Why would the Indian driver opt for an exclusive music streaming service and how can tie-ups with automakers help? (any global examples)

A: OEMs are realizing that consumers want a better entertainment experience while driving. The in-car audio consumer marketplace is immense, but heterogeneous: People have different content & experience needs, and as a result the strategies required to win each segment vary. But I wouldn’t say that we’re aggressively looking to create exclusive streaming partnerships with OEMs.

Spotify believes in ubiquity, wherein our users have the same great experience whether they are listening on a connected speaker or in a car. So, we’re much more focused on making sure that a driver’s experience listening to Spotify through their mobile phone using bluetooth, USB, aux cable, Apple Car Play, or Android Auto is just as great as it is when they are home listening to Spotify through Google Home or at work listening to Spotify on their desktop. And our integrations with OEMs' infotainment systems are an extension of that - giving drivers built-in robust and dynamic content options, including music, mixed formats, and relevant talk, that are easy to use while driving. We’ve worked to make sure those experiences match their Spotify experience on other platforms. And we hope these users will spend the majority of their listening hours - whether in car or somewhere else - with Spotify.

Q: What are the key in-car habits and experiences that possibly auger well for Spotify - in India and the world over?

A: Driving and audio, whether music, news, or podcasts, go hand-in-hand. We know that a high percentage of audio listening happens in-car, so it’s obviously a focus for us. We believe that disruption is a good thing. It’s time to rethink how we listen in-car, making it more personal, and create a better mode of discovery.

Q: How does Spotify look to leverage the rapidly increasing tech additions inside the cabin of modern cars?

A: Consumers have different content and experience needs and we want to make sure their experience with Spotify is the same great experience each time.

First Published Date: 21 Sep 2020, 04:29 PM IST

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