In the days before March 21st, Bollywood fans all over the globe were opening their Spotify platforms to a shocking discovery: a majority of their favorite songs were gone. Carefully curated playlists were left decimated. Spotify-created playlists were gone entirely. A smattering of songs was left. And fans were devastated.
What happened? Where have all the best Bollywood songs gone? And will fans ever get to enjoy them again? We explore.
Why Remove Bollywood Songs – What’s the Reason?
It turns out the mystery behind the lack of Bollywood songs on Spotify is the same thing that enrages consumers of all media: red tape.
The Independent has reported that Spotify has removed the Indian music label Zee Music’s entire catalog from the app due to a licensing dispute between the label and the digital music streaming service.
Spotify told Billboard in a statement that the two companies had failed to reach a licensing agreement, and that Spotify was pursuing “creative ways” to strike a deal with the music label. They expressed a desire to keep negotiating “in good faith” and of finding an “agreeable solution” soon.
Spotify doesn’t own any of the music it holds and instead enters into agreements with the copyright holders, in this case, the record label Zee Music, in order to platform the music. Usually, these licensing agreements are for a set amount of time and have to be renegotiated or are for a certain region. It is not clear where the issue in this particular licensing agreement is.
How Many Songs Were Removed?
However, this is particularly hard-hitting to Bollywood’s not-inconsiderable fanbase, due to the fact that Zee Music owns more than 50 percent of new Bollywood music in their catalog. This means that popular official soundtracks to big movies have been erased from the site, such as Gully Boy, Ram-Leela, and Bajirao Mastani.
More than that, creators’ private and public playlists were then decimated, causing a lot of angry fans to take to Twitter to express their frustration. One fan told Twitter how their birthday party that night was likely to be ruined due to all her favorite songs going missing from her birthday playlist. Others were upset about losing out on a good bank of music for a producing option. As a substitute, producers can find SFX here. The reaction to this loss speaks to the mass appeal of these songs and their importance to the Bollywood community.
How Will This Affect Bollywood and Spotify?
As much as it’s obvious why this isn’t in the best interest of Zee Music, there is also a problem for Spotify. The digital music streaming service has already come under fire for underrepresented minority communities, having been reported to have only spent 10 percent of its substantial marketing budget of $100 million in uplifting stars from these “historically marginalized” minority communities.
Spotify and other digital music streaming services are likely going to need to understand that the world, especially the music world, is wider than the Western world. Spotify famously has a Puerto Rican star in Bad Bunny who has held the title of most streams on the platform for three years now.
With Bollywood playlists and songs disappearing, there is a lot of talks among fans to migrate to the platform’s competitor, Apple Music, where the Zee Music collection is available to listen to.
And that is no empty threat either. The Bollywood fanbase is vast, substantial, and loyal. Importantly, it has a substantial community across the Western world and Eastern. Bollywood movies are broadcast in UK and US cinemas, festivals held on UK and US streets, and Bollywood is said in the same sentence as “French new wave”, “Spaghetti western” and of course “Hollywood”. This is a community that has vibrant mass appeal and is proud of where they come from. They will drop Spotify and if they do, Spotify will quickly learn the impact they have.
Any Alert for Competitors?
Truly, beyond Spotify, it’s the fans that lose out here. Zee Music has other outlets, and they know it. Their audience was loyal enough before Spotify existed and will continue to listen in other means, just not on their chosen platform.
Fans have the option of not only Apple Music, but YouTube Music (not to mention YouTube itself), and Amazon Music. So, fans have plenty of options to find their favorite Bollywood songs elsewhere, which is likely to be costing Spotify subscriptions.
Spotify is definitely the party that loses out most here. Fans can go elsewhere, and so can Zee Music, so it’s in Spotify’s best interest to negotiate a license agreement as soon as possible. And a company that is as big and universally accepted as Spotify would really want to get in on communities that are otherwise untapped and not represented as much in other countries.