Over the last 10 years, Spanish music consumption has increased an average of 70% globally, and 129% in Latin America. This month, Spotify LATAM managing director Mia Nygren celebrates the company’s 10th anniversary in the region with over 120 million of the 574 million subscribers in the world (as per third quarter figures.)
“I had pretty wild dreams, because I had already seen it with my own eyes from my previous job and from Spotify in Europe, so I knew this was going to work,” says the Swedish streaming giant executive. “But obviously today, being able to say that there are a number of users in the region that represents more than 21% of everything we have globally, which also includes paying users, I couldn’t imagine,” she adds.
This is remarkable considering that 10 years ago, “80% of the music consumption in the region was pirated,” she notes.
And not only the way music is consumed changed, but also the kind of music. According to local data provided by Spotify, in 2013 only 25% of the 100 most listened to songs in Argentina were in Spanish, while today this percentage represents 94%. In Colombia, it went from 36% in 2013 to 87% in 2023. And in Mexico from 49% to 88%.
Nygren — who was born in Stockholm, studied in Belgium and worked in Spain and Brazil before settling in Miami and joining Spotify more than a decade ago — is responsible for the company’s performance in the region in terms of active users and everything that generates revenue. She is also involved in hiring and building local teams, with presence in Brazil, Mexico, Colombia, Argentina and Miami. And she supervises the connection and collaboration between the different areas of the company, from music to public relations, marketing, sales, podcasts, and more.
She recently spoke with Billboard Español, who named her Ejecutiva del Mes (Executive of the Month) for December 2023.
What has been the biggest challenge in reaching this 10th anniversary and how did you overcome it?
When we entered the market in the world in general, but in Latin America in particular, the industry was at the edge of the precipice, because there was a lot of piracy — 80% of the music consumption in the region was pirated. So, we came here with the idea of [promoting] a lot of education, of going around all the countries and explaining what Spotify is not only to the user, but rather to the creative community. It was a tremendous job because there was a little bit of, I don’t want to say resistance, but maybe our entire business model wasn’t very well understood. We have the free part, and it was a little scary to say “How are we going to give our content for free? How is it going to be monetized?”, but we already knew that we were very good at converting these users to Premium.
The timing to enter Latin America was good for us, because we had already existed in Europe for more than five, six years, we entered the United States in 2011, and when we arrived here in 2013 the industry knew what we had done, so they were very willing to help us explain this. Furthermore, in Latin America, the adoption of streaming and the understanding of streaming was tremendously fast: When we got here, the 0% of the revenue that was generated for the recorded music industry was nothing. Ten years later, more than 95% of all revenue generated for recorded music comes from streaming.
Now, this came with a very dedicated work and conviction that we had to focus on a very particular segment of users when we entered Latin America. We identified where the centers of gravity were, first in the big cities… Mexico City, Sao Paulo, Bogota, etc. And within these cities we were also very much looking for people who had a slightly more pronounced willingness to pay. So for us it was, “we are going to go first for these users who are going to generate more money more quickly, and then we are going to go down the socioeconomic pyramids a little bit.” That has worked very well for us.
How does user behavior in Latin America differ from other countries?
They consume much more. It’s a cultural trait that cannot be easily exported, because it is within the general Latin American culture. We clearly see that, for example in Mexico, the user consumes 30% more than a global user, and all Latin American countries are at the forefront of hourly consumption on a monthly basis.
Also, when we entered here 10 years ago, more or less 70% of what was consumed on the platform at the beginning was foreign music in English. Ten years later, the tables have turned: 70% is music in Spanish.
Spotify playlists have a direct effect on the number of streams. How is this different from the old days airplay?
Playlists are extremely effective and important. You think of playlists and you think of Spotify, which ultimately is something that we have pushed for and created and we love to see, above all, how the users themselves create playlists in abundance. We have more than 5 billion playlists on the platform today. Compared to airplay, we could not measure it in the same way that we can measure the use of a playlist, so I believe that the data today is a little closer to reality.
With so many releases, how can an artist stand out in such a broad landscape?
It is wonderful to be able to offer the opportunity to any type of artist to connect to the platform and have 574 million users at their disposal. But as you say, how can one stand out there, right? Because in the end there are 100,000 songs, more or less, that enter the platform every day. We are extremely obsessed with providing them with tools [such as Spotify for Artists, or Spotify for Podcasters] so that they can analyze well where their audience is. […] It is very important to understand how users use and listen to your music, and thus create this relationship with your fan base. Obviously the talent has to be there, and there is a lot of talent, I’m not saying there isn’t; but then you have to accompany it with timing, understand very well how your social media work, when to release the songs, etc. It’s tremendous work, actually. Is not easy.
What would you say has been the greatest achievement for Spotify in Latin America and the Spanish-speaking market globally?
There is always a personal achievement and a professional achievement, but in my case the two things are very much intertwined. Being here after 10 years still with so much enthusiasm, and seeing such an important and bright future for this part of the world, I think it is the most important thing that can be conveyed today. The truth is that we feel tremendously privileged to represent the region, to see that there is a very great possibility of growth, and to see that artists are reaching places that could never have been imagined. Everything that is content in Spanish and Portuguese has been positioned in a way that could not be imagined, and of course, being part of that historic movement is a tremendously gratifying achievement.
The company has managed very well to be this global platform with the beauty that this entails, the responsibility that this entails, but it also allows us to be tremendously hyperlocal, and I believe that this is part of the success in some way. In Argentina we can be Argentine, but we can also take advantage and see what we can do for the Argentine user or for the Argentine talent so that they have the possibility of traveling further afield. So, I think we have that balance between global and local pretty well figured out.
What’s next for Spotify LATAM?
A lot of things are coming. We spend all day thinking about how we can improve the experience for the user and how we can improve it for the creator, and I believe that the most important thing that is going to come has a lot to do with the product. We are going to be investing a lot in these improvements, we are going to see possibilities of expression that could never be imagined. I know that we are talking about topics that are perhaps a little more complex to understand such as artificial intelligence, etc., but we also see that there are tremendous opportunities to make personalized recommendations. For example, we have something called AI DJ available in the U.S. and in a couple other countries that is also going to be developed in Latin America, where we can improve this recommendation engine, because recommendations is one of the features that our users appreciate the most.
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