Viet Nam News
by Bảo Hoa
The online music market in Việt Nam recently welcomed a new member: the music streaming service Spotify.
Originating in Sweden, Spotify is currently the world’s largest music streaming service, with some 157 million users. In Việt Nam, Spotify offers two types of accounts: free and premium (paid) at VNĐ59,000 (US$2.6) per month. Paid users can enjoy better-quality songs without being interrupted by advertisements and download the songs onto their devices, with unlimited skips and other perks.
Launched on March 13 in HCM City, the newbie set a high objective for itself: change the way Vietnamese people listen to music.
Speaking at the launch ceremony on the habit of listening to “unlicensed music” in Việt Nam, Sunita Kaur, Spotify’s Managing Director for Asia, said the service’s “first and foremost objective is to fight against [it]”, VnExpress.net reported. “We want to create a safe and legal musical playground,” Kaur was quoted as saying.
I interpreted it this way: Spotify wants people to listen to copyrighted music that requires royalty payment. This is a fine objective, but I think it is too ambitious in Việt Nam’s context for two reasons.
First, old habits die hard. Free music streaming websites have been here for more than a decade, and people have not got so used to them that it’s hard to change. It was not until some two years ago that the two major Vietnamese music streaming applications, Zing Mp3 and Nhaccuatui, started to offer premium accounts, and they have been struggling to convert free users to paying users ever since.
Second, the fact that songs are still available for free users denies them the motivation to pay. “Freemium” (providing a service for free but charging money for additional features) is a good pricing strategy, but a lot of people remain satisfied with the “free” parts and do not feel the need for the “premium” ones.
Twenty-six-year-old Tăng Minh, a resident of Hà Nội, says he will not upgrade to a premium Spotify account because he does not need additional features. “I only use the service while at work so I don’t need to download the songs. I also don’t care much about [the songs’] quality,” he says.
My Nguyễn, 26, also from Hà Nội, says a free account is good enough for her. “Spending VNĐ59,000 per month means VNĐ2,000 per day for songs that are automatically available with a Wi-fi connection. Since Wi-Fi is available everywhere nowadays, I find it unnecessary to buy a premium account,” she says.
The fact that Vietnamese audiences are in favour of free music shows that they do not care much about royalty payment and copyright issues.
Paying royalties is a way to recognise the efforts artistes put into their work. But since intellectual property is such an intangible concept, it is difficult to communicate to the people about the importance of intellectual property protection.
Efforts have been made by domestic copyright agencies. In April 2017, the Recording Industry Association of Việt Nam started collecting royalties from karaoke parlours at the rate of VNĐ2,000 per song, while in May 2017, the Việt Nam Centre for Protection of Music Copyright started collecting royalties based on the number of televisions used in restaurants and hotels to broadcast music. However, they were met with strong criticisms from the users despite having solid legal foundations.
Long story short: Spotify will not be able to stop Vietnamese audiences from enjoying music and not paying for it without the support of other service providers, copyright agencies, the State, communicators, even the artistes. This should be a long-term, step-by-step collaboration, starting from raising awareness on copyright and royalty payment.
On the bright side, I have seen several friends exclaim on social media how they love Spotify and would upgrade to premium accounts after their free trials expire.
Ngọc Lan, 25, from Hà Nội, says her motivation to become a paid user is “the love for music, for quality productions and respect for the artistes’ creativity and passion”.
Nam Phương, 26, a part-time singer in HCM City, says: “Nowadays, artistes make a living mostly from chart positions and number of streams. It’s time we understood that we have to be responsible when using their products and recognise their efforts by paying them.”
Our hope begins with these people. VNS