Spotify removes catalog of Zee Music, one of India’s largest domestic labels, due to licensing dispute

The catalog of India-based music company Zee Music has been removed from Spotify due to a licensing dispute between the two parties.

Zee is a subsidiary of Indian entertainment giant Zee Entertainment Enterprises, and specializes in both film music and originals. It claims that it “invests and acquires more than 50% of new Bollywood music”.

With 93.6 million YouTube subscribers, Zee has the second-largest YouTube channel amongst music companies in India. T-Series is No.1, with 238 million subscribers.

As reported by BBC News, the removal means that popular film soundtracks like Kala Chashma from Baar Baar Dekho, which has over 1.5  billion views across YouTube, have been removed from the Spotify service.

In a statement issued to Billboard, a Spotify spokesperson confirmed that “Spotify and Zee Music have been unable to reach a licensing agreement”.

They added: “Throughout these negotiations, Spotify has tried to find creative ways to strike a deal with Zee Music and will continue our good faith negotiations in hopes of finding a mutually agreeable solution soon.”

Billboard also reports that Zee’s catalog isn’t available on Indian music streaming service Gaana.

India is an important market for Spotify. The platform launched in India in February 2019, and subsequently confirmed in April 2019 that it had more than 2 million active users in the market.

Earlier this month, Business Insider India reported that Spotify has seen ‘a 10x-fold increase in the number of subscriptions in the market since it launched there in 2019.

Akshat Harbola, Head of Strategy at Spotify India, told the publication that  “accelerating our dual monetization engine – ad sales and premium subscription growth,” is a goal for 2023.

Harbola added in that interview that when Spotify launched in India back in 2019 music consumption on the platform “was 70% international music, now it’s 70% local music”.

In March last year, Amarjit Batra, General Manager for India at Spotify told Business Insider India: “I can say very clearly that India is among the top markets for Spotify right now.”

He added: “In fact, we are exporting some of our work being done in India to other markets and sharing some of our playbooks because some of the things we have done here are unique and could work well in other markets too.”

Spotify signed a licensing deal with India’s oldest label, Saregama, in 2020, which saw 100,000 songs from the historic record company’s catalog added to the streaming platform in the market.

The streaming company entered into a global content deal with T-Series, India’s largest homegrown record company, in 2019.

The Zee Music catalog’s removal from Spotify comes just days after news of a separate licensing dispute, between Meta and  The Italian Society of Authors and Publishers (SIAE).

SIAE, which represents tens of thousands of songwriters in Italy, issued a press release announcing that US tech giant had decided to “exclude” its music repertoire from services such as Facebook.

A Meta spokesperson told MBW that “Unfortunately we have been unable to renew our partnership agreement with SIAE”.

They added: “We continue to have music deals in more than 150 countries and remain committed to reaching an agreement with SIAE that works for everyone.”Music Business Worldwide

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