Spotify, the European online music-streaming service backed by Li Ka-shing, has stepped up its expansion into Asia by opening yesterday in Hong Kong, Singapore and Malaysia.
It is the world's leading music-streaming service, with more than 24 million users and 20 million tracks available on demand.
The international roll-out this week included launches in Mexico, Latvia, Estonia and Iceland, which brings the service to 28 markets worldwide.
Founded in Stockholm in 2006, Spotify made its debut in October 2008 after securing deals with a range of major and independent record labels. This year, it expects to pay about US$500 million to music-rights holders.
Registered users can access and listen to the firm's vast digital music catalogue for free, with advertising between tracks, on their desktop computers. Users can share their tracks and playlists with other Spotify users via Facebook and Twitter.
Spotify general manager Jonathan Forster said Hong Kong music fans could also try its premium subscription for HK$48 a month, which has no advertising.
Other premium features are the ability to download and access tracks offline, and service availability on all of a subscriber's devices, including smartphone, media tablet and internet-linked "smart" television.
Forster said the service, which added about 20,000 new tracks a day, already has a sizeable catalogue of tracks from Hong Kong and Taiwan at launch.
Market research firm Ovum has forecast the global digital music market to hit US$20 billion in revenue by 2015, driven by subscription services such as Spotify.
Forster said Spotify had no immediate plans to pursue projects with any Li-owned companies. "After we launch, we'll see what happens in this market and then we'll get a sense of the sorts of partnerships that will be valuable here," he told the South China Morning Post. "It is our perspective that the product should do the talking."
But he added that many of Spotify's partnerships have been with telecommunications service providers in the markets where it is available. "We probably have more telco deals than any other streaming service," Forster said.
Li was an early investor in Spotify through his charitable institution. The Li Ka-shing Foundation has confirmed its participation in Spotify's first two rounds of financing in 2008 and 2009. The foundation had no comment on whether it has made any additional investments.
Spotify, which has its corporate headquarters in London, last year completed a US$100 million round of financing that put the company's valuation at US$3 billion. It has obtained US$288 million in total investments through five rounds of fundraising since it was founded.