Play the Music Louder
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Gone are the days when music lovers would wait months for music labels to release the vinyl records or cassettes of their favourite albums to listen to veteran singers like Kishore Kumar or Lata Mangeshkar. Thanks to technology and the rise of explosive mobile internet growth, new music OTT players have become the easiest way to listen to music anywhere and anytime.
Technological advances have revolutionized the rhythm of music in the past decade to reach many more ears. Home-grown apps such as Gaana, JioSaavn, Wynk and Hungama are all in the race for the top slot and this competition has become steamier with the entry of players such as Spotify, Google-owned YouTube Music along with Apple Music.
According to Noida-based TechSci Research, India’s current $150 million music-streaming market is estimated to touch $400 million by 2023 but it won’t be a one-player’s game. Jay Mehta, Director—Digital Business, Sony Music Entertainment, thinks the Indian music industry needs more players to cater to the country’s massive population and there is ample headroom for growth. “For the real market shift to happen, we need both Indian and international music streaming players to put their might together for each to find a million users,” believes Mehta.
The pace of music consumption worldwide is incredible. Deeper mobile penetrations, cheaper data, over-the-top (OTT) videos and amplified interest around music streaming have all turned up the volumes in India. Today, an Indian consumer spends an average of 21.58 hours a week listening to music, surpassing the global count of 17.89 hours per week.
SWING ON TO REGIONAL TUNES
Music apps, today, are focused on innovation to deliver a great in-app experience driven by superior content curation with a sharp focus on regional music, says Sameer Batra, CEO, Wynk India. With 25.5 million monthly average users, Wynk has been working closely with artists, especially regional language artists. Industry players believe language could play a key role in the expansion of the fast-growing music industry. India has content created in over 22 official languages, only 20 per cent of which is in Hindi, with enough headroom for more languages to offer more.
Streaming apps have been improving their user interface to engage more listeners through various tech innovations. Last year, Jio and Saavn merged to become JioSaavn, a $1-billion entity. Since the merger, the platform has boosted its original offering, has on-boarded celebrities to host podcasts and has been collaborating with renowned voices to attract audience. Gaana, however, stays ahead in the race for technology innovation. Since 2011, the platform has on-boarded over 100 million users, becoming India’s largest music-streaming platform. It was not before 2014 that India developed an app-based ecosystem. Jio’s entry in 2016 further fuelled the data revolution. “JioSaavn is a consumer-focused platform that has enabled meaningful connections between consumers, content creators and advertisers since its inception,” states Vinodh Bhat, Co-founder, President & Chief Strategy Officer, JioSaavn. As an independent unit of Jio, the platform has been at the forefront of India’s evolution toward seamless mobility and built great product experiences.
Leveraging massive data sets and human judgement, JioSaavn has developed sophisticated AI/ML to deliver personalized experiences to its users across the world. “We have collaborated with leading musicians and emerging artists to give them a platform to showcase their talent to a much larger global audience,” Bhat adds.
Gaana emerged as one of the biggest beneficiaries of disrupted data prices and technology acceptance in music streaming space. “Right from simplifying the user interface to launching transliteration, as the app’s interface is available in 12 languages to launching a voice assistant a year back, we’ve been pretty much ahead of the curve,” explains Prashan Agarwal, CEO, Gaana.
GLOBAL COMPANIES,LOCAL PLAY
The roaring successes of Netflix and Amazon Prime in video streaming have proved that international brands can tap the Indian populace if they think like an Indian company. If a cue from Spotify’s grand welcome into the Indian music scene is to be taken, it is noteworthy that within a week of launching in February this year, the app had over 1 million downloads which currently stands at over 2 million.
Serving over 79 countries with 232 million global users, 108 million of which are paid subscribers, Spotify has reached the top slot in the world music streaming space and has now set its eyes on India. However, not all global music platforms have seen a successful run the way Spotify has. An example of that is Apple Music, which failed to leverage the potential of India’s music enthusiasm.
“We recognize that in India, people listen to songs in different languages. So, ensuring that the initial content is available in their language, including the local content and interaction content, also the language on-boarding and right selection of artists made it really smooth for people to start using Spotify,” mentions Amarjit Singh Batra, Managing Director, Spotify India.
CHANGING CONSUMPTION PATTERNS
Each time an industry undergoes transformation, making customers accept that change is the bigger task because of the big difference between a purchase decision and consumption. “In earlier days, when a consumer purchased a CD, there were no sources of measuring the matrix around their consumption. Today, the music creator knows what exactly the listener likes, if he is listening to the full song or pausing in between,” says Mehta.
The convenience of being able to listen to a variety of songs upon subscribing to a music-streaming service has played a huge role in this shift. Today, streaming apps allow consumers to consume as many songs as they want, from 15 to 45 million, without a bracket. Companies need to constantly keep them engaged via exclusive content, thus creating room for multiple players to co-exist and thrive.
(This article was first published in the October 2019 issue of Entrepreneur Magazine. To subscribe, click here)