India has always been a land of music lovers; we produce the largest number of films in the world, which unsurprisingly have been dubbed by the western world as “musicals”. We make films, where songs and dance sequences play a crucial and vital role to the plot of the film as well as its success at the box office. And I’m not talking here, solely about the Hindi film industry “Bollywood”, but also about the large number of regional film fraternities mass producing “musicals” in languages, as varied as Tamil and Telugu, Punjabi and Bhojpuri. Seeing this trend, one could easily assume that music should be a good business in the country where artists and record labels earn bucket loads of money and are happy producing more songs. Right?
Churning out music, countlessly (Image credit: Getty Images)
Wrong. The music scenario in India is in stark contrast to the rosy picture painted by the songs in the movies. It is plagued by piracy. The artist revenue is falling by the day, and if data and statistics are anything to go by, then a vast majority of the music in the country is illegal and lack of proper retail channels, among other reasons act as deterrent for consumers who are willing to spend money for the music they want to listen to.
Recent times have seen an upsurge of music centric online retail stores and music streaming services to satisfy the ever increasing demand of the audiophiles. Music streaming services, like Saavn and the Times group backed Gaana.com have cropped up, offering consumers a way to stream popular music, legally. Their tie up with Facebook Open Graph has ensured that that their popularity continues to grow amongst music listeners. Gaana.com offers more choices for the consumers in a host of regional languages, along with an interface that is appealing.
On the other hand, Hungama.com and Flipkart’s Flyte are offering consumers a way to actually buy the music that they love DRM-free, instead of streaming it. In this case, Hungama.com offers a number of competitive packages, much like a mobile recharge. So you could buy a month long unlimited downloading package or you could pay Rs.99 and buy music, wallpapers or ringtones worth that amount, which essentially translates to dirt cheap Re.1 per song. This sure would act as incentive for consumers who would find it easier to pay small money upfront and have all of their music purchases located at one central point. Flyte, on the other hand offers a better choice for regional music lovers, along with international songs. Their biggest strength lies in the mobile wallet and offering a variety of bitrates for the consumers.
Even though these services are rapidly gaining mainstream traction, consumers are slowly finding that streaming music is free for most parts and buying songs is much easier, than the hassles and legal complications of downloading the music illegally. But, we still need a shift in the mindsets of the service providers who are still governed by archaic ideologies. For example, it doesn’t make any sense to offer a DRM-free song and then put a download limit on it. When the consumer could very easily download the song once and put it in his Dropbox account, which makes it accessible from anywhere in the world. Music providers must have a cloud music locker, so that the consumers can have all of his music that he bought legally at the tip of his fingers.
Gaining popularity (Image credit: Getty Images)
Invest time and money seeing the consumers’ patterns. Music service demands an ecosystem and a community. For the music streaming service, a web app for desktops, along with its equivalent app for mobile devices is the least they could do for the consumers. For the music retail websites, a hassle free mode would be one click payment at an appropriate price point with a no downloads restriction. Services like Flyte should essentially also have a desktop music player to enhance its branding and offer the consumers a choice to play their purchased collection.
Convergence of streaming and buying music is equally important. Both of these services act as standalone entities here. Friend recommendation and music discovery plays a crucial role in streaming services, but the lack of an ecosystem results in the fact that the consumer after liking a new song has to shift his focus to a new service for buying it. Music moguls and media czars should treat the music listeners as potential consumers than pirates who only want to rip-off their music, if they want to really tackle piracy.
I really hope these services take off in India and we reach a point in the future where it is so much easier to legally buy a song or stream it that even the thought about pirating songs seems, like a turn off. In the end, the artists need to be happy that they have got the appropriate credit and monetary due for their labour. If it is done correctly, then the listeners would be more than happy to pay for their favourite artists and enjoy them, rather than shamelessly ripping the songs.
Till then the Whitney Houston collection on gaana.com sounds like an exciting proposition for me.
You can connect with Gurpreet Bedi on Twitter @grprtbedi.