The last few years have seen handheld gadgets, especially smartphones, take the music experience to a new level. Long after Napster made digital music shareable and iTunes legally downloadable, music streaming apps legitimised download and personalised music, on just about any hand- held device.
Trying to hit the right notes with the Indian consumer, the likes of Saavn, Wynk, Hungama are lining up ways to differentiate themselves in 2015. Players such as Saavn, Gaana and Wynk have been running their promotional campaigns as well.
For a start, it is not difficult to figure out that Hindi film ( Bollywood) music still rules the roost in user preference. But as smartphones, and more importantly connectivity, reach the remotest corners, content in vernacular languages rise in popularity. Siddartha Roy, CEO, Hungama. com, an Indian brand established in 1999, says: “ When you choose a language of preference for browsing in the app, the content automatically changes to that language.
Connectivity has gone uptil mid- India. A Guntur or a Vijayawada, therefore, may not have a big English- speaking user group. So, providing a local language in such areas is useful.” Saavn, a US- based Indian digital music service, also has its finger on the local pulse. “ Bollywood is one of our most popular genres; there’s no doubt about that. After Bollywood, the most popular streaming languages on Saavn are English, Telugu, Tamil, and Punjabi. It’s not too surprising, as these are the most prolific film and music industries. We’ve seen each of the regional languages increase by multiples this year since we’ve surfaced them on the home screen of our apps,” its spokesperson says.
With Google’s Android being the most popular platform, Saavn’s 10,000,000- 50,000,000 downloads range makes it the most popular app on the Play Store ( though these are not India- specific numbers but most of these players target the Indian user with their content). “ Being an American company that’s succeeding in India, definitely gives us a unique perspective. We get a lot of emotional who’ve found songs they’ve been searching for for decades. So, in terms of fulfilment, it certainly has paid off,” the Saavn spokesperson says. Hungama’s count is around 5,000,000- 10,000,000 downloads, same as Times Internet Limited’s Gaana, on the Android app store. Launched in September, 2013, Airtel’s Wynk is one of the newer entrants, but already has 1,000,000- 5,000,000 downloads.
The app brands are now trying to make their services stickier. For example, Saavn, is taking to exclusive releases. “ In 2015, we’ll continue to focus on organic user- growth and innovation, across our current suite of products, as well as with afew new products and features that we’re really excited about. We do exclusive releases often as our ‘ Hear it First on Saavn’ initiative. Most recently, we tiedup exclusive release of the single ‘ Khamoshiyan’ by playback singer Arijit Singh.” its spokesperson says.
Home- grown Hungama has chosen to focus on easing an Indian dilemma – online payments, for subscriptions.
Roy says, “ We are looking at a paid environment and looking to provide a more premium experience to the users. We offer an experience for as little as Rs 5, daily. Moreover, we are working closely with telecom companies to make the user experience far more seamless. Micro- charge payment systems will also play a key role in the future.” While no rival to YouTube, Hungama is also looking to grow its video consumption. It sees 60 per cent of its usage in the form of videos.
Wynk, too, has gone ahead with subscriptions. It allows users to purchase individual songs, starting at Rs 5. With a monthly subscription, users can cache and download unlimited songs to play offline. It offers two plans: ‘ Wynk Plus’ and ‘ Wynk Freedom’ ( unlimited downloads and no additional data charges on streaming or downloading). The app offers free first- month subscription to all the users.
But apps also realise the importance of keeping some features free of charge. Ads, sponsor partners and in- app rewards have been key for these music streaming services to make some or in some cases, major, features free of charge. “ Our ad units play a huge role in our business model. They’re how we keep the music free or affordable for music lovers, while keeping the revenue away from piracy services and flowing to the rightful owners – labels and artists. We’ve allowed brands to engage with our users – not just a banner ad. And with our bundled media approach on our web platform, which allows a brand to ‘ own’ an entire channel for a day, advertisers are seeing serious results. We’ve recently added advertising partners such as Bacardi, Apple, Microsoft and Nissan,” the Saavn spokesperson explains.
Hungama lets users discover music, watch videos and earn rewards. “ The app has been well- received by the users. The app provides unlimited caching and for every action the user performs on the app, she gets coins that can be redeemed, even for real- world goods,” says Roy.
However, these players are not without international competition. The likes of Spotify, Guvera, Shazam, Soundcloud, TuneIn and LastFm too have seen downloads in India, and some pack in extra features such as music recognition and wide- ranging radio stations.
To connect instantly with the Indian crowd, the India- focused apps have launched their promotional campaigns. Gaana. com has its ubiquitous “Ab bajna chahiye gaana” ( The music should now play), Wynk is running its “ Music badlo, mood baldo” (change the music, change your mood), underlining its offer of variety and Saavn had its campaign with actor Ranbir Kapoor, talking about why streaming music is better than illegal music sharing.
With a lot of noise around them, 2015 will spell out whether these brands are able to monetise their services in a sturdier fashion or not.