Music-Streaming players raise the volume in India

Roughly three weeks after the Stockholm-based Spotify launched its operations in India, the Google-owned YouTube Music also made its India debut on March 12.

The new music entrants will now compete with Apple’s iTunes, Amazon Music, and the homegrown rivals like Gaana, JioSaavn, and Hungama. Spotify has brought the flexible pre-paid plans in India and is offering its subscription plans start from Rs 119 ($1.67).  YouTube Music has kept competitively priced its premium plans at just Rs 99 ($1.44).

The commercial interest in India’s music-streaming segment has been rising lately. The over-the-top (OTT) industry is riding high on success due to the penetration of smartphones and affordability of internet data prices.

Experts believe that the music streaming is the next frontier after on-demand video industry. Hence, the players are challenging to tap into the space.

OTT boom in India

The OTT boom in India is fuelled by Reliance Jio – the telecom firm promoted by India’s richest man. Reliance Jio has made streaming popular not in big metros and smaller towns in India with its nearly-free data charges.

Cheap data plans gave broad way to the coming of video-streaming apps like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, and Hotstar. These apps already have millions of subscribers. And experts believe that the music-streaming platforms could achieve an even greater success.

Why Music apps?

We are living in times where we need our phones for all of our daily needs. One manages office, home, shopping, and entertainment – everything over the phone.   

Music apps are becoming quite popular because unlike most of the apps, which are immersive, music apps can work in the background too.

One can be on WhatsApp, or on Facebook, or surfing internet, but can still consume audio. One can even use the app to play songs while driving. The offscreen format is a big thumbs-up for the music apps.  

The Musical India

Music is a popular category for entertainment in India. An Indian consumer spends nearly 21.5 hours/week listening to music, while the global average is 17.8 hours/week, says a report by Deloitte and Indian Music Industry (IMI).

But is India ready to pay?

India’s $150 million music-streaming market is estimated to touch $400 million by 2023, according to Noida-based TechSci Research.

However, nine in 10 Indians are unwilling to pay for the service, adds the report.

The companies heading India are well aware of this trend. Spotify is wooing Indians by giving them way more free features than anywhere else in the world. None of the plans by any provider average above Rs 99/month in India except for Apple’s that has priced it at Rs 120/month ($1.74) against the $10/month plan in the US and Spotify with a tag of Rs 119/month.

Despite the low prices, paid subscribers for these services are few. Experts say that India took a long time to embrace e-commerce, paying for services will take even more time.

What can be offered

The service providers are now trying regional language capabilities, personalised recommendations, and are enabling service availability on multiple devices to take a bigger bite of the pie.

While the music companies are happy to license their titles to whosoever, there needs to be some original programming behind a paywall, says a senior consultant at Deloitte. It is this originality that will make consumers to choose one app over the other.

Multiple players in music

Unlike videos, which require huge capital and are expensive to produce, the barriers to enter music streaming are far fewer.

It won’t be surprising if even more companies enter the fray in the near future.

The players will also consolidate to expand their offerings. By December last year, Jio and Saavn had already merged to become a $1 billion entity. Then it grew massively to become second only to Google Play Music.

The users may expect some freebies in the short run, but subscriptions will crawl in as the market matures. The players will co-exist only by making money through subscriptions. However, the subscription models will put the power into the hands of consumers, and companies will have to constantly keep them engaged through exclusive content.