Great India Drive

Pushing musical limit

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Pushing musical limit

Sunday, 22 September 2019 | Shalini Saksena

Pushing musical limit

SHALINI SAKSENA speaks with digital audio service providers who talk about what the listeners want, the challenges and growing popularity of podcasting

From listening to songs on LP to radio to audio cassettes iPods to digital music service providers, people who love to listen to music have never had it better. This streaming has been evolving over the years with the most changes coming in the last five years.

Streaming has fundamentally revolutionised the business of music and the experience for creators and fans alike. Today, it’s an expression of individuality, a global platform of cultural exchange, a social form of engagement, and a way to enhance moods and moments.

With the rapid Internet penetration, more and more people are moving from illegal means of music streaming to free, legal platforms. However, in India that journey is still far from over, but it is believed that easier access to streaming services, in-app personalisation, ability to discover music, and the general experience of using intuitive apps will lead to more users shifting to legal music streaming in the near future.

Amarjit Batra, Managing Director India, Spotify tells you that there are challenges here. “When we talk about India, the country’s rich heritage, diversity of cultures and multiplicity of languages, and access to global cultures translates to a huge range of preferences, necessitating agility in delivering a unique experience for each user. With over 50 million songs and three billion playlists, we are creating an experience that’s constantly refreshed,” Batra says.

Consumers today aren’t just looking for favourite tracks, but for newer recommendations based on what they already listen to, or sometimes, new sounds altogether.” Our AI framework ensures that users are offered curated audio experiences that are new, yet familiar,” Batra says.

Second, is piracy. This stems from the fact that we are a price conscious market, and to address this, we introduced an industry leading free tier, and multiple subscription based tiers that make sense for our local users. Third, is the devices and quality of network connectivity across the country.

Batra tells you that the future of audio is limitless. Therefore, there is potential growth of podcasts as a new form of audio storytelling is garnering steady popularity amongst the urban audio streamers in the country.

“Podcasts are an intimate form of storytelling, and listeners are invested in it because it’s almost like someone talking to you. Globally, we’ve seen a 50 per cent podcast audience growth Q-on-Q; while its still early days in our country, we have seen trend around content themed to self-motivation, true crime, mythology and education,” Batra says.

The top five most streamed podcasts are On Purpose with Jay Shetty, Views with David Dobrik and Jason Nash, The Misfits Podcast, Audio Book and Sleepy.

What is that the listeners want today? “A few interesting insights has highlighted that the user mentality in India has matured from just consuming favourite songs and familiar artists to experiencing music that is more personalised through taste-specific discoveries and recommendations. While Bollywood reigns supreme in consumption, GenZ is curious and open to expanding their taste in music. They are discovering new artists and genres, contributing to a significant rise in K-POP, Punjabi, Hip-Hop Latin Pop, and EDM.

The consumer is spoilt for choice and they will go to brands that listen to them, engage with them, give them audio content in a way that is personalised, intuitive, and brings a seamless user experience,” Batra explains.

Agrees Prashan Agarwal, CEO Gaana. “Listeners expect something new each day. We have launched several industry-first steps in that regard — be it making the app interface live in 12 languages, being the first music app to introduce in-app voice assistant, introducing sing-along lyrics on the player page, smart downloads, where the app will automatically download a premium user’s favourite tracks based on their listening history. We have launched aana videos recently,” Agarwal says.

He opines that the country’s music streaming space has evolved significantly in terms of content consumption and tech innovation. “On the content consumption side, while Hindi continues to be leading the consumption — regional music now contributes to 35 per cent of the overall consumption, led by Punjabi music at 15 per cent at Gaana. “On the tech front, the most remarkable innovation is in widespread voice search adoption and cutting-edge tech like AI and Machine Learning that now help us offer a more personalised music experience,” Agarwal says and tells you that they are steadily making their way into podcasts and the originals space.

“These genres allow us the flexibility to be creative and cater to certain niche audiences that we wouldn’t have otherwise been able to reach, while offering us a great way to retain users over a longer period of time.  The content consumption patterns of these niche categories also show immense promise to be integrated into the mainstream in about a year or two. That is exactly why even they require a great deal of front-loaded investment, we are committed to both,” Agarwal says.

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