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Brands Turn Up The Pitch, Vie To Be Heard

Spotify, a Swedish music services brand, has been offering a playlist for everything from a teenager’s first drive to a run along Mumbai’s Carter Road, in what it calls a hyper-contextual digital-cum-OOH campaign for its India debut. Google’s YouTube Premium, an ad-free version of its service, launched around the same time and is leaving no screen unturned in launch offers and push notifications. As the two turn up the decibel levels over their services in the country, the big question is how do brands plan to stand out in the clutter of music apps in the market today?

From Apple and Amazon to local labels Gaana, Jio, Hungama among others, the band of apps is steadily growing. And every brand worth its music says it will offer personalized listening, bulk up the content library and use technology to differentiate its fare from the rest.

Amarjit Batra, managing director-India, Spotify explains, “We believe that the market is wide open and those who provide a superior user experience will have room to grow. Today, factors such as the size and health of the national audio industry, growing creator ecosystem, increasing smartphone penetration, affordability in data, maturing paid subscription market and sheer potential of the user base present an unprecedented opportunity for growth.” Spotify claims to have crossed a 1 million subscribers within a month of its launch.

YouTube’s CEO, Susan Wojcicki announced recently that the platform has more than 265 million monthly active users in India (as per ComScore). She said, “India is now both our biggest audience and one of our fastest growing audiences in the world.” YouTube Music has an enviable library and believes that this gives it an edge over global and local rivals.

The Indian brands said that their advantage lies in the years spent understanding local tastes. Gaana, which does not reveal its number of paid subscribers, is believed to be leading the market today and Hungama is an old hand in the business. Both said that the new players would just make for a merrier bunch on stage.

“Within digital entertainment, music is one of the highest consumed services because it is not a data guzzler. This, combined with increasing smartphone penetration and inexpensive data plans, is one of the reasons why music streaming services mushroomed in India, even before the global players set foot,” said Neeraj Roy, founder and CEO, Hungama Digital Media.

Apart from ease of access that has lured many brands to the Indian market, brands are also drawn to the nature of listener behaviour. Indians make for keen listeners according to a report by Deloitte and Indian Music Industry (IMI). Indians spend 21.5 hours a week listening to music on the internet, as compared to the global average of 17.8 hours a week, the report said.

Personalisation, engaging interfaces and a sense of playing something new every day are important to bait this consumer, the brands said. YouTube Music for example relies on its video streaming parent’s personalisation feature to create playlists based on the users’ history on the app. Spotify curates daily lists while Hungama makes use of gamification in order to engage listeners.

Targeted marketing is the buzzword at Gaana. “We believe the key to keep gaining new users is to double down on investments in R&D and targeted marketing. We have already invested in advanced AI and machine learning to design personalised recommendation engines for music lovers,” said Prashan Agrawal, CEO, Gaana.

Spotify said that apart from the music library, it is also focusing on its podcast list. “Globally, we also have a robust podcast strategy, and while it’s still early days in India, we do see our value proposition, supported by the acquisitions we’ve made, position us ahead of the game. There’s much work to be done, though,” Batra said.­

Digital tunes

  • In India, 60% of digital revenue comes from ad-supported and subscription streams
  • Streaming penetration for India is way below that of the rest of the world at 6.4%; the UK is 25.3% and the USA is 47.3%
  • India is in the Top 20 (Rank: 16) list of countries ranked by revenue from streaming services.―Business Standard
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