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COVID slows revenue growth for audio streaming sites

With multiple lockdowns, curbs on mobility and unavailability of fresh Hindi film music, which comprises 60% of all consumed content, audio streaming platforms are seeing a sharp decline in revenue growth rates.

In 2020, audio streaming grew only 15% over 2019, as opposed to 35% in 2019 over 2018. In 2021, the audio streaming sector is projected to grow only at about 11% compared to pre-pandemic growth rates, said two senior executives at music labels and streaming services.

“The widespread lockdown and the second wave have been a damper for the mood of the consumer and the entertainment industry, including audio streaming,” said Gautam Sinha, CEO, Times Internet and Gaana.

To be sure, the April and May lockdown, caused by a severe spike in covid cases and casualties left consumers with little time to explore entertainment options as millions of households were affected by the pandemic.

Besides, Sinha said that there’s a huge (content) lag from the film industry even though some music came from films and series releasing on OTT platforms like Ludo and Bandish Bandits. “But overall, the volume and interest have been low,” he said, adding that the gap is being taken care of by non-film music with the service having seen growth in consumption of indie music in Tamil, Hindi and English as well as retro music across languages.

“The audio streaming market has definitely not grown the way video has. Not only do people have multiple entertainment options to choose from, most can only subscribe to two or three services,” said Shahir Muneer, founder and director at Divo Music, a south Indian media and music company.

While Tamil, Telugu, and Kannada films released earlier this year have helped bolster soundtrack offerings for the past few weeks, the immediate worry is regarding the content pipeline for the next couple of months given that most big films, especially in Hindi, are likely to delay releases, Muneer said.

According to the Ficci EY media and entertainment industry report released in March this year, the Indian music segment was valued at ₹1,530 crore in 2020.

Streaming apps have a base of approximately 200 million active monthly users, but the paid subscriber base is still around 2 million. Piracy continues to be the biggest challenge plaguing the music ecosystem, dealing a 67% blow to revenues. Paid music OTT subscribers are expected to cross 5 million by 2023 and generate revenues of Rs. 180 crore.

A JioSaavn spokesperson said there’s been a spike in nostalgic music listenership with users tuning into catalogue content from Arijit Singh to S. P. Balasubrahmanyam. Even podcast consumption in scripted fiction content has grown.

Listeners have continued discovering new music on Spotify in the second lockdown, including multi-lingual independent music, Punjabi pop, and international, predominantly pop and K-Pop music, said a company’s spokesperson.

Further, Spotify is also running its own program – RADAR — for emerging, independent artistes in India.

The flipside to the lockdown is that certain formats like live performances and stand up shows are not happening so the format of live streaming an event or performance has become very popular amongst audiences, said Gaana’s Sinha.

“As things have settled down, we have seen people return to their routine and music consumption during the day either while working or studying has seen a growth. This is also because audio is not only music now, but also instrumental or ambient music, motivational and business podcasts,” Sinha added. Live Mint

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