In the year 1996, Michael Jackson had arrived in India for the first time. The fans were thrilled at the prospects of seeing the King of Pop live in action. Mega stars such as Michael rarely navigated to India & the fan response was unprecedented. The streets of the newly named city of Mumbai were filled with fans. The show was a stellar success and is still recalled as one of the greatest shows by Michael.
Cut to 2019, 23 years later, the scene is completely different. In the coming few months, not one but two superstars will arrive in India- Katy Perry and Dua Lipa will be performing in Mumbai. The two singers will be headlining a music festival in the city of dreams. While this is Katy’s second visit, Dua Lipa is visiting India for the first time.
India, today, no longer is a distant market for the Music industry and companies all over the world are willing to invest big. Multimedia corporate bigwigs such as YouTube and Spotify are leaving no stone unturned to reach out to the 1.3 billion strong nation.
What favours India?
Thanks to the humongous growth of IT sector and fierce telecommunication sector rivalry, data prices in India is the cheapest in the world. A user is likely to pay 200 rupees for 48 gb of data per month, far lower than global average. What’s also important to note is India’s rising interest in Western pop culture makes the country a strategic investment spot.
The big players in the game of music streaming include YouTube, Apple Music, JioSaavn, Gaana, Hungama, Sound Cloud, Amazon Prime and Spotify. However it will not be a cake walk for these companies to set up business in India. India still hasn’t warmed up to the idea of music streaming. Many still prefer listening to the radio, plus local music companies are here to provide a tough competition. Remember PewDiePie vs T-Series saga? T-Series went all out beat a YouTuber in the bid to conquer the number one spot.
The other big problem are the diverse languages spoken in India, while it may be easy to conquer the market in North, given the excessive use of Hindi, but down South and in the NorthEast multiple languages are spoken. Also there is a huge divide in what urban and rural India consumes. Companies will have to look into each state and come up with a strategy to capture the market. This will not be an easy task to achieve.
The other big factor to watch out for is the price. Companies like Spotify and Apple make users pay for the content, while Spotify charges approximately 13 rupees per day, Apple usually seeks per song payment, but in India they are trying to incorporate the pay per month module. Expecting the audience to change their spending habits will be a tough task for many companies. Remember, companies like Netflix and Amazon are struggling to reach to wide audience due to this model, while hotstar has a wider reach due to it’s free Content in some genres.
But as the companies try to woo the customers, there is one more audience they need to be aware of- the singers & the music composers. Singers in the bollywood and other regional markets are highly underpaid. If streaming apps need an edge over their content, then they will have to enter in exclusive deals with the content creators. They will have to pay big money to lock in these deals. Whether or not it’s an investment they are willing to make remains to be seen.
In America, several singers such as Taylor Swift refused to tie up with Apple over payment issues. These music streaming apps will have to avoid such issues here in order to avoid the negative press coverage. The other big issue concerning the music industry in India is piracy. Use of apps can lead to leaks of audio clippings of songs. How they battle this will be a upheaval task.
Podcasts have also generated a huge buzz in the recent times, today India is the third largest consumer of podcasts, we are only behind US and China. These apps should also venture into this category. But can they diversify or stick to the original genre of music remains to be seen.
India is a underrated and unexplored market in International arena but what remains to be seen is- are the consumers ready for this big change. Will they change their habits? Will they invest in good quality music that they pay for? Only the future can reveal this answer, but the corporates have a big task ahead of themselves