A Battle For Compatibility: India’s Tryst With The Global Music Streaming Giants
India has become a beloved market for global audio streaming platforms like Spotify & Youtube Music
Divya Singh Raghuvanshi
In 1877, Thomas Alva Edison established the Phonograph, one of his groundbreaking inventions and the first-ever sound-recording device. What followed is a revolution in the world of music from a media POV. From vinyl records to cassettes, and CDs to online music streaming platforms, we have come a long way in the timeline of music consumption devices.
The internet continues to astonish users with newer technologies and wider possibilities of experiencing content than ever before. The idea of streaming music online has become a sensation globally and is now penetrating the market in India rather robustly. Look around, and you will witness the digitally active generation, both in the urban as well as the countryside of India, vibing to the new tunes of their favorite artists on their mobile devices day in and day out. What seems to have clicked with the global music streaming giants that they are seeking the Indian music consumers proactively?
Drawing a parallel between emerging pop-culture in India and global music streaming platforms
In India, an average audio OTT content consumer listens to 21.5 hours per week of music according to Music Consumer Study 2018. It is quite high by global standards. A few home-nurtured music streaming platforms that have successfully garnered traction of subscribers in India are Gaana, JioSaavn, and Wynk. But over the past few years, penetration of global music streaming giants like Spotify, Youtube Music, Amazon Prime Music, Shazam, Soundcloud, and Apple Music has become a milestone in the audio OTT industry of India. The significant contribution of these platforms lies in the prosperity of pop-culture content that is now doing the rounds in India more than ever.
The music labels from around the world, huge and small, curate their artists on these platforms. The regional artists and diverse vernaculars evidently come to the spotlight due to music streaming platforms curating their content. In the year 2018, the music streaming market in India was valued at a whopping $280 million. This suggests that the Indian listener is willing to invest their time and money in music streaming platforms which act as an optimum entertainment option for them. Brand retention also increases due to the amount of music/artist aggregation that these platforms provide the consumers with.
Teenagers in India know their taste in music better than ever before because of the exposure that the music streaming platforms bring with them. The country’s youth is culturally aware of the artists from the gullies that they possibly wouldn’t have known existed, had it not been for their music being curated on the audio OTT platforms. It is said that music connects the world, and the very truth has never been more evident before this day.
The phone application downloads for these platforms have increased because of the exponential increase in the smartphone users which is expected to reach 829 million by 2022, according to IMI and Deloitte India’s report. It’s a digital revolution and enhanced utilization of AI technology is only making the customer experience improve by manifolds. The world leaders in audio OTT have realized that success in a market like India will only be possible with empathy towards the huge diversity of their target audience.
‘What’s in it for me?’: A compatibility test by the listeners in India
For a customer, it all boils down to two aspects: the product/service must reasonably cater to their core need, and the user experience must be personalized. The top global players as of today which are not shying away from the battle to win the Indian market are Spotify, YouTube Music, Apple Music, and Amazon Prime Music.
The most awaited entry of the global music streaming giant Spotify in India was an outstanding event last year. The Sweden-born brand Spotify knew that this market is an altogether different ball game. Given the diverse cultural subtleties, they understood that India must be considered a continent in itself. Hence, their approach has been glocal in nature. Spotify has made its stance in the world for quirky campaigns and unparalleled music recommendation algorithms.
Neha Ahuja, Head of Marketing for Spotify India states that almost a year after its introduction in India, the brand has witnessed a distinctive growth in terms of curated music, product improvement, and creative brand campaigning. Spotify continues the legacy in India with personalizing playlists for western, regional and fusion music listeners. With 10 languages and over 50 million tracks, Spotify allows the Indian consumer to access as many as 3B+ playlists and seamless user experience, to say the least. Apart from the aforementioned features available for free but with ad integrations, Spotify Premium service is trying to find its way in the market gradually.
YouTube Music is the toughest competitor for Spotify on this battleground. The brand has been a late-bloomer in India but within a year of its launch, YouTube Music has become a top choice for many listeners. The music library, for one, is the hot deal. A consumer can access limitless music, be it original tracks, global or regional music, albums, cover versions, live concert, music videos, and podcasts on this platform.
What else? The shareability of content is easy. Playlist personalization is another feature that makes YouTube Music a viable option. Although, since the categorization and search-focussed approach to a wide pool of content is not yet strong, the user experience might become messy. The YouTube Music Premium comes at a competitive price of INR 99/mo. This music streaming platform has earned discoverability due to YouTube’s established name in the market, and we are in the process of witnessing the advancement that YouTube Music undergoes in the forthcoming months.
Amazon Prime Music
India welcomed Amazon Prime Music in 2018 while Amazon was known as one of the top e-commerce and video OTT brands in the country. The launch at the time seemed to be a fruitful move given that the aforementioned competitors hadn’t been introduced in the market. The Amazon Prime members had access to the music library along with the prime delivery options on the e-commerce platform and the paid subscription for Amazon Prime Video.
Last year, with the entry of Spotify in India, Amazon realized the significant impact that the ad-based free subscription model of the music streaming giant had on the consumers, thereby deciding to launch an ad-supported free streaming service of their own in India. Consumers can listen to internationally curated content on Amazon Prime Music. At INR 129/mo, the consumers can get a Prime membership and access not only Amazon Prime Music but also Amazon Prime Video and free, fast delivery options on the Amazon e-commerce website.
Over a hundred countries enjoy music streaming on Apple Music. But does that feat translate into a magnificent triumph in India? The goal of Apple Music has been to win the bet when it comes to becoming an only visited platform for entertainment. It has over 50 million tracks that are accessible only via paid subscription. And it has been so since the launch in India. The compatibility ranges from iTunes, CarPlay, iOS, Android, iMac, and Apple Watch. The voice command with Siri is an added search-feature. However, the music streaming platform seems to be losing its base with the leading brands like Spotify, Amazon Prime Music and YouTube Music taking over the market within a short span of time.
Moreover, the local market leaders like Gaana and JioSaavn are head-to-head with these global music streaming giants. The content preferences of the Indian listeners are better met on these platforms and the affordable price points are a plus. The regional content is well-curated amongst the home-grown brands.
The outro to the aforementioned chorus
ByteDance, the parent company of TikTok, is currently testing it’s music streaming platform Resso in India and Indonesia. It has already officially signed contracts with T-Series and Times Music and is set to provide both free and paid music subscription-based services.
To conclude, the market penetration strategies of the global music streaming leaders in India must heavily surround the study of the local brands and their established traits that are being preferred by the consumers. The reach of smartphones is increasing towards the rural parts of India. Having already slashed prices for paid music streaming, it’s important for these platforms to focus on collaborating with regional artists and developing simpler user interfaces. The more the listener grooves to your platform, the longer-lasting the compatibility. The battle amongst the leaders is not for discoverability, this war is to find compatibility with the target audience and gain brand loyalty which only strengthens with time.
Divya Singh Raghuvanshi
Writer | Editor | Copywriter | Creating experiences for brands through communication management, branded content creation, and content strategy.