Audio À La Carte
Despite the international appeal of music and the billions of people who devote precious time out of their lives to this activity, it wouldn’t be a huge leap to say that no place truly celebrates this noble art like India. From our festivals to our films, music is the string that ties us all together. However, now that the internet revolution is in full swing, just browsing random channels and websites is not enough anymore to whet our appetites. Just like video streaming platforms, we have also accepted the benefits of a one-stop-shop approach for all our musical whims, even if it means paying for it. This is certainly a marked improvement for a population that has spent the past decade gleefully grabbing everything they could through torrents, login hacks, and every other loophole under the sun. In addition to being surprising, this shift has also been quite rapid, with dozens of players entering the market and establishing their foothold within the last year or two. Here is a look at the top contenders in this fight, who are all set to ride this wave out with their curated databases of the best music from across the globe.
- APPLE MUSIC
With over 60 million songs and an equal number of paying customers, the company is giving the competition a run for their money, even though it is barely five years old. The main driving force behind this growth remains the fact that every Apple user is already part of their ecosystem, and every future purchase will guarantee another consumer, whether paid or free. This, in addition to the security and ease of iTunes make it a great platform to explore music on. Apple’s decision to use real DJs to curate playlists and Beats1 shows has surely raised the level of their music selection, while their exclusive contracts with artists for new releases is just the cherry on the top. The ironic thing is that unlike most of their products, the company has decided to encourage price-conscious behaviour with this service, by making it one of the cheapest on the market, with a starting price of just ₹99 per month.
Saavn is certainly one of the oldest and most influential domestic music streaming platforms in the country, considering Reliance was eager enough to offer them a combined valuation of over one billion dollars for the name. This confidence reflects not only the journey that the brand has taken since 2007 but also the support of the 104 million followers that they have amassed since. In its latest avatar, the JioSaavn app features over 50 million songs in various Indian languages, with the paid version starting at barely ₹99 per month. There are curated playlists present, just like any other app of this nature, but they aren’t as intuitive as the offerings from Apple and Spotify. Considering the tough competition it has from the existing players, and the backing of the Ambani Empire, we can only guess how far they will be able to hold on to this momentum.
This was one of the first apps to truly crack the code of music streaming, with their now infamous algorithms that eerily curate amazing playlists based on your previous listening record. These personalised suggestions separate the app from its competitors, as it seamlessly adds new yet similar songs to what you are already listening to, thus creating an impromptu playlist on the spot. This focus on AI-based curation has helped the Swedish company come a long way since its inception in 2006, making it one of the leading players in the global market. It shares partnerships with several media companies such as Sony, Microsoft, South by Southwest, Tencent, Hulu and more, which are helping it grow rapidly. In India, the app launched just last year and saw an explosive reception of over one million downloads in less than a month; even though it is one of the more expensive subscription services, with a monthly plan starting at ₹119 per month.
- YOUTUBE MUSIC
Google has been trying to launch a successful music streaming service of their own for over a decade now. It started with Google Play Music way back in 2010, which never really got off the ground, despite having an extensive database of over eight million songs. They tried again with YouTube Music back in 2015, even though the Indian market only got to see it in use last year. Fortunately for them, all this time seems to have given them ample opportunity to improve upon their mistakes and turn this into a must-have app on any smartphone. A huge plus point for the service is that in addition to all the songs available, they also consider all the videos uploaded on the platform as content. This makes it really easy to search and share all types of music, with a simple layout and user interface. Data collected on YouTube users has also made the AI algorithms far more accurate and creative, bringing them almost on par with market leaders like Spotify. The only sad thing is how they have locked the background playback feature for paid users only. This makes it the only app that doesn’t have this feature on by default, which might be one of the reasons why they are having such a hard time persuading their one billion+ music listeners to convert to paying customers.