CHENNAI: When the song Aadharu Aadharu from Ajith’s Yennai Arindhaal was released by the record label, they noticed something strange. Despite the song’s slightly lesser quality version hitting websites notorious for pirated mp3 songs within two hours, the number of searches, live streams and quick downloads on music apps like Wynk and Gaana were through the roof. Though Apple’s iTunes has built a business model out of this over the last decade, this was mere app-solution for the Indian music industry — releasing songs for free streaming really hooked users so much that pirated websites began to show lesser numbers on their hit counters. “While it’s free to just stream songs, we offer offline play options for as low as `99, so one can not only ensure better quality version of songs but it also gives the customer an option to evade pirated sites and helps them from indulging in cyber crimes,” said an Airtel spokesperson, explaining why their app has been gettive great reviews on Google’s Play Store. As the hits go up, so does the number of people hitting the ‘subscribe’ button and paying the provider.
With the Indian music industry brimming with business potential — conservatively forecast by a PWC survey to be $580 million by end last year —companies like Universal Music and Sony Music India have reported that nearly 67% of their revenue from audio is now ‘online’. “Last year only about 15 percent our revenue came from physical CD sales and even that was restricted to first day sales and only for big releases,” said a source from Sony Music India - South, which handled the audio for recent hits like O Kadhal Kanmani and Utthama Villain. And the numbers don’t lie. Wynk, promoted by Bharti Airtel, has already been downloaded and used by 50 lakh users in the last 6 months and boasts of an impressive 1.8 million song database. All perfectly legal, in HD and beyond any copyright infringement. “With pirated sites, there are two issues — you cannot always download the song file without having it stream or without being redirected to pop up ad sites and most often, android devices detect malware and viruses that piggyback on hot music downloads,” explained cyber security expert Richard Devarajan, “That’s why we have noticed that people prefer using apps because the 3G speed for streaming songs is quite seamless these days.” He added that popular pirate sites like songs.pk and tamlbeat.com are often taken down and keep moving to new URLs just to stay afloat - a move that doesn’t go down well with basic users who cannot find the site the second time.
Music apps are also great for retro music listeners and not just people clamoring for chart-toppers. Listeners who want access to music by greats like Viswanathan-Ramamoorthy or Ilaiyaraaja often find their way to these apps because old music torrents have few seeders. Wynk, in fact, reported that the highest searched composers were Anirudh Ravichander and Ilaiyaraaja — two ends of a broad spectrum.
“Ilaiyaraaja is regarded as one of the finest music composers in India and people in Tamil Nadu still have most of his songs listed in their playlist. This is the reason why we have older, more senior people using the app,” added the spokesperson. Another reason why illegal music websites and torrent sites are getting less traction these days is because record labels are voluntarily putting their songs up on Youtube. Plenty of people were shocked when Vijay Antony, the Nakka Mukka composer-turned-actor decided to put all the video songs from his recent release India Pakistan on Youtube. For Antony though, the audio was more of a channel to build some hype for the film and not a precious revenue source.
“These days, people play music on their phones in their cars directly from Youtube. More hits mean more hype for the film and if people really like the song, then they may end up buying it also,” he explained before his film released. It worked, because his label said that they had made a decent return on investment for all their digital marketing. Music to the industry’s ears?