Manika Ralhan, 23, is a college student at Delhi University and an active mobile web user. A music buff, she keeps her iPod’s playlist updated via PC downloads. While watching Dabangg 2 at a theatre, she fell in love with raunchy ‘Fevicol’ number. “I surfed the mobile web and downloaded the song in five minutes,” she said.
India is among the top 10 countries when it comes to users downloading music via the internet. Indian youth are the second largest audience for paid digital music globally, after South Korea. With the growth in mobile phone and internet users, consumers of digital music have increased manifold, causing a major setback for brick and mortar music stores and the cassette and CD formats.
A consistent volume de-growth of physical formats accompanied with factors such as piracy and the emergence of non-physical formats such as mobile value added services, have contributed to the changing revenue mix. “This is an extremely difficult time as our sales have fallen by over 75% in the last three years,” said Sanjay Karwa, CEO, Planet M.
His store saw the last cassette sales a year-and-a-half ago back. New stock consists of latest movie CDs, and a collection of old classics and golden hits. One may not find music or movies that came even two years ago, except classics. “We are rethinking our plans. In an attempt to save the brand, we are also selling mobile handsets, toys and gaming consoles at our store,” Karwa said.
Mumbai-based Rhythm House has a similar story to tell. It has ventured into online sales of Indian and international music. “Business has been flat in recent years. Even on online selling, we are competing with iTunes, Amazon and other multinational players,” said Mehmood Curmally, managing director, Rhythm House. “The shelf life of music albums has fallen to less than a month of a movie’s release.”
Music streaming services such as dhingana, in.com, saavn and gaana.com are offering free legitimate music to consumers. At the same time, cloud-based services such as iTunes Match can become a reality soon. In 2012, iTunes entered India to sell songs, videos and films at wallet-friendly prices - Hindi movie songs at R7-15, while a song could cost 99 cents (R50) on iTunes’ international site.
The Nokia Music Store has over 4.5 lakh tracks. Viral Oza, director marketing, Nokia India, said: “In India, music is a universal phenomenon and after social networking, it is a part of the bigger lifestyle picture. On an average, consumers listen to music for two hours a day, out of which 90% is consumed through mobile phones. Consumers are incessantly downloading music with their phones on the go and the fact that 1.5 million songs are being downloaded per day at Nokia Music Store further elucidates that there is huge potential for mobile music downloads.”
Priyanka Chopra recently launched her debut single, In my City, exclusively at Nokia Music Store. The song is still topping downloads at the store. Telugu blockbuster Life is Beautiful also launched exclusively at the Nokia store and album downloads crossed 35,000 within four days.
“Indians are emotionally connected to music,” said Amod Mehra, a film trade analyst, adding that over 80% of the audio revenues of music companies comes from non-physical formats today.
“The music business is a dynamic contributor to the digital economy and can deliver growth and jobs,” said Tanuj Garg, CEO, Balaji Motion Pictures. “The new arrangement allows us to go popular not just through retail outlets but also YouTube, iTunes, television, mobile services, FM and online radio.”
According to Neeraj Kalyan, president, T-series, physical CD sales are down by around 80%. “Going forward, undoubtedly, the physical pie will shrink further and revenue will grow in the digital vertical.”