Digital Music Landscape III: Consumption

[This is the concluding part of a three-part post on the Digital Music Landscape. You can read the first post and the second post to get up to speed]

Let’s look at the services that exist in the West against the services for Indian music in an attempt to look at how music recommendations serve people’s needs. In the previous posts, we’ve discussed a few approaches for recommendation. Let’s pair that up against the following music consumption models:

  • Downloads: Wherein the service allows you to browse and download songs for purchase. Most services allow downloaded songs to be played in any device/player but certain services provide DRM-restricted songs. Such songs can only be played on certain devices or certain players.
  • On-demand streaming: The user can listen to any music, any time. These services are either free (ad-supported) or based on a subscription plan. Increasingly, the free plans are getting capped to a limited amount of music.
  • Non-Interactive streaming: The service is pre-programmed with content, ¬†allowing users to only skip tracks and provide ratings. The content is either delivered through a recommendation engine based on the users’ taste or curated by experts.

Download services limit the number of songs people can listen to (only purchased songs) while streaming offers potentially unlimited number of songs for listening. On the other hand, downloaded songs can be listened to anytime, anywhere. Whereas, streaming services typically require an internet connection. The line between download and stream services is blurring though, as the download services are providing cloud-based features in addition to song previews; and streaming services are allowing downloads either directly or through other download services.

Music Consumption – Mature Markets

ServiceConsumption modelRecommendation approach based on
DownloadOn-demandNon-interactiveMusical attributesWisdom of the CrowdsExpert curation
iTunes
Amazon
Napster
Emusic
Rhapsody
Last.fm
Grooveshark
Spotify
Pandora
Live365
Thesixtyone
Wearehunted

Music Consumption – India

ServiceConsumption modelRecommendation approach based on
DowloadOn-DemandNon-InteractiveMusical attributesWisdom of the CrowdsExpert curation
Gaana
Saavn
Dhingana
Musicindiaonline
Smashits
Raaga
NH7
Hungama

A more detailed look at the Indian music services show that:

  • There are fewer consumption choices in India.
  • There is very little differentiation between various services.
  • The business model behind some of these services is not evident. All streaming services are free to users. Do they make enough money from ads? What about those that don’t even show ads?
  • Services are in the early stages of building recommendation capabilities. Recommendations from Indian services are either poor or limited (e.g.: NH7 does a pretty good job but serves a niche).
  • A lot of popular Indian music is made for films and has unique factors driving people’s interests – music directors, singers, lyricists, actors on which they are filmed, etc. These factors don’t come into play for non-Indian music.
  • Interest in multiples languages need to be catered to.
  • Services have big holes in their song catalogs because of limitations in their licensing agreements.

Given all these challenges, the quest is still on for a good, Indian music service that is comparable to an iTunes or a Spotify. While we’re not launching a music consumption service (not yet at least!), we at Mavrix keenly watch this space because we’re trying to solve one of the challenges listed above – that of serving good recommendations.¬†We will be launching MySwar in a few days as a first step in this journey.