Easily the most serious attempt yet at selling music online in India, Flyte, Flipkart’s digital music service which kicked off on 27 February, offers “over a million tracks from 150,000 unique albums” for download, according to a statement from the website (you can buy albums as well as individual songs). Comparisons to Amazon Music and the iTunes Store are unwarranted; neither of those services are available in India. Like Flipkart, Flyte offers a service specifically designed for this country. Will it change how we buy music?
The good stuff
The answer is yes (probably), because Flyte is the most meaningful alternative yet to piracy of Indian music online. The individual track download allows you to buy that hit song you’ve been hearing non-stop on the radio without getting the whole album. Most tracks come with sound quality options, ranging from the lo-fi 64 Kbps to the bell-like 320 Kbps. The site layout is cluttered but fairly user-friendly, much like Flipkart itself.
Flyte improves the market for fans of well-recorded but poorly distributed forms, like ghazals and classical music. We can’t speak to connoisseurs of rare recordings, but fans of, say, Ustad Sultan Khan, will be able to browse most of his work in one place. You can buy individual performances instead of a collection you may not want, or which appear on an album you already have. The service offers a download manager that helps control bulk downloads, which should come in useful if you want to buy Wagner’s Ring cycle (310 tracks over two CDs; Flyte’s collection of Western classical music is nowhere close to the vast array of music on digital music stores abroad, but it’s a good start).
The not so good
Flipkart offers music from several Indian languages, but none as comprehensive as the Hindi list. International labels have been slow to authorize online sales here, so Flyte’s global collection currently has puzzlingly large gaps. Vast areas of music go unrepresented; fans of J-pop or Cuban jazz will have to continue to forage in secret. Flyte’s English-language catalogue also contains many rude surprises—you can buy seven vile Beatles cover albums but not a single original Beatles performance.
Song downloads start at Rs 6, and albums at Rs 25. You can currently buy a super-successful album like A.R. Rahman’s Rockstar for Rs 113, or hot-off-the-press stuff like Vishal-Shekhar’s Kahaani for Rs 54. The music is digital rights management- or DRM-free. You can download a track up to four times after payment. If you listen to most of your music on your computer or MP3 player, Flyte is a steal.
You can access Flyte from the Flipkart.com homepage.