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Services such as Gaana, Spotify, JioSaavn, among others, have seen much greater traction for non-film music. (Photo: Reuters)
Services such as Gaana, Spotify, JioSaavn, among others, have seen much greater traction for non-film music. (Photo: Reuters)

Audio streaming platforms lean on independent artistes in absence of film music

  • The current non-availability of film music will hit streaming platforms and music labels hard, with their annual revenues estimated to fall at least 20-30%, according to Shahir Muneer, founder and director at Divo Music, a south Indian music label

NEW DELHI: Audio streaming platforms and music labels in India have turned to independent artistes across regional languages to cater to audience in the absence of film music for over six months now, as theatres remain shut and movie releases are postponed.

The handful of films released on video streaming sites haven't done much to market music. Consequently, services such as Gaana, Spotify, JioSaavn, among others, have seen much greater traction for non-film music from artistes such as Diljit Dosanjh, B Praak, Prateek Kuhad, Kanishk Seth, Nikhil D’Souza and others, all of whom have produced and put out songs during the lockdown.

JioSaavn, the audio streaming app owned by Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance Industries, has seen 25 of the top 30 weekly charts dominated by non-film music over the past few months with Meri Ashiqui (Jubin Nautyal, Rochak Kohi), GOAT (Diljit Dosanjh) and Dil Tod Ke (B Praak) standing out.

Meri Aashiqui and Dil Tod Kehave have received over 84 million and 30 million plays until now on JioSaavn while GOAT has notched up over 77 million views on YouTube. The latter trended number one on YouTube as soon as it was released in July.

“The combination of previous ongoing investments by the music industry (both labels and services) into non-film music, the growing demand for music from outside the film ecosystem and a global pandemic has given rise to independent releases," a JioSaavn spokesperson said.

These releases can be produced and put out from home at a time when film releases, both music and movies, aren't being released at the pace users are accustomed to, the person added.

Swedish streaming platform Spotify said several artistes, even those who are predominantly associated with the film industry, have released their non-film music more frequently over the last few months. As of mid-September, the top tracks on the service include Thandi Hawaby Pune-based singer songwriter Ritviz, Prateek Kuhad’s Pause and Aao Chalein by Taba Chake, a finger-style guitar player and singer-songwriter from Arunachal Pradesh.

“Till the time cinemas are closed and new movies are not released, we expect singles to continue to top the charts. Non-film related singles were the songs most listened to in the past few months," Prashan Agarwal, CEO, Gaana, said. As music streaming platforms have grown over the years in tier-one, two and three markets, the consumption share of Bollywood has reduced from 70% to 50%, Agarwal said, the reason being that while Bollywood music has grown by five times, regional music has grown by 30 times in the past three years.

Siddhartha Roy, chief operating officer of Hungama Digital Media that runs the Hungama music app, pointed out that India did have a flourishing non-film music business till the 1990s when non-film albums (of singers like Alisha Chinai and Bombay Vikings) could sell up to five to 10 million audio cassettes.

“That viability took a backseat with the coming of CDs, except perhaps for Punjabi music. But the digital era has brought maturity back to the industry and helped discovery of non-film music," Roy said.

A Spotify study done earlier this year showed that even before the lockdown, there was a strong affinity for non-film music specifically for Spotify users who like to listen to artistes and bands that not many people have heard of.

However, the current non-availability of film music will hit streaming platforms and music labels hard, with their annual revenues estimated to fall at least 20-30%, according to Shahir Muneer, founder and director at Divo Music, a south Indian music label. “It does not make sense to produce big-budget videos when the economics are entirely dependent on digital but several upcoming artistes are trying to utilize the opportunity," Muneer said.

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