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MUMBAI : Chinese app Resso has become one of the top three music-streaming apps in India, quietly making its way to the big league in spite of its low-key marketing following the ban on sister apps TikTok and Helo.

A year-and-a-half after its launch in March 2020, it has joined Spotify and Wynk by racing ahead of home-grown apps Gaana and JioSaavn in monthly streams.

ByteDance’s Resso grew an astonishing 599% in August from a year ago in terms of monthly active users, or MAUs in India, as per data from mobile analytics company Sensor Tower.

For the same period, Gaana, owned by Times Internet, clocked a 3% growth in MAUs while JioSaavn, a Reliance Industries entity, recorded negative growth of -44%.

Different beats
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Different beats

YouTube Music (Google’s premium service) and Spotify recorded 104% and 49% growth during this period.

To be sure, Gaana and JioSaavn are far ahead of Resso when it comes to app downloads. But music labels consider MAUs a better measure of how effective a platform is in generating business.

“In terms of streams per month, Resso has been among the top three platforms, along with Spotify and Airtel’s Wynk," said the head of a leading music label in India on the condition of anonymity.

Spotify said it does not break down numbers by market. “But we did witness a solid year of growth in India, and it has been one of Spotify’s fastest-growing markets," said Amarjit Singh Batra, managing director of Spotify India.

On average, Resso fetches 2.8 billion streams per month, next only to Spotify’s 3.2 billion, said chief executives of two prominent Indian music labels based on their internal monitoring of data from these apps.

Wynk Music, which comes bundled with an Airtel connection, clocks approximately 2.5 billion streams per month, while Gaana and JioSaavn generate between 1.6 billion and 2.1 billion streams, these executives told Mint anonymously.

YouTube remains the largest music-streaming platform in India, they added, fetching 10 times the number of streams of the leading music streaming platforms. But its premium service, YouTube Music, is yet to reach 1 billion streams per month. YouTube declined to comment on these numbers.

According to these executives, Resso’s superior algorithm is the key to its quiet rise in India, given that the app hasn’t been openly promoting itself and only relying on below-the-line digital marketing.

India banned TikTok and Helo, also owned by ByteDance, and several other Chinese apps in June last year following violent border clashes with China.

“The algorithm doesn’t just observe the artist you’re listening to but learns from other parameters as well. It studies the number of beats in the song, the mood, the tempo, etc. It may even track at what point you skip and jump to the next song to maybe recommend a song with a chorus that starts earlier, so you don’t lose interest," said the head of a music label who believes Resso has been able to crack the Indian heartland that may not be aware of the best artists in a genre but is eager to consume great music.

Algorithm supremacy is what led to TikTok’s popularity over Instagram among teens in the US and around the world, including in India.

According to some music label executives, some of these dynamics have to do with the Punjabi music listeners. “Some farmers are not using JioSaavn anymore as they believe its parent (Reliance Industries) stands to benefit from the (Centre’s) farm laws. Popular Punjabi singers are telling us not to put their songs on the app," said two music label owners who prefer not to be named. On the other hand, Gaana, which had the largest repertoire of Punjabi songs, was beaten by Spotify at its own game. Spotify heavily promoted popular Punjabi artistes overseas to capture the diaspora market.

A JioSaavn spokesperson denied the negative growth rate for MAUs, telling Mint the company has “recorded growth in overall MAUs from August 2020 to August 2021."

“Given JioSaavn’s pan-India footprint and significant regional user base, our users are represented across many platforms, including smartphone, web, set-top box, and JioPhone," the spokesperson added.

Gaana did not comment on the numbers, but its chief operating officer Vivek Pandey, said, “In its decade long history, Gaana has grown at a CAGR (compounded annual growth rate) of 50% over the past three years, and 70% over the past five years. Our ambition is to entertain half a billion Indians, and we are firmly on track to achieve our business goals."

Gaana and JioSaavn’s loss has certainly been Resso’s gain, especially beyond tier-1 cities, experts said. While Resso has quietly managed to shake up the music-streaming landscape in India for now, music labels are eager to see whether it will be able to sustain its growth.

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