Independent music, artistes drive audio streaming in 2023

In 2023, the top music videos list comprised music from across languages and regions, including Hindi, Bhojpuri, Tamil and Telugu. (iStockphoto)
In 2023, the top music videos list comprised music from across languages and regions, including Hindi, Bhojpuri, Tamil and Telugu. (iStockphoto)


  • Bhojpuri, Tamil and Telugu languages are emerging as leaders in independent music scene

While film music continues to top charts, independent artistes who bring out their own singles or albums, often backed by top music labels or streaming platforms, saw much traction in 2023.

Languages like Bhojpuri, Tamil and Telugu are emerging as leaders in the independent music scene, other than Hindi, while names like King, Darshan and AP Dhillon have developed a loyal fan following. For these new artistes, however, getting discovered in an overwhelmingly crowded music milieu remains a great challenge.

“Over the last few years, we have seen a rapid growth in music that is coming from beyond the film industry. The widespread availability of digital-streaming platforms and tools has made it easier for artistes to create and distribute their music even without major record labels. There has also been a shift in the perception of independent music in India, with more acceptance and recognition from mainstream media and the industry," a Spotify official, who requested anonymity, said.

King’s ‘Maan Meri Jaan’—which is not film music—was the most streamed song in India in 2023, based on Spotify Wrapped data. The Swedish audio-streaming platform had launched a global emerging-artists program, RADAR, in India over three years ago. On an average, RADAR India artists have seen a 20-25% increase in followers after being playlisted, while singers such as Akshath, Tanmaya Bhatnagar, and Naalayak have seen a growth of over 30% in streams after being featured on RADAR, the Spotify official pointed out. Indie India, a playlist on Spotify, grew by 200% over 2022, adding 250,000 new followers, followed by a further addition of over 250,000 new followers in 2023.

Other streaming platforms also throw up encouraging data. About 45-48% of the top 100 songs consumed on Wynk, the audio service owned by Bharti Airtel Ltd, every week are non-film songs. The top song of the year on the platform is a non-film track: Heeriye by Jasleen Royal and Arijit Singh. Of the top 10 songs from the best of 2023 playlist, five, including Heeriye, Zihal-e-Miskin, Kya Loge Tum, Yaar Ka Sataya Hua and Guli Mata, are indie songs.

“Music lovers today are increasingly consuming music digitally and this trend will only continue with the proliferation of smartphones in deeper pockets of the country. Wider audience would translate into an increase in preferred languages, encouraging more artists across languages to leverage the opportunity," an Airtel official said on the condition of anonymity.

In 2023, the Top Music Videos list comprised music from across languages and regions, including Hindi, Bhojpuri, Tamil and Telugu, while also featuring independent artistes and labels, a YouTube official said, asking not to be named.

“Access to tools, ease of short-form video and the wide-reaching impact of digital video continue to democratize content creation. This is enabling more people—across age, gender, cultures, professional backgrounds, and languages—to pursue their passions, and become creators or artists," the official added.

The performance of independent music for a label is particularly notable during periods when there are no major Bollywood movie releases or if the music of these films does not resonate strongly with the audience, Kumar Taurani, managing director of TIPS Industries Ltd, said.

“Our data reveals an average growth rate of 27-29% for independent music, showcasing a promising trajectory for this segment. Also, legitimate streaming platforms such as YouTube, Spotify, JioSaavn, Amazon Music, Resso, Apple Music, and others offer user-friendly interfaces that facilitate seamless music uploads, pitching opportunities, and playlist submissions, providing a spotlight for independent artists within a vast digital landscape," Taurani explained.

To be sure, challenges persist for these new and upcoming names. While Hindi cinema bounced back in 2023, with a bunch of box office hits, signalling good news for its soundtracks, competition in the form of southern cinema is rising too. “A lot of independent artists are able to monetize their streams at much lower costs (than film singers) but the stream count is definitely picking up year-on-year. Plus, their success is also dependent on on-ground events and concerts," Mandar Thakur, chief operating officer, Times Music, said. In the past few years, a lot of Bollywood hits other than those by Arijit Singh, too, have come from such new names, he added.

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