From Bollywood's domination to the most preferred languages: What the YouTube India charts reveal about the listenership in the country

Amit Gurbaxani

Oct 18, 2019 08:45:11 IST

I’m writing this column on the first-month anniversary of YouTube’s India charts, which regular readers would know I’ve been clamouring for ever since they rolled out rankings for a spate of countries in 2018. Notably, the India charts were announced shortly after YouTube clarified its stand of whether paid views count towards the lists. They don’t, though I believe they never did. Anyhow, it’s great that we finally have charts for the most popular streaming platform in the country. How big is YouTube here? A whopping 94 percent of the 3,000 internet users surveyed for trade body the Indian Music Industry’s recently-released Digital Music Study said they use YouTube or Vevo to consume music.

Given YouTube’s importance to the Indian music industry, I thought it would be interesting to check what users here are listening to, and analysed by category its India Top 100 Songs chart, which combines official music and lyric videos and user-generated content, for the week that run of Friday, 4 October to Thursday, 10 October. One of the things that stood out for me was the difference between the charts on audio-streaming services and YouTube. The former includes a lot more Bollywood and international music as compared to the much stronger presence of regional music on the latter, the consumption of which is far more widespread across the nation, from metros to smaller cities and towns.

 From Bollywoods domination to the most preferred languages: What the YouTube India charts reveal about the listenership in the country

Representational image. Reuters/Dado Ruvic

As many as 44 of the tracks on the YouTube chart I examined are Bollywood tunes. But pop, in a number of languages, is close behind with 41 entries. Within pop, Punjabi leads with 17 hits followed by Hindi with 12. Haryanvi accounts for six smashes, and Bhojpuri four. Currently, in fact, pop songs in Hindi – 'Pachtaoge' by Arijit Singh – and Punjabi – 'Lehanga' by Jass Manak – occupy the top two positions.

Film music in regional languages accounts for 10 percent of the chart, with Tollywood or the Telugu movie industry contributing five tracks, Bhojpuri and Tamil two, and Punjabi one. Hip-hop is represented by two hits, one each in Hindi ('Aag Lage Chahe Basti Mai' by Sirazee) and Punjabi ('Same Beef' by Bohemia and Sidhu Moose Wala). Incidentally, two recent singles by Emiway charted over the last month, as did 'Kohinoor' by Divine.

There’s only one English track – 'Senorita' by Shawn Mendes and Camila Cabello – on the survey and there are somewhat surprisingly two Spanish compositions, from 2013 and 2016, on the list. I suspect their high viewership numbers can be attributed to the presence of scantily clad women in their videos, a factor most likely also responsible for the occasional reappearances of former global chart-topper 'Jaha Tum Rahoge' from the obscure 2017 Bollywood film Maheruh.

Unsurprisingly, new music, which I’ve defined as songs released over the last 18 months, makes up the bulk of watch time. However, around 28 per cent or nine out of the 22 new Hindi movie tunes on the chart are remakes of film or pop hits from the 1980s ('Gali Gali'), 1990s ('Aankh Maarey', 'Sheher Ki Ladki', 'Tere Bin') and 2000s ('Koka', 'O Saki Saki') or popular regional compositions ('Kamariya', 'Odhani').

The rest of the Bollywood smashes are from either the 1990s or 2000s, indicating that YouTube is mainly being used by nineties kids or millennials. Fans of retro Hindi film music, from the 1950s through the 1980s, don’t seem to coming to the platform for their fix of classics, preferring perhaps to listen to them on devices such as the Saregama Carvaan.

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Amit Gurbaxani is a Mumbai-based journalist who has been writing about music, specifically the country's independent scene, for nearly two decades. He tweets @TheGroovebox

Updated Date: Oct 20, 2019 12:36:12 IST