High on piracy and free streaming services: How India's music industry is shaping up

Amit Gurbaxani

August 26, 2018 12:52:39 IST

I’ve spent much of the last week at music conferences. While most people attend these events to network, I frequent them to jot down the data that’s shared during keynote addresses and panel discussions, information that should be available in the public domain but is often treated as a trade secret. There was a lot of data to be absorbed at both the Indian Music Industry (IMI)’s Dialogue and Truly Musical’s All About Music, which were among those rare conferences where the audience heard more facts than fluff. (Full disclosure: I moderated a panel at All About Music). Here are a few of the statistics I got from the seminars:

The size of the Indian recorded music industry

According to the IMI’s annual report for 2017, released this April, the revenues of the Indian recorded music industry grew to Rs 725 crore last year. This made India the nineteenth largest music market in the world, as per the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry. At the conferences, IMI chairman Shridhar Subramaniam mentioned that the current size is Rs 850 crore. Revenues from digital music, which includes audio and video streams, account for the bulk of this amount.

Representational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

The prevalence of piracy

The mission, stated repeatedly at the IMI conference, is to make India into one of the top ten markets on the planet, an achievement already accomplished by China, our chief point comparison for most things. To get there, we’ll have to greatly reduce the Rs 1,500 crore lost to piracy every year through torrent sites, stream ripping and side-loading, said Subramaniam. Indians, a music consumer study conducted by the IFPI revealed, are the world’s biggest pirates. Of the time we spend listening to music, 13 percent is used to hear what we’ve illegally downloaded, as compared to the global average of 7 percent. In China, where they’ve had recent crackdowns on piracy, the figure is 8 percent, which means they’re second best or more appropriately, second worst when it comes to stealing songs.

The number of users on Indian music streaming platforms

Various figures were heard for this particular statistic – which generally refers to Monthly Active Users (MAU) – but the most frequently quoted number was 100 million. During a panel, Sachin Singhal, chief business officer at Airtel’s Wynk Music, said Indian music streaming services had 12 to 15 million Daily Active Users. Interestingly, Subramaniam said that one of the IMI’s aims is to have 400 million (MAU) “on legal music services by 2020”.

The top streaming service in the country

When asked, Singhal predictably said that Wynk was the No 1 audio streaming service in the country. Research firm Nielsen’s 2018 India Music 360 report, highlights of which were presented at All About Music, says that Reliance Industries’ Jio Music was the “most-used” audio streaming service in the country over the past 12 months. Jio Music was recently merged with Saavn and the merged entity would no doubt stake a claim to the top, though the co-founders of Saavn omitted to mention any user numbers during their celebratory presentation at All About Music. And just last week, the Times Group’s Gaana claimed that they had reached 75 million users. Of course, they’re all a distant second, third or fourth when compared to YouTube, which is used by 225 million Indians. Notably, the one figure that everybody agreed upon at both conferences was the percentage of paid subscribers, which is a lowly 1 percent. In China, by the way, 5 percent or 30 million of its 600 million audio streamers are paying for a service.

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: Aug 27, 2018 09:12 AM