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It is desi vs foreign as disruption storms a crowded music streaming market

Topics music apps | Apple Inc

In online music streaming, users are now spoilt of choices. 

There are Gaana and Saavn (JioSaavn) — apps that did the grunt work of making initial users ditch music download for online streaming; platform services like Google Play Music, Apple Music and Amazon Prime Music; and a host of others including Airtel’s Wynk. 

If it wasn’t enough, two new entrants this year, Spotify and YouTube Music Premium, also promise to disrupt the landscape further and give incumbents a run for their money. 

The industry is embracing for an intense competition in the months to come, as each service tries to become the preferred choice of Indian users. 

The landscape of online music streaming now resembles a desi vs foreign battle, where Indian services are playing on their large libraries and a more intimate understanding of local audience tastes, as compared to global ones, which are mostly banking on their superior AI-enabled user experience and global titles.

Music, under the larger umbrella of entertainment, is a key function over the internet. According to Deloitte, “Social media and entertainment (music and video) are the two activities on which the Indian mobile internet users spend their time the most followed by games, general search, and emails. In terms of media consumption, an average mobile web user in India consumes about 6.2 hours of media daily which includes 102 minutes of mobile media and 79 minutes of online (desktop) media consumption.”

Gaana was launched in 2010, and Saavn much before it in 2006. For many years, the two apps enjoyed a near monopoly even as they tried to compete with YouTube for music listeners. A feat was achieved when around 2017 paid plans, that offered ad-free experience and ability to download music for offline use, were introduced and a price-conscious Indian audience began buying those even when free alternatives were available.

As the user base grew consistently, investors also lined up. Gaana raised $115 million from Tencent, a large global internet investor, in February last year, while in March, Reliance acquired Saavn and merged its own service Jio Music. Saavn had raised about $100 million from investors like Tiger Global Management and Bertelsmann before getting acquired.

The mega deals followed Google and Amazon who quietly entered the music scene in India. In 2017, search giant Google, which owns mobile platform Android, introduced a premium music product. On top of its music app Google Play Music, Google started offering its entire library of music for streaming at Rs 89 a month. Amazon, too launched Prime Music which it offered bundled with Prime Video subscription, around the same time. A prime subscription now costs Rs 129 a month or Rs 999 a year. 

Google and Amazon have the advantage of their platforms to push their music products. An Android mobile user is more likely to use Google Play Music and may be inclined to even try the premium version. Similarly Amazon shoppers and Echo smart speaker users have instant access to Amazon Prime Music, which they may grow to like.

However, the biggest disruptor could possibly be YouTube Music. YouTube holds a central and unique place among audience around the world. It’s the single biggest entertainment destination over the internet. Now with YouTube Music, Google is offering users a well-packaged music streaming solution- with no ads and an ability to minimise the app in the home screen, something that is not allowed on YouTube app. 

According to reviews, Google Music, as well as streaming service Spotify which launched in India in February, has been lauded for its sophisticated recommendations engines which introduce users to new tracks based on their music choices. Spotify, one of most popular music streaming service globally, is known for its well-tagged and vast library of music. 

With the entry of foreign players, and a growing affinity for paid-music services, players are turning all levers to capture Indian users. Recently, Gaana slashed prices for its yearly plans to Rs 299 from Rs 999 earlier, followed by Apple Music which dropped prices to Rs 99 from Rs 120 for a monthly subscription. All participants are also spending extensively using ads and marketing for user growth.

Recently, a poll conducted by CyberMedia Research, found that Gaana is the most popular platform for Indian users, followed by Apple Music, YouTube and Wynk, in that order. The Survey covered 2500 respondents across top eight cities of India.

“Music consumption in India is undergoing a slow but gradual evolution. In the ‘streaming era’, the way people listen to music is shaping the music industry. Digital music streaming has emerged as a mainstream channel for those on the move,” noted Thomas George, country manager and senior vice president at, CMR.


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