The audio and music streaming landscape in India is heating up. Slowly yet surely.
Saavn, termed “India’s Spotify” by Billboard, just rolled out its Artist Originals (AO) program that will conceptualize, produce and distribute new music with independent artists from India and South Asia.
The AO program boosts Saavn’s original programming such as podcasts and audio shows. It’s touted as giving creative opportunities to India’s underground artists, and it aligns with the founder’s vision of moving away from “a music-only product to an entertainment platform.”
AO went live with the worldwide release of Indian hip-hop star Naezy’s track Azaad Hu Main (I Am Free) that chronicles his journey from Mumbai slums to the present day.
Naezy is just one of the many artists roped in by Saavn to create original audio content for audiences in 200 countries where the service is available.
“With AO, we [plan to] become a voice for India’s underground artists… As we expand our original content offering we will continue to explore new genres and formats,” Paramdeep Singh, Cofounder and Executive Chairman of Saavn, tells Mashable.
AO was preceded by Saavn Originals, the platform’s original long-form audio programming, that launched a year ago. With its slate of 10 programs that include audio interviews, comedy, podcasts and talk shows, it was virtually taking on radio — a fairly popular medium in India — and also expanding to non-music content.
“It’s a relatively nascent and growing market in India. Radio has been highly regulated so audio formats have not evolved much until now… [But] we have seen a steady rise of users consuming long form audio content in India over the last 10 months since we launched Saavn Originals,” Singh tells Mashable.
Original non-music programming helps create a differentiation for Saavn, that is now facing competition from Apple Music which recently announced a collaboration with Bollywood and indie musicians.
There is also domestic rival Gaana, owned by India’s largest media network BCCL, that tied up with Uber to stream songs in cabs. Apple too operates a similar partnership with Uber rival Ola. And there are hordes of other music streaming services available in the country today.
In a nutshell, everyone wants a slice of the growing pie.
The pie stood at about 27 million streamers two years ago, according to this report.
But rapid mobile internet penetration is expected to grow that number to 273 million by 2020. Most of the audience is young (18-35) and craving for more.
Global consulting firm KPMG expects India’s music business to rank in the top 10 ahead of South Korea, the Netherlands, Italy, Brazil and Sweden by 2019. Now, whether Saavn becomes the “Netflix of Audio” from “India’s Spotify” is left to be seen.