Mobile music startup Twaang ropes in Zakir Hussain to kick off their 2014 concert series


Mobile music startup Twaang has come a long way since their debut demo at YourStory’s MobiSparks 2012 showcase. They now have a large online music store and a series of high-profile concerts.

Tabla maestro Zakir Hussain and leading veena exponent Jayanthi Kumaresh will be kicking off their 2014 concert series on January 29 in Bangalore. The concert is called ‘Illusions of Pure Sound.' These two artistes have never played together before and that is what makes the concert unique, says Twaang co-founder Vishnu Raned.

Twaang was launched in 2012 as an on-demand mobile music library for fans of Indian music around the world. All music has been procured with proper legal arrangements from artistes and labels, assures Raned. (Read Twaang's app review on YourStory and the their coverage on the Wall Street Journal.)

Raned was previously country manager for India at Agitar Software, and Asia-Pacific sales head at Segue Software. He also worked at IBM Rational India and Accenture Germany.

“I got the idea for Twaang when I was stuck in the usual Bangalore traffic jam on the way to Yelahanka, and noticed that there was very little music other than film music on the radio,” said Raned in an exclusive chat with YourStory.

“That is when I teamed up with my former colleague Shirish Hirekodi and pulled him out of his IT job to come join me,” recalls Raned.

Twaang’s repertory includes Carnatic, Hindustani, folk, fusion and devotional music, in studio and live recordings. Raned says the online music store has over 70,000 music titles, 6,000 albums and 44 record labels. Featured artistes include Shubha Mudgal, Pravin Godkhindi, Vishwa Mohan Bhatt, Lalgudi Jayaraman and Sudha Raghunathan.

There is also a youth component to Twaang’s mission – to be a launch pad for young talent in the field of music. “We want to help independent artistes launch, promote, share and monetise their music through our apps,” says Raned.

At present, the music app is free on platforms like android; the service will soon become a paid feature for Rs 199 per month. A premium service is also being launched on March 1, which will have offline downloads, exclusive content (or first-access content) and ad-free streaming. Revenue is shared with the labels and artistes.

An innovative marketing strategy used by Twaang is to organise concerts of Indian classical music featuring unique collaborations. In 2013, Twaang also presented Jayanti Kumaresh along with Anil Srinivasan on piano in a concert titled ‘Parallel Strings.’ The event was themed as ‘Beethoven meets Thyagaraja,’ bringing together two genres of music.

The music library content is also pre-loaded onto smartphones and tablets manufactured by Whan in Bangalore. Album launches via the Twaang app are other promotional tactics, such as Raghu Dixit Project’s new release, ‘Jag Changa.’

“We are currently self-funded and may approach investors later once we have a good revenue stream,” says Raned. When Twaang pitched at YourStory’s MobiSparks 2012, they had 200 users; now they have 70,000 users around the world, and 70% of them are in India, says Raned.A key concern for Twaang is ensuring quality of the recorded music. “Some live recordings are not of high quality; we insist to artistes that they provide only high quality music files,” says Raned.

Twaang joins an online music market crowded with other startups, many of whom have failed or been unable to break even – but Raned feels confident that they will survive since they are focused on a specific niche and not in the saturated Bollywood or film music market. Raned also speaks at a number of conferences on media and startups, and shared his insights at the annual Mobile India conference.

The music service is hosted on Amazon cloud servers in the US and Singapore. Future options include adding a video component to their audio feed. In the coming months, Twaang promises even more exciting content in their library and other outstanding artiste collaborations in the concert series.