More and more Indians are streaming music content on their phones and PCs. Listenership is peaking, and there are multiple international and local music services jostling for attention.Sohini Mitter
Each new week sees the arrival of a new music-streaming app in India. Well, almost. The country’s audio-streaming market has witnessed a lot of action lately with the twin launches of Spotify and YouTube Music - two of the most widely-accessed music platforms in the world.
These have joined the likes of Amazon Prime Music (that launched in 2018), Apple Music (one of the earliest international entrants in India), Google Play Music, and a slew of popular homegrown services like Gaana, JioSaavn, Wynk, Hungama Music, etc. It is a cluttered market, no doubt, but perhaps there’s space for all. Or a few at least.
Listenership is at an all-time high, with streaming becoming second nature to Indian millennials. A 2018 report by IMI and the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry estimates that the average Indian internet user spends 21.5 hours per week listening to music. Industry revenues from music-streaming tripled in 12 months to reach Rs 220 crore last year.
But, if you’re a music listener, you’re spoilt for choice, and sometimes confused too. Because after all, most popular songs are available everywhere. How do you decide which service to opt for? Which is the most cost-effective one? Which has the best audio quality? Which has the broadest music collection? Is there good Indian music? Are there regional tracks? And so on.
YourStory lists India’s top music-streaming apps right now.
The newest kid on the block, YouTube Music, has over a 100 million downloads globally. In India, YouTube looks to leverage its existing user base - that is not only huge but also highly engaged - to get its music offering going. In two days, it is the #1 app in the ‘Music and Audio’ category of Indian Play Store. Available as a premium as well as an ad-supported service, YouTube Music comes with smart search and a background play option that lets you toggle between apps and perform other smartphone functions while listening to music. You can also download songs, videos, playlists, live concerts, and more, and play them offline. A monthly subscription starts at Rs 99. But, if you are a Google Play Music subscriber, a YouTube Music Premium membership comes bundled with it.
Spotify debuted in India less than a month before YouTube Music arrived. In just a week, the world’s largest audio-streaming service claimed to have crossed a million users in India. Unlike YouTube, however, Spotify is offering a bunch of subscription plans - yearly, half-yearly, quarterly, monthly, weekly, and even daily. You can start streaming at Rs 13 a day, and monthly packs are available at Rs 119. But, if you opt for a yearly subscription (Rs 1,189), you are technically paying Rs 99 a month (same as YouTube Music). Spotify rolled out a catalogue of over 40 million songs and three billion playlists at launch. There are podcasts too, along with city-based playlists and multi-language recommendations.
JioSaavn was the #1 music app on Indian Play Store until YouTube Music took over this week. Now, it is down to #2. Born out of a merger between JioMusic and Saavn - two of India’s most popular music streaming apps - JioSaavn combines the enormous reach of Reliance Jio (280-million-plus users) with the expansive audio catalogue of Saavn (a service available in 200 global markets). JioSaavn offers a free ad-supported model, as well as a subscription service (JioSaavn Pro) priced at Rs 99 per month. Reliance Jio users can also avail a free three-month trial of the paid service, which houses over 45 million tracks in English, Hindi, and all major Indian languages. Quarterly (Rs 285) and half-yearly (Rs 550) plans are also available.
Gaana is India’s oldest music-streaming service and counts over a 100 million downloads. The Times Internet-owned service houses an enviable collection of Bollywood songs; you can simply log in through your Facebook account to tune in. The FB login turned out to be popular with young users who could spy on their friends’ listening activity. However, there is an option to turn it off. Gaana too has a free and premium (Gaana Plus) version. While non-paying users can access all tracks, they have to make do with ads and the absence of an offline mode. Paid subscribers, however, can avail HD-quality songs, ad-free playback, and offline mode on as many as five devices. Gaana Pro is priced at Rs 99 a month, and
Rs 999 a year - identical to JioSaavn’s plans.
Amazon bundles its music service with Prime subscriptions. So, non-paying users cannot access Amazon Prime Music that is priced at Rs 999 a year (the cost of a Prime subscription). Users can avail a monthly Prime plan (Rs 129) too, and get access to Prime Music for 30 days. The service offers non-stop, ad-free music in more than 10 languages, and houses a library of over 50 million songs. Among the global music streaming services, Amazon’s collection of Indian (non-Bollywood) music is markedly better. When it comes to Bollywood music though, Prime Music faces stiff competition from the likes of Gaana, JioSaavn, and now, YouTube Music. However, by being available to Amazon’s overall Prime user-base by default, Prime Music stands to gain in a price-sensitive Indian market.
Wynk Music is great if you’re an Airtel user because you get it bundled with your mobile plan every month. Non-Airtel users have to pay a monthly fee of Rs 99 on Android) and Rs 120 (on iOS) to avail Wynk Premium (the ad-free version of the service). Airtel-owned Wynk counts more than 50 million Android downloads, and is the #4 music app on Indian Play Store ahead of Amazon’s, Apple’s and Google’s music services. Wynk Music has a large collection of popular Hindi and English tracks, and allows users to play up to 100 songs per month for free. The app also focuses on music shareability with the Wynk Direct feature that allows users to share song with fellow Wynk listeners over WiFi.
Apple Music was the first international music service to launch in India back in 2015 at a time when Indians weren’t yet paying for content. “Streaming” wasn’t a buzzword and the Apple label made the already premium service out of bounds for most Indians. Add to that, the app was iOS-only to begin with. It rolled out on Android later, and now has 10 million-plus downloads. In India, an Apple Music monthly plan costs Rs 120 for individual users, and Rs 190 for family users. There are special student plans too at Rs 60 per month. Apple doesn’t reveal country-specific numbers, but its music service had 56 million paid subscribers globally at the end of 2018. If you’re a listener obsessed with the highest quality of audio, then Apple Music is your best bet.