YouTube Music Joins the Race for India

YouTube Music will now compete in the massive, and hotly competitive, Indian digital music market. The company announced its move into India following Spotify’s last month.

Both will compete against homegrown services JioSaavn and Gaana, which claims 80 million users, more than half of the Indian market. The new venture stands to give YouTube Music needed footing after a sluggish roll out this past year.

India seems primed for YouTube Music. The country of 1.3 billion people has a voracious appetite for music, watching most of it on the YouTube website, a dominant source for Bollywood and other native music videos. Indian music videos are pushing 500 million views and artists are topping the channel’s global artist chart.

“We know that India loves watching music videos on YouTube — be it the vibrancy, choreography, stars and glamour. Music from India has always been so much more than just the audio,” said T. Jay Fowler, YouTube director of product management, this week. “With the launch of YouTube Music, all the emphasis is on the familiar to make every user experience richer as they start using the service.”

Music streaming in India is a competitive market. The world’s second-most populous country has a base of popular local services entrenched before Apple Music arrived in 2015.

Table: Digital Music Competitors in India Timeline

2007 (Month unknown)Savaan (India)
January 2010
Hungama Music (India)
April 2010
Gaana (India)
January 2010-15
Rdio (Pandora Owned)
July 2015
Apple Music (U.S.)
April 2017
Google Play Music (U.S.)
February 2018
Amazon Prime Music (U.S.)
March 2018
JioSavaan (India)
December 2018
Wynk (India)
February 2019
Spotify (Sweden)
March 2019YouTube Music (U.S.)

As of last year, there are more than 100 million active music-streaming users in India. But the conversion rate from free to paid plans is dismal, around only 1%. The reason why, according to a recent IFPI digital music study, is the wide availability of music on free services such as YouTube, a large consumption of pirated content, and an ample supply of free downloads. The study revealed more users in India are “stream ripping” to download music than anywhere else.

IFPI Calls to Close India’s “Value Gap”

For new services, India comes with a predicament. Music consumers are used to getting their digital music for free, giving cause to close a “value gap,” says IFPI, as is being addressed in the west with new royalties laws. The IFPI, in its report, calls for a new legal framework to stem unfair music consumption in a marketplace where free content is abundantly consumed. “The value gap is the biggest threat globally to the sustainability of the music industry,” it said.

Meanwhile, things in India are as expected for Spotify. Within six days of its India debut, the service announced it signed up one million subscribers. It did not say how many of those new listeners were paying subscribers.

Spotify’s India pricing for the premium subscription is Rs. 119 per month and the annual pricing is Rs. 1,189 per year. Rs. 119 Indian is roughly the equivalent of $1.75 U.S. dollars. YouTube Music’s ad-supported plan will be free and YouTube Music Premium will cost Rs. 99 per month, the equivalent of $1.42 U.S. dollars.

The average price for a train ticket in Mumbai is Rs. 10, or $.015 U.S. dollars.

India’s Music Culture: What to Know

As the world’s second biggest smartphone market, India is well positioned for growth in music streaming. According to a 2018 Nielsen study, streaming accounts for 76 percent of music discovery in India.

In smart speakers and voice assistants, tech-savvy Indians are mostly a younger demographic. Among those surveyed by Nielsen, 51 percent of people who reported owning smart speakers were millennials and as a group averaged 23 hours of music consumption per week.

Music from Bollywood films and other Indian films leads consumption trends. With a diverse population of people who speak a variety of languages, India embraces a wide array of music genres including Western pop and rock.

India’s top five genres are:

  1. Bollywood film music
  2. Other Indian film music
  3. Indian pop
  4. Indian regional folk
  5. Western popular music

The top three most-used music streaming platforms in India are:

  1. YouTube
  2. JioSavaan
  3. Google Play Music

Source: Nielsen music study, 2018