On 6 April, Google quietly launched its digital music offering—Google Play Music Unlimited—to users in India. There was no mega launch, no PR overdrive, no ad campaign. Quite unusual, given Google’s constant penchant for PR events in the country. It was a mere announcement tucked inside a blog post.

Seven years after it was first launched in the US, Google’s streaming music offering was finally in India too. Joining Apple Music, Wynk (from Bharti Airtel), Gaana (from Times Internet), Saavn and JioMusic (from Reliance Jio).

That’s not all.

According to industry sources who spoke to The Ken on a condition of strict anonymity, India is likely to see two big entrants into the digital music game—Amazon Prime Music and Spotify—over the next six months.

While the former has already taken first steps by appointing ex-Tips Music vice-president Sahas Malhotra as director, Amazon Music India, Spotify has begun scoping the Indian market, following multiple trips to the country by its executives over the last twelve months. Amazon is also expected to launch its much-vaunted Echo smart speaker in India on either side of its Prime music launch.

Each one wants to become that one single service that Indians will rely on. And they all recognise that it could all come down to product loyalty.

Overnight, Google Play Music became the cheapest paid subscription music streaming service in India, priced at Rs 89 per month (after a 45-day trial). In comparison, Apple Music charges a monthly fee of Rs 120 after a three-month free trial and Rs 60 for students.

There was a mixed response to Google’s entry. Some seem rattled, others quietly confident of raising their game. And some others simply stood still, recognising that internationally, Google hasn’t been able to make much of an impact in the music space.

2016: The year when streaming became a habit

The global digital music market was valued at $9.2 billion in 2016, accounting for 11% of the overall digital media market. A further breakdown of these numbers indicates that the US, Europe and China contribute to nearly 81% of the global digital music market, cumulatively valued at $7.4 billion.

In contrast, the Indian digital music market is nascent, with a recent KPMG-FICCI report estimating its market size to be worth Rs 12.2 billion ($190 million) in 2016. However, that’s expected to grow to Rs 25.4 billion ($396 million) in 2021. India is still scratching the surface as a digital music market.

But events of the last twelve months indicate that the Indian user’s behaviour patterns are changing.

First, cheap data rates triggered by Reliance Jio’s entry have only resulted in unprecedented growth for consumption-driven products and services, which would otherwise be low on a user’s priority list.


Venkat Ananth

Venkat is currently in his tenth year in journalism. Prior to The Ken, he was Deputy Content Editor at Mint as part of the newspaper’s digital team. He also wrote in-depth features on the business of sport for the newspaper. His earlier assignments include Yahoo! (as a columnist) and the Hindustan Times, where he began his career. Born in Mumbai, Venkat holds a Bachelor of Mass Media (Journalism) degree from SIES College of Arts, Science and Commerce, Mumbai and a Master of Arts degree in International Studies from Goldsmiths, University of London. He currently resides in New Delhi, where he moved nearly five years ago.

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