What’s the most tuneless thing you’ve listened to lately on a music-streaming app? For some, the answer is Justin Bieber’s ‘Baby’ (don’t argue), but for a lot of users… it’s podcasts.
As more apps crowd the music-streaming market, homegrown players are finding themselves competing with global giants, and in order to stand out, they’re doing two things — turning to podcasts, and signing exclusive deals with regional artistes.
So Airtel’s Wynk Music has exclusive deals with Maharashtra’s Prajakta Shukre and West Bengal’s Anupam Roy; JioSaavn has signed Jharkand-based hip-hop artistes Mellow Turtle aka Rishabh Lohia and Tre Ess or Sumit Singh Solanki.
But the big new tool, as they compete with Spotify and YouTube Music (this year’s new entrants), Amazon and Apple Music, and of course YouTube, which isn’t strictly a music-streaming platform but continues to dominate this market globally — is podcasts.
This has been good news for the independent podcast companies. Much of this audio content comes from outfits like Indus Vox Media (IVM), Hubhopper, Radiofly and Maed in India, to put out shows on everything from paranormal investigations (Paranormal Reality with Jay Alani on Hubhopper) to civics vs politics (IVM’s How to Citizen) and women’s health (She Says She’s Fine by Maed in India).
In-house, platforms are turning to comedy, drama and relationships. JioSaavn has Talking Brits, about culture-shocked NRIs returning to their roots and dealing with issues like getting an Aadhar card and dating; also, Bhai ke Raapchik Reviews, where a fictional character named Bhai does three-minute reviews of films like Badla, which he likens to “Amitabh Bacchan playing KBC with Tapsee Pannu” and Gully Boy, which he calls a “Facebook Live of his chawl”.
Already, Spotify is picking up Indian indie podcasts too. The Musafir Stories, a travel podcast hosted by the Bangalore-based couple Saif Omar and Faiza Khan, discusses offbeat travel destinations in India, complete with anecdotes and travel tips. Often recording from their bedroom or garage, the hosts discuss how Kasol in Himachal Pradesh is called mini-Israel and why you must have the sweet potatoes in Nagaland.
Bollywood is for Lovers by Alberta Podcast Network, available on Spotify too, is hosted by Canadian Hindi film fans Matt Bowes and Erin Fraser, who dissect crime narratives, noir aesthetics, plot loopholes and action sequences. “People generally assume that we, as a Caucasian-Canadian couple, will make fun of Bollywood, but then they listen in and write to us saying they were pleasantly surprised to find that we actually do in-depth research on our material,” Fraser says.
They’ve posted 88 episodes already, with each taking about 10 to 12 hours to research (which involves watching and re-watching films), record and edit.
THE AUDIBLES BOOM
The reason for all this activity isn’t just the size of the Indian music industry, estimated at Rs 1,068 crore in 2018, it’s also a factor of how music-loving we are.
According to a report released in February by management consultancy Deloitte and music distribution company IMI, Indian consumers spend nearly 21.5 hours a week listening to music, against a global average of 17.8 hours.
We’re currently ranked 15th in the world’s music markets, with a probability of making it to the top 10 by 2022, according to the Global Music Report for 2019 by the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI), which represents the recording industry worldwide. The same report found that India saw a 31% rise in streaming revenue because of increase in smartphone penetration and low data rates.
“Unlike bigger podcast markets like the US, UK and Europe, the Indian market is highly diverse in terms of language, economic strata and cultural contexts,” says Mae Mariyam Thomas, founder of Maed in India. “For such a varied and divergent audience, there is potential to explore all kinds of genres, formats, languages and types of audio experiences.”
For Mumbai-based director and writer, Avijit Pathak, 29, the switch to podcasts happened a couple of years ago, mainly for a little variety during his daily commute. He listens to podcasts on investigative journalism (Serial, by Sarah Koenig on SoundCloud). “It was so gripping I couldn’t take my headphones off till I logged in to work,” he says. This made him look for material in the Indian podcast market.
Kaanmasti by Hoezaay and Suresh Menon, which is uncensored banter between two friends about everything from social media to adulting, is one of his favourites. He’s also hooked to The Intersection, by journalists Samanth Subramanian and Padmaparna Ghosh, where they geek out on history, culture and science.
“Consumers are now increasingly seeking content that is different, exclusive and enhances their audio experience,” says Siddhartha Roy, COO of Hungama Digital Media, “and original shows allow us to offer them all three.”
Production costs are low for beginners — all you need is a smartphone and a basic sound studio—so producers can mix and match, add and delete, as required. IVM, for instance, has created 73 podcasts since 2015 — of which about 50 are now streaming on JioSaavn. “We now see 25 times the traffic we registered in 2017, and hope to touch 100 podcasts in the next few months,” says IVM founder Amit Doshi.
Hubhopper, another production and podcast streaming company has over 250 podcasts on its user-based platform, where it allows new podcasters to create an account and pitch a topic for review. “Once our team checks for parameters like originality and lack of profanity, we approve it and the podcaster is than helped through the process of recording and uploading,” explains founder Gautam Anand. The Hubhopper originals range from a show on work-life balance called Executive Mom’s Stories by Kulbir Singh Lamba and Kavita Lamba, to short fiction stories broadcast as The Unfamiliar Déjà Vu, by Vedanshi Singh.
“We’ve formed a community of podcaster creators and listeners considering that many people signed up knowing that their shows would not get even 15- 20 listens in the initial days,” says Anand. “Now we have anything between a 100 to 1,000 listeners across our platform daily.”
May 11, 2019 17:00 IST
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