Monday, May 25, 2009

No music download service in India yet !

We all “consume” books, newspapers & magazines, music, movies and DVDs. Life would be unimaginable without these. 

These media have for some time now been moving online. These are indeed eminently ‘digitizable’ and will therefore, in the years to come get impacted significantly by the Net.  

Let’s look at music.  

Music is now more online than any of the above media under discussion. One can indeed download most music online. That at least is the perception.

However. In India, music is not quite available online, not legally that is.


I listen to FM Radio (local Mumbai stations) as well as Worldspace Radio (satellite) very often. Very often, there’s a tune that I like and wish to listen to again. My current wishlist, comprising Hindi movie songs, English songs and others, numbers 50 odd titles. These songs span across 30 odd albums : I certainly don’t want to buy CDs. Doing so will burn a not inconsiderable hole in my pocket. Not to mention the possible difficulty in getting all these albums from any one store at any one time. 

In short, I need to download these 50 songs. Onto my iPod. Ideally, legally. Where can I do this? There are no music download / subscription services in India.


Ø      The iTunes Store for India, opened up only recently, has mainly music apps. It does not have individual Hindi or other Indian music titles available. The available apps are compatible only with an iPhone or an iPod Touch, my Nano will not do.

Ø      There are no other music subscription services in India either - unlike in the States (where in addition to iTunes there are Napster, Amazon, Rhapsody, Zune,  eMusic, Walmart and others, each boasting millions of music titles and rich features and with the per song download options at or near 99c per song and some with monthly subscription services).  

Ø      Specifically, none of the Indian music labels have their music available for  download online. Saregama, which boasts of an archive of 25,000 titles, has an antiquated “create your own CD” type of service.

Ø      One has to look for a “less than legal” option. And here, Limewire, the # 1 P2P download service, now seems to save songs only in the protected WMA file format. This format prevents the songs them from being copied onto iTunes.

Ø      About 5 years ago, I was involved in launching a music subscription service for viz. Rediff Radio. The service was aimed at the overseas Indian (NRI market). Things didn’t work out. In particular, the stiff terms and conditions imposed by the Indian music industry – associations PPL & IPRS - made the viability of the service a non-starter and was unable recover it’s costs.

Interestingly, the iTunes store for India too seems to offer only streaming music (radio) services for a bundled subscription price (sold as different apps).

The music industry in India has had a myopic approach, looking to earn royalties and prevent piracy but doing little to create an online download service. As seen above, only an a la carte download or subscription service can meet consumer needs.

The focus however has been on protecting the turf. Nor have the dealings of these bodies covered them with any glory, a less than savory reputation exists. Else one would have had an online music service by now.
Maybe, in the future, biggies like a Nokia, Airtel, Vodaphone or even Apple or Reliance’s Big may well be able to strike a deal with the music industry, their business models.

Till then one has to perforce use sites like search engine . This site has launched a music search service that claims to “link to” 400,000 Indian songs. Seems to be borrowing a leaf out of China search engine leader Baidu, where a similar music search service is the killer app.

Each music search leads to several (need it be said) less than legal mp3 sites. Guess it’s only a matter of time before the music industry guys move against them.

It would have been much better if they had backed or promoted one or more legal download sites in the first place.