2015 was a monumental year for music streaming – old players (read Apple) embraced newer ideas. The highlight belonged to the Apple vs Taylor Swift saga.
As Apple Music, it’s much anticipated music-streaming service was finally launched, pop-star and cult goddess of our times, Taylor Swift initially declared she would not be on board and called out Apple for not playing it fair with artists. Swift had already left music streaming industry veteran Spotify altogether. But Apple somehow managed to get Taylor Swift on board, a big win, given cult following she has among her fans.
Apple Music wasn’t the only big launch. Jay-Z launched his own streaming service called Tidal, which though limited to US, introduced hi-fi music streaming and exclusives from big name artists. Tidal in fact made these music artists co-owners, and claims to pay maximum royalty, although it has faced lawsuits over the issue recently.
Meanwhile in India, one music streaming service that has gained traction and audience is Saavn. The company, which recently received $100 million funding from Tiger Global Management, had a great run last year.
Saavn recently announced that it has crossed 18 million monthly active users, and also launched its universal Windows 10 app. Saavn currently ranks No 9 globally among music streaming services in terms of downloads, and it is the only company bullish about Windows 10 ecosystem.
In an interaction with IndianExpress.com, Saavn’s co-founder Paramdeep Singh explained why the company is putting its faith in Windows 10. “Saavn will work across platforms and we believe the next major users will come from the desktop operating system. Future versions of Windows 10 will have full features and the company is working on integrating its Android, iOS and Windows apps so that its streaming service works regardless of device,” says the co-founder.
Paramdeep agrees that the times have changed and that the music-streaming industry has turned extremely competent in the past year. He also feels that music artists deserve their share, and are the reason for the existence of such music streaming services, before adding that his company is working to bring as many artists as possible to its streaming platform.
Th co-founder, who operates out of Saavn’s New York office, sounded bullish about desktop environment, something that’s rare in these times where mobile occupies so much of the spotlight. He is excited to see the growth from desktop, though maximum traction comes from mobile.
More than 90 percent of Saavn’s users originate from mobile device, and it aims to deliver unmatched content and experience to users, no matter what the device.
But what about Apple’s entry into the Indian market? “The service is more of a supplement to Apple’s ecosystem than a threat to other players,” says Saavn’s co-founder. He adds that the app’s user base has remained unchanged even after Apple’s entry.
If legends are anything to go by, Apple accredited Saavn’s efforts way back in 2008 and invited its founders Paramdeep Singh and Vinodh Bhat to its Cupertino headquarters. Back then, the company was more into music distribution than streaming.
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Saavn’s co-founder also highlights that in order to adapt to the Indian market, their app has seen two important changes. One is network optimisation, and second is focus on content aggregation.
“From Day 1 of its initiation, network optimisation has been the key for Saavn. Saavn works on poorest of possible connections, and consumes very little data,” says the co-founder. For context, Saavn claims to be more data efficient than Apple Music.
Paramdeep adds that they want to take this optimisation further and deliver 320kbps music playback even on the worst possible network.
During Saavn for Windows 10 launch, the company global COO Mahesh Narayanan told IndianExpress.com that content will be the key for its growth especially in a country as diverse as ours.
Paramdeep seconds Mahesh when it comes to content. “We let our users select music languages as soon as they download the app for the first time. This allows Saavn to understand user behaviour and aggregate content,” he says.
“Bringing great collection of songs from regional languages like Marathi and Punjabi will attract users who otherwise wouldn’t have preferred online streaming,” adds the co-founder.
If you like some music, it has to be on Saavn, says Paramdeep. The company says it is dedicating valuable resources in order to aggregate more regional content and that too faster than its peers.
Saavn is like the Spotify of India, and the company doesn’t shy away from that comparison.
“We are working on adding video to its music service much like Spotify and have plans to bring music exclusives sometime later,” points out Paramdeep. The music streaming service sees value in both acquiring content and becoming a content provider. Apple did something similar with its connect feature. Apple Music Connect basically helps less known artists connect with listeners, and establish a following which is otherwise difficult in the current stage of industry.
Saavn’s user-base might be mostly in India, but the company evidently has big plans for the year. One thing is for sure, as music streaming grows in 2016, Saavn could well be the most understated contributor.