Audio streaming sees 30% increase as commutes, film releases resume

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New Delhi: Audio streaming that saw a dip during peak covid-19 lockdown last year is now consolidating its recovery. Time spent on platforms has risen by 30% in the current quarter as compared to the October-December quarter.

While people have started commuting for work, there’s also an increase in road trips and new film releases in theatres are pushing out soundtracks. Also, services are seeing an uptick in outdoor listening even as in-home consumption on devices other than mobile stays.

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“Listeners took a few weeks to adjust to the new work-from-home situation when the lockdown started, but today, streaming has recovered to pre-covid levels. As things open up, where people listen to audio is starting to change a bit, but a major part of the listening is still happening at home,” a Spotify spokesperson said. Major lifestyle changes such as restricted movement along with limited new releases had led to an initial drop in streaming hours, services said. But recovery began as people sought comfort in nostalgic music and sampled podcast genres via smart home devices.

India’s audio streaming market is dominated by Gaana, the streaming service owned by Times Internet Ltd, with a 30% share, followed by JioSaavn (24%), Wynk Music (15%), Spotify (15%), Google Play Music (10%), and others (7%), according to a study by Kantar and audience measurement and analytics company VTION last January.

Spotify has noticed a gradual recovery in in-car listening, after a decline in the initial days of the pandemic, the spokesperson said. While the number of active users streaming in-car had dropped by more than 50% in April-May last year, the same recovered by August, and has grown since.

However, listening to music and podcasts on devices beyond the mobile is a trend that’s here to stay, according to Spotify. “Though India is a mobile-first market, spending all that time at home meant that many users experimented with switching to other devices to listen to music – right from gaming consoles, and smart voice assistants to their TV screens and tablets,” the person added.

Film music has always had a high level of acceptance amongst audiences, said Gautam Sinha, CEO, Times Internet that owns audio streaming service Gaana. As the number of movie releases picks up steam, there will be a considerable surge with respect to movie songs being streamed, he added.

“The content flow has really improved dramatically with new film music coming in across languages,” agreed Shahir Muneer, founder and director at Divo Music, a south Indian music label. Particularly in the south, where multiple films are hitting the big screen every week, there is lots on offer, from Mohanlal’s Drishyam 2 (released on Amazon Prime Video) and his latest historical war film Marakkar: Arabikadalinte Simham to Dhanush’s Tamil action drama Karnan.

Film music is an integral part of the music ecosystem in India and with the return of theatrical releases, it is safe to assume that interest in them will continue to grow, a JioSaavn spokesperson said adding that the Bollywood music cycle has resumed with horror comedy Roohi whose ‘Panghat’ had made it to the platform’s weekly top 15 playlist and is played once in every 15 minutes.

Interestingly, the lack of film music led to an unprecedented growth in India’s independent music scene last year, which continues to grow. For instance, the list of top 25 most streamed Hindi tracks on JioSaavn in 2019 went from a 80:20 split in favour of film music to a 60:40 in 2020. As on-ground events stood cancelled. artistes and musicians turned to Instagram Live and YouTube to launch independent tracks and performances to create stronger fan communities.

“While pre-covid content consumption (on our service) was dominated by commercial Bollywood music, the dearth in movie releases led people to discover other offerings on our platform. Independent music has seen a notable uptake as artistes released new songs and drove a high level of engagement with audiences through multiple avenues such as live streaming,” Sinha said adding that there has also been a significant surge in podcast consumption across all genres including stories, entertainment, motivational and comedy content in recent times.

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