The Sound of Music: KaChing!!

SoMKaChingRare would be the people who’d say they dislike music. That being said how many of this majority that loves music would be willing to make an “effort” either monetary or physical to acquire music.  We have been living in the age of digital music for almost a generation now.  The era of vinyl discs (gramophones), audio cassettes and compact discs is long gone. With that has also gone the tangible aspect of music.  Piracy has afflicted music industry for a while now. Somehow when it comes to copying, sharing and transferring music it is not a question of scruples.  There were days we’d get the music dubbed from one cassette to the other today we just transfer it from one memory stick to the other. One of the leading record labels in India started off distributing pirated content and illegal covers.  The readers of this post may belong to different generations but almost all would be guilty of acquiring music in, to mildly put it, not a legal way.  For most of us therefore music is “Free”.  Chris Anderson in his book by the same name goes on to define and describe various kinds of free. Piracy he says is an imposed form of free.

With this as a background, creating a music service and offering it to consumers is rather a brave effort especially in a country like India where ahem…scruples are a non-issue.  So have brands not made the effort to monetize music? Sure they have, snack sized music in terms of ringtones and CRBT (Call Ring Back Tunes) which has metamorphosed into a multi-crore industry. What about pure play music then? Yes there have been brands that have carried the torch for that as well. With that have emerged different business models for monetizing music as a service.  The Apple iTunes store did not launch in India perhaps for these very reasons.

Nokia altered its concept and delivery of music radically when it launched its music store and comes with music. There was an evolution in the way “free” music was delivered.  Initially, select devices that were positioned as music devices started coming pre-loaded generic content, then exclusive content etc. Eventually, the devices came with buffet style free unlimited music from the store.  The model was simple the brand paid and built it into the price of the tangible product i.e. the mobile phone.  The consumer was happy since they technically weren’t paying for the music and all you can eat was the smokescreen.  Of course charges for data were applicable, which meant data packs therefore a win-win for both the device manufacturers and the telecom service providers.

Then again there was the desi jugaad that had emerged with the proliferation of SD card enabled mobile phones.  Retail stores would sell memory cards and a service that was inbuilt was loading of content music, porn etc.  In this model though no one paid for the content, except perhaps the consumer when he desired to refresh the content.

Over the past seven to eight years though the landscape has changed as far as the devices and the telecom services are concerned. There are new players and new leaders today. Music however has continued to rule roost as far as showcased services are concerned.  Yes today in India music much like the west also has a visual connotation.  Bollywood has seized the opportunity that exists in mobile music rights are sold specifically and separately for mobile today. Airplays on radio and television are invariably accompanied by short-codes for ringtones and CRBT.

So if people are actually making money out of it and the consumer seems to think it’s free then some good has come out of it.

Truth is the concept of value is changing, money is not the single determinant of value anymore.  Record sales might not be the indicator of success today but YouTube views, ringtone downloads and store downloads sure are.

To close a modification on the law of conservation of energy but with a simple twist based on the TANSTAFL (There ain’t no such thing as free lunch) concept.  At the end of the day I am an Engineer with a Marketing degree!

“Value can be created but not destroyed, it can only be transformed from one form to another.”


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