Interview of the Week – Gaurav Sharma, COO, JioSaavn

A fact that anybody associated with the Indian music industry will agree is the growth of music streaming platforms over the last few years. Bolstered by the entry of international players like SpotifyResso, Amazon and Apple Music and recently Moodagent, along with their Indian counterparts the platforms have seen a substantial growth in the MAUs and streaming numbers. But this has also resulted in a highly competitive market.

One of the earliest Indian entrant in this market was Saavn. Founded in 2006 as BODVOD Network, Saavn initially distributed Bollywood content in North America. In 2018, Saavn announced merger with JioMusic in a deal worth more than $1 billion and was rebranded as JioSaavn.

JioSaavn is now one of India’s leading music streaming service and digital distributor of Bollywood, English, Tamil, Telugu and other regional Indian music across the world. The platform follows a freemium as well as paid subscription model.

JioSaavn, has been at the forefront in terms of innovative and demography based programming, promoting artists, exploring the nascent podcast segment and more.

In our Interview of the Week, we spoke to Gaurav Sharma, COO, JioSaavn to know about the platforms current initiatives, future plans and more.

The last year has witnessed the meteoric rise of Independent music in India. How much of an impact has Independent music had on the streaming and subscriber numbers?

Independent music has extensively represented this country’s diverse offering of genres and languages. The music gave people something they could relate to, something they can sing and play in a language they are more familiar with. 

Through our data we have found that Independent music has witnessed year-on-year growth in terms of listenership as well as the steady increase in the number of artists and catalogue. In 2020 the top 40% of the top streamed songs in Hindi on JioSaavn were non-film tracks. This growth in large part is fostered by an ecosystem of music festivals from Nh7 to Magnetic Fields, named brand investments in the genre, streaming platforms, the rise in record labels investing in “non-film” music, and growing sync numbers.

What role does JioSaavn as a platform have in the growth of an artist?

As a platform we are always looking to provide creators with the best tools and experience. We recently introduced ArtistOne, an artist first platform that allows creators to engage better with their audience and fans. First launched in 2018 as Artist Insights, ArtistOne has been upgraded for managers and artists to use as an intelligent business tool by helping creators to engage with their audience and build revenue. We also introduced YourCast last year, to help create an integrated, end-to-end support ecosystem that empowers independent podcasters with tools to get their stories listened to. YourCast streamlines the content curation process for podcasters, with manual support from

JioSaavn’s in-house content team, who help with the approval process and verification while also considering authenticity and quality of content.

Our in-house label Artist Originals has also been built into a full spectrum in-house label by our team to pioneer new models of direct-to-artist music production, marketing and distribution. In addition to supporting artists like Nikhita Gandhi, Kamakshi Khanna, Ankur Tewari and Abhijeet Srivastava through Artist Originals, we also introduced AO Labs last year to support talented artists who are not in a position to, or choose not to, work with record labels. Backed by JioSaavn’s strong brand equity and millions of users, AO Labs is a great alternative for new talent.

Our focus has always been on what works best for our artist and the content they are looking to showcase. The measurement of ‘viral’ depends on the definition of the term. We observed that in the traditional sense, short format video platforms work the best for us. Shorties which is a short format video feature on JioSaavn as well as other social media formats and platforms for shorter format videos and filters all together contribute a lot to the impact on the number of streams on the platform.

JioSaavn is more of a deep engagement platform for artist growth vs. short duration virility. For example, when Nucleya’s Bass Rani released on Saavn in September 2015. Not only did the album streams reach a wider audience in India, it also propelled Nucleya to be the #1 artist on the platform, out doing many contemporary mainstream artists of that time.

In a more recent example, SIRI’s My Jam from Artist Originals was the first Kannada hip hop release to be featured on VH1. Once released on JioSaavn, it became one of the top 50 songs in Kannada but it also had a gross over effect for general hip hop listeners. It became the first Kannada track to be nominated for a MTV VMA.

What is the business model for podcasts at JioSaavn?

At JioSaavn, we work on the philosophy of building a platform that has something for everyone. So, whether it is regional or global content, we work closely with our international partners as well as our Indian network to provide a diverse catalogue with something for everyone. We focus on growth by staying culturally relevant and producing original content while also fostering listenership by acknowledging diversity of consumers.

Have the Indian consumers embraced the idea? Do you foresee podcasts developing into a premium segment?

Indian consumers are warming up to the idea of podcasts. We have seen an increase in consumption over the last five years since we launched and we foresee it growing at a positive rate in the near future. Curating podcasts since 2016, there are various opportunities to develop them in the premium sector. One way to do this is by providing more regional content and thus building inroads from there towards a greater market segment.
Considering that India is mostly a freemium market, how do streaming platforms survive in the long run?
As the first audio streaming platform in the country, at JioSaavn we are always curious about how listeners are responding to changes on the platform. Whether it be to understand the diversity in listening habits or to analyse minute user details, we believe that consumer knowledge is fundamental to sustain long term users. We are continuously working towards creating differentiated experiences for our subscribers while also investing in lower priced, feature based offerings to provide listeners with various options.

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