The proverbial 15 seconds of fame has gotten a tad bit longer. If the TikTok revolution (and subsequent monopoly) saw how a few seconds can change a person’s virtual destiny, then the banning of this very app threw open opportunities for many more such applications to rise to the occasion. Hitherto overshadowed by TikTok’s incredible success, Sharechat’s Moj, Triller, Roposo, Doobido, Chingari, Cheez, Firework, and more, finally found a chance to compete for the consumer’s attention during the lockdown. And with that, they now find themselves in a historic position to alter the Indian music industry. Their success has also run concurrently with social media apps like Instagram and Facebook upgrading their experience to include short video sections.
US-based Triller in August hired TikTok’s main man to head its India operations post the ban of the Chinese app. This move-in an already saturated local market of homegrown apps signaled how important India is for the brand in particular and short-format video app companies in general. From less than a million users before TikTok was banned, Triller added over 29 million in just a few days since the ban.
India has emerged as the fastest growing app market in the world with 19 billion apps downloaded in 2019, up from 6.55 billion in 2016, according to the State of Mobile 2020 report published by analytics and market intelligence firm App Annie.
The format for these video apps is quite simple for the consumer, who in this case is also the creator: Select a song and which portion you wish to use, shoot a video, use filters to enhance it, and upload. Every other embellishment or hashtag is in keeping with the trends of the time.
They may have seemed a fad in the beginning, but they caught on more than even their creators possibly anticipated, becoming serious contributors to the Indian music economy.
Non-English language social media app ShareChat launched its short -format video app Moj the day India banned TikTok. At the time of the ban, TikTok had approximately 200 million users in India. Moj reveals to have gotten more than 160 million monthly active users since its inception in July 2020.
Says Berges Y. Malu, Director, Moj,
“The short video format has evolved as a dominant way of expression in the current pop culture. Initially, creators, irrespective of their talent, had started creating short videos across genres that were limited to a few talent categories like acting, dance, music, etc. As a platform, this is our primary responsibility to empower our creators with creation tools, backed by powerful editing capabilities, a vast music library, camera filters, and special effects for them to create highly engaging and fun original content.”
The lockdown undoubtedly brought with it a host of limitations and difficulties, yet many of these video apps became the outlet a lot of people didn’t realise they were actually looking for.
Gaana CEO Prashan Agarwal says,
“In absence of movie releases, leading music streaming platforms like Gaana help connect users with artists of their choice. Artists, either independently or via labels, are reaching out to listeners directly and entertaining them. Our live streaming feature has helped multiple artists connect with their audience and perform live for them. This also helps us by offering multiple forms of user engagement.”
The Impact on Record Labels, Brands, and Consumers
While creators lapped up the opportunity to present their best talent on these video apps, the applications themselves found much resonance among major stakeholders of the Indian music industry: record labels, brands, and marketers.
Says Neeraj Kalyan, President, T-Series,
“Short format music apps have contributed greatly to two pivotal areas that impact record labels- revenue and promotion. By virtue of IPRS licensing and sync rights itself, the apps are providing another source of revenue for us. It also takes licensed content to more people across the country. They have also become excellent tools of promotion because they’re directly reaching our target audiences and we get to see how they’re being impacted by our music. We encourage artists who are handled by our label to check out these apps and see how people are responding to their music.”
The success of these video apps has meant the forging of a new symbiotic relationship between content aggregators and record labels. While labels benefit greatly from having more traffic directed towards their content, the apps through their agreements with labels, benefit from having access to a vast library of music that they can offer to their audience.
With music increasingly being consumed visually in India, video apps have reiterated a paradigm shift in how we partake in the musical experience today. Moj itself partnered with Internet sensation Ritviz to launch the world’s shortest music album. The album comprising five 30-second tracks is available only on Moj exclusively for its creators.
“With affordable data and advancement in technology, music consumption trends have completely changed. The ability to share songs, albums, and playlists on social media platforms has given the industry new ways to show their creativity to their digital fanbase. This enables music labels and artists to explore the growing world of social media and engage with a larger audience,”
“A study conducted by Music Watch shows that two-thirds of social media users agree that they discover new artists on social media, and nearly 60% visit online streaming services/platforms to listen to their music. Digital platforms and music labels need to work cohesively for a sustainable relationship that respects the hard work and creativity of the music artists and understands the limitations of the digital platforms. Both need to take a step forward to make this partnership a success.”
In the run-up to Navratri alone, various challenges and hashtags were trending on apps like Triller, Moj, Gaana HotShots amongst others, where creators showcased their best ‘dandiya’ and Garba moves. Some major music labels like Universal Music and Sony Music too are prominently present on the apps through the works of artists who have signed up with them.
T-Series’ Kalyan believes that originality on these apps is an experiment both for the creator and for brands.
“The brands can release a short video and see organically how the audience responds to it. So you seed content, if consumers like it, then you check for the virality of it. It puts your content through a litmus test and you as a label or a brand manager get to see the results.”
Echoing his views, Malu adds,
“Platforms like Moj, which give extended visibility to creators can be a great tool for digital marketing. It can allow brands to reach a younger profile of audiences and talk to them in their own language, in a vibrant, new, fun way.”
Gaana’s pan-India reach has meant that its music library is ever-expanding.
“With the wide diversity in the music created by original content creators, Gaana is able to offer more choice to its users whose tastes are not confined to any one specific genre. For the content creators, Gaana offers the widest and deepest reach since it is India’s largest audio streaming service preferred by over 185 million users around the world.”
Impact on app companies
One of the direct impacts on the apps has been the responsibility to take music licensing seriously.
In September, T-Series issued copyright infringement notices to many social video platforms, including Bolo Indya, Mitron, MX Player’s Takatak, Triller, and Josh, for copyright violations and warned them against using the work of the company on their platforms in any form, seeking INR 3.5 crore in damages.
Concurrently, the label holds licensing agreements with several of these companies to permit the usage of their library of music.
“Seasoned players like to do things the right way. Some of them are very particular about ensuring that the creators of music are respected just as they want creators of content on their apps to be protected. Record labels like us are custodians of a music creator’s work. We have to make sure that their creativity gets the money it deserves.”
Moj is committed to giving the creator and user community a great content experience and makes decisions keeping that in mind.
“We have created the largest-in-class library of licensed music for our users, allowing them to discover, and create content across languages. Music is an expression of art and gives our creators the tools they require to fully express themselves. We believe in respecting the ecosystem of creativity and ensuring the music on our platform is legal and licensed, is part of that effort,” says Malu.
Gaana HotShots too has partnered with multiple music labels to provide users with access to more than a 45 million song library, including regional labels and artists to provide more diversity in music and genres.
What the Future Holds
The medium itself is growing at such a dynamic pace that creating marketing strategies for it becomes an ongoing endeavour. The lockdown has only served to heighten the digital requirement.
“With digital constantly evolving, it is imperative that music streaming platforms will play an important role in driving growth for brands and artists. As we continue to evolve and explore newer formats and connect with audiences on the go, platforms such as ours, will focus on giving artists a launchpad to grow further.”
With so many of these apps having similar interfaces and user experience tools, as the momentum surrounding the TikTok ban wears off, do they truly stand a chance to hold their own?
Kalyan, a veteran in this arena, sees it for what it is,
“They will need to find their own individuality, their own identity that sets them apart from the others. It will be a case of the survival of the fittest. But one thing is for sure: this format is here to stay. They set the trend; the brand names might change but the format has become an important vertical in the music business today.”
Text by Lakshmi Govindrajan Javeri