Indians Are Paying for Indie Music!
The digital platform OK Listen has been mediating seamlessly between indie musicians and fans to not only promote music brewed in India, but are also making sales out it.
In a country that perhaps begot the concept of ‘bargaining’, its denizens naturally have a shy hand when it comes to paying, for anything, especially music. ‘Let’s-download-it’ is the most convenient unapologetic thought that prevails. From Songs.pk to extracting audio from YouTube video using, again, illegal websites, we’ve done it all. We’ve even managed to download music players like iTunes for free. Some talent! It’s almost against our tradition to pay for things. With YouTube’s paid subscription in the pipeline, we’d circumvent that as well. Jugaad is what we call it.
But for the first time, we’re seeing a revolution of sorts. Indians are paying for a want-based commodity like music and that too independent music at that. How is this happening? OK Listen, a digital platform started by Vijay Basrur, has mobilized thought-process when it comes to music. Prices ranging from Rs. 50 to Rs. 100 for entire albums, the portal has big names like Raghu Dixit (pre-order upcoming album here), Indian Ocean, and Junkyard Groove apart from a sizable numberof upcoming acts, liaising with them to promote their music.
After its inception in February 2012, Basrur took a much-needed 10-day holiday with his family in the first week of November 2013. Speaking about their hottest month at OK Listen, October 2013, he says, “It is safe to assume that we did more than 100% of the average per month metrics on all counts – traffic, revenue and user sign ups.”
The idea of starting an online platform to sell music hit him when he wanted to buy music and he was sent a hardcopy by post. That got him thinking. The only other place he could buy music from was Flipkart’s Flyte, which shut down earlier this year, and ArtistAloud. The latter only featured bigger names of the indie world. That was the hook for Basrur. He realized the teeming trend of indie music growing in India and he thus decided to create a briefcase to sell it in.
They have a simple revenue policy. 70 % goes to the band/artist for every sale. The remaining stays with them to run the show. Talking about alternate resources, he responds by saying “We also charge musicians to redistribute their music to 700 international digital stores like iTunes, Amazon, Goolge Music, Spoity, Nokia and many more.” This contributes to their larger earning. Presumably, like every digital portal, they would consider selling ads once the site gets on everyone’s lips.
Then, irony struck. If one observes, most artists put up their entire album on SoundCloud and Reverbnation-like free sites for streaming. And then they try to sell it on OK Listen as well. Basrur stepped in to solve our quandary. “The choice of making an album available for free or a small charge is the musician’s prerogative. Using streaming options such as Soundcloud and ReverbNation usually help in the process of driving sales. This is true for musicians who create good quality music, where consumers feel the need to own a copy so that they can hear it even if they are not connected to the Internet.”
For musicians who want to upload their music, the website only asks for studio recorded sound quality. For buyers, an option called “My Wallet” lets you add money to account using your debit/credit card and buy new music as and when it gets released. On making the payment, it guides you to “Your Library”.
Jazz-fusion duo Adil & Vasundahra has revered OK Listen’s presence. They feel it will make it to “history books 50 years down the line”.
Testimony to satisfied customers is the increasing growth in users and sales. This, despite Basrur stressing, “We rely on word of mouth along with our efforts on social media.” But twitter also sees a fan or two tweeting “OK listen is economical for people in India”, besides band veterans like Junkyard Groove’s Ameeth Thomas tweeting “It will cost you one beer for Rs. 100 pick up JYG’s new album”.
If you rewind the clocks back to the 90s even cassettes were sold at around Rs. 150. On that Basrur remarked, “These are tough times for the music industry but also a time where technology is helping businesses come up with creative solutions to monetize music. Leveraging digital is the best way to increase the reach of music, in these days. Along with convenience, affordability is key to make any digital content successful. If users see value, they will purchase. Rs. 150 is a good price for an album. The challenge is to increase the number of people purchasing the album.” We like their philosophy. Everybody wins. Utopia has been achieved. Or at least, a path for the indie has been defogged.