India is one of Apple Music’s 110 markets where it launched about two years ago. But only now is it getting serious about the culture-and-content-rich country.
After late last year’s roll-out of its student membership program that allows students to shop from Apple Music at less than a dollar, and a tie-up with India’s leading taxi aggregator Ola to expand its reach and visibility, Apple is now spreading its wings in the country’s vibrant artist community.
It has roped in a host of local musicians and content creators across indie and alternative music as well as mainstream Bollywood, and intends to be the platform that launches India’s homegrown talent to the world.
Says Kavya Trehan, one of the collaborators, “As a new artist, to get amazing reach with Apple Music as it is a global platform, making it accessible for people as far off as Kenya or Egypt to experience my music is awesome!”
Apple has also put in place teams that are curating localized playlists in India’s regional languages.
The company believes that India is its natural home where customers are highly engaged and even the artists’ community is very close to the audience. Its ‘Connect’ feature even enables musicians to directly reach out to their audiences.
While Apple doesn’t give away country-specific numbers, globally, its music-streaming service touched 20 million paying customers at the end of 2016 — half that of rival Spotify.
Incidentally, Apple is not the first music-streaming service to tap into the musician base. India’s home-grown Apple Music rival, Saavn, runs an artist-in-residence program along with original content partnerships with diverse talent from movies and music.
Apple Music, however, has added another interesting dimension by reaching out to renowned Indian fashion designers, including Manish Malhotra and Masaba Gupta, who are curating their favorite playlists on the platform. The company believes that fashion and music go hand-in-hand and a designer’s personal tastes tend to influence his/her designs.
Going forward there’s a lot of work to be done on the payments front though. Apple Music presently allows only card transactions, something that does not go down well with mobile-wallets-and-cashback-crazy India, especially the student population that is largely without a credit or debit card.
Moreover, Apple’s local rival, Gaana, allows seamless mobile wallet payments that are a hit with the youth.
India is a unique music market and Apple is acutely aware of that. But right now its core strategy is hinged on localized content, that seems to be the order of the day for US entertainment players in India, Amazon and Netflix being the others.