| 24 Jul 2019
Music goes the nano way

Indian labels are just beginning to experiment with USB flash drives as an innovative way of selling music...

Replicating the international concept flagged off in 2008, key music companies in India are gearing up to release their music on USB Flash Drivesá Although slightly more expensive than CDs, the flash drive has extra storage capacity so more content can be pre-loaded on them, insist the labels. The industry is optimistically embracing the nano technology foreseeing that with the replacement of CDs with USBs, music will become more popular among an apathetic buying public.

T-Series, Saregama, and Times Music have already announced plans to sell music on USB Flash drives. Pre-loaded content would include songs, music videos, art work and free space for usageá

Former Soundbuzz India general manager Mandar Thakur is enthused by the alternative content format introduced by the music industry but believes that the music industry could have introduced it a few years ago. It is a good sign that the music labels are evolving and adapting to the changing technology and preferences...á

Saregama head of new media and publishing Gautam Sarkar opines, This is an attempt to legitimise the illegal sale of music by cellphone dealers by uploading songs on Mobile SD cards and USB drives. With this format, it would be possible to tap consumers on the lookout for legitimate ways of buying music and generate revenue for the industry....

Big Music recently launched the music of Daddy cool on SD cards. Big Music CEO Kulmeet Makkar says, Launching music in

branded USBs and SD cards is a good marketing exercise for the music labels for increasing visibility and mind recall....

Content is king

Industry observers say the main challenge for labels would be delivering apt content. The USB format is likely to be accepted by buyers only if fed with the right content. Summarises Thakur, The success of the concept will be determined by the multitude of tracks in the device, it might fail if limited to only popular Bollywood songs....

Sarkar too says that research has indicated that selling contemporary Bollywood music on USBs would not be a wise move. Saregama, hence will concentrate on its massive archival library. We will release compilations of Rafi, Lata, Kishore Kumar in the new format rather than opting for new Bollywood hits,... he saysáá

Inreco proprietor S L Saha has a different take however. Preloading content on USBs will restrict the flexibility and choice digital media offers. It is pre judging the consumers choice at a time when he is spoilt for choice. Labels should think of a format where they can expose their catalogue to customers in a better way.... Saha, who has licensed his music for setting up 100 kiosks in Tamil Nadu, sees the retail format as a potential revenue model rather than selling music on newer physical formatsá

Makkar also believes that instead of just preloading songs, the music labels should allow consumers to choose tracks and download onto their USBs through a legal website. Big Music is too is in talks with other labels for acquiring licenses and setting up kiosks to generate revenues. South Indian label Aditya Music's managing director Umesh Gupta agrees with the idea, saying labels must license content of other labels and provide it to the consumersá

Premium price- an obstacle

The proposed pricing of Rs 350 for 1GB and Rs 450 for a 2GB drive could be heavy on consumer's pockets, say industry observers.Asá Gupta puts it, Pricing would be a major drawback in the USB format as there are illegal mobile stores loading USBs with unlimited choice of music for Rs 50 to Rs 100....

Makkar agrees, saying, Pricing would be an issue as the hardware and production cost of manufacturing USBs would be high. But after a span of one or two years, when the hardware costs come down, the format might click with the consumers with revised prices....

Stumbling blocks

With piracy rampant and free availability of music over the web, it is questionable if consumers would prefer paying a premium price for buying a music loaded USB. Also, with the advent of 3G in India, digital music consumption might get a boost, suppressing the existing and upcoming physical formatsá

The USB drives proposed by the labels will not be encrypted and will be rewritable after downloading songs on to another device. This could also result in consumers investing only a few times in a device they could later use for varied music contentá Saha opines that record labels should concentrate on a model where they can embed content on mobile phone and MP3 players which will have greater potential.

Commercial viability

Tips managing director Kumar Taurani insists that his music label would not venture into USB formats doubting its commercial viability. The music consumption pattern has changed over the years and consumers no longer consume packages provided by the labels as there is a plethora of music available over the web for free. Restricting themselves to a particular film or album will discourage buyers from opting for these USBs as they would get variety from a pirate. Also, there is a thin possibility that Indian consumers would shell out premium charges for music with varied economical options around....

Gupta too agrees that it would be difficult to sustain the USB model owing to the excessive mobile chip loaded handsets. The experiment might be successful in smaller quantities and the labels might just be able to recover the production costs, he saysá Big Music's Makkar acknowledges that the experiment could reap dividends only after a couple of years.

By which time, observers wonder if there would be something new to look forward to -á in-house branded cell phones loaded with licensed tracks, maybe?

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