Hitting the right note: How brands are using music to build a consumer connect

We analyse how brands like Uber, Ola, OPPO, American Tourister & TikTok are roping in musicians and artists, and how Digital platforms are playing a major role

e4m by Beryl Menezes & Christopher Chaves
Updated: Aug 21, 2019 4:23 PM

“Where words fail, music speaks.” These words immortalised by Danish author Hans Christian Andersen pay tribute to the power of music that unites people across the world and has come to be an integral part of advertising over time too. 

Currently, World Cup anthems by a plethora of brands, including Uber, Ola, OPPO, American Tourister, TikTok, Syska, Bingo and more have become the order of the day, as have branded music videos using artistes who are hot on the music scene, like the recent Axe hiphop video featuring Ayushmann Khurrana, Naezy, Sunil Chhetri, Dharmesh Yelande and Shashank Arora. 

The underlying factor giving a boost to the Indian music ecosystem is Digital, even as more Indians consume content online through mobiles or OTT platforms on the go, or on multiple screens. This presents a vital opportunity for advertisers to go beyond jingles to building consumer engagement using music as a marketing tool on various music platforms. 

Bridging The Digital Divide Through Music 
About 15-18 years ago, the first digital disruption in India took place on the back of a music-driven service called Napster. Before Apple launched the iPhone, it unveiled the iTunes store in 2002. These pioneers led the way for a plethora of music services including YouTube, Apple Music, Spotify, TikTok, SoundCloud, Amazon Prime Music – and closer home Gaana, JioSaavn, Wynk, Hungama and more recently Red FM’s ad model-driven digital radio app. 

While YouTube Music and Spotify recently launched in India, Amazon has plans to bring its digital audio entertainment platform to the country as well. Audio and video streaming making waves: So what is driving the flourishing growth of music streaming platforms in India? Faster and cheaper 4G data bandwidth, especially on the back of Jio’s disruption, a proliferation of smartphones, more people consuming content on the go, especially during commute time, as well as the plethora of differentiated content available today across genres and artistes, which was not the case until a few years ago. 

Music streaming apps and OTT platforms, as well as voice-enabled services like Alexa, Siri and Google Now Assistant, are driving the growth of digital music consumption in India. According to the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI), 96% of smartphone users in India are using their devices to listen to music, the highest rate in the world. Again, according to IMI’s Digital Music Study 2018 report, streaming revenue accounted for 66.8% of the overall market and digital sales contributed to 78.5% of all sales revenues in India. Income from subscription audio streams tripled to Rs 220 crore while video stream revenues contributed Rs 170 crore or 29.8% of total streaming. 

“Today, 250 million users are actively streaming, a number which is set to go up to about 600 million in the next five years. Music is the highest consumed category on digital platforms, with consumers spending five-six hours monthly on streaming services in India, which is set to multiply to 20 hours in the next four-five years,” says Neeraj Roy, Managing Director, Hungama Digital Media Entertainment, adding that regional content accounts for 48% of the total consumption currently. 

Music streaming has witnessed a 3X growth in the past two years and the addressable market is expected to more than double in the coming year, with Punjabi and regional music being the biggest beneficiaries of this increased online music consumption, as is clearly visible from the 25X growth in regional music consumption on Gaana in the last two years, says Prashan Agarwal, CEO, Gaana. 

So how can brands benefit from this? Given that digital audio and video streaming provides personalisation, discovery and engagement, brands have a chance to tap into each of these areas to reach their consumers. “If music can map the mood of the brand and is topical to the mood of the consumer, there is a confluence point between the consumer and the brand that can add a lot of value. Thus brands need to go beyond making very product-centric music to music which caters to consumer tastes, and which also includes the brand attributes,” says Tarun Katial, CEO, ZEE5 India.   
From the concept of streaming being non-existent about a decade ago, to making up 75% of the total revenues of the Indian music industry today, as per various industry reports, the opportunities to tap into this segment, for both brands and OTT platforms, are immense. One of the biggest changes that streaming has brought about is the discovery of upcoming independent artistes who now no longer have to go to a music label or music producer for opportunities to go mainstream, as they can directly reach out to listeners by uploading their videos online on these music streaming apps and social media platforms. “This has paved the way for greater brand-independent artiste collaboration as well,” says Sandip Tarkas, Director, Songdew, who is set to partner with two OTT platforms, which he hopes will help Songdew reach 100 million homes by the end of this year, as compared to eight million OTT users currently.

Podcasts coming of age: According to PwC’s Global Entertainment and Media Outlook 2019 report, while OTT video will be the fastest growing digital service at approximately 22% CAGR from 2018-2023 in India, music, radio and podcasts are expected to grow at 13.8% CAGR to surpass US$1.5 billion by 2023 – the highest in the world. Backed by rapid growth in Internet and smartphone penetration, India is set to be the second fastest growing Internet advertising market globally, after Indonesia, as per the report. 

After streaming, podcasts are indeed the next frontier of growth in the digital music ecosystem, despite still being at a nascent stage today. Podcasts and videos are a great way to drive user retention, and offer music streaming players a platform to build consumer loyalty over time amongst a niche audience. While this space demands frontloaded investment, the returns are significantly higher over time. Gaana, for example, launched ‘Gaana Exclusives’ and ‘Gaana Videos’ to engage with more users and promote non-film music at the same scale of distribution as popular Bollywood songs. This also means there is significant potential for increased advertising revenues on the back of customised branding solutions. 

“While video consumption has definitely increased as bandwidth costs reduce, audio consumption is also growing significantly and brands which offer curated and specialised content to meet consumers’ needs will be rewarded because consumers are willing to pay for podcasts that add value to their lives,” says Harvinder Singh Bhatia, CEO & Co-Founder, Radiowalla Network. 

Podcasts also provide a platform for discussion on hot topics within the community, which may not always be featured in mainstream media. “I started Maed in India as an Indie music podcast to address a gap in discovery of niche regional music and artistes, who were given a platform to perform live on the podcast. However, I also have a podcast around women’s health called ‘She Says She’s Fine’, which addresses issues that mainstream media isn’t comfortable talking about. I firmly believe that this helps people connect and support each other,” Mae Mariyam Thomas, Founder, Maed in India tells us. 

Most popular podcasts today are video-based or a combination of audio and video in a talk show format which is definitely a rapidly emerging digital segment though owing to a small user base, the scale has not arrived yet, says Samir Bangara, Co-founder and MD, Qyuki Digital Media. 
Technology at the intersection of music: Today, the popularity of playlists stem from the algorithm and Machine Learning data tracking usage. However, there are a lot more technology tools available to brands to identify what content to curate for a particular consumer subset, what music to play in a store which will boost sales or immersive experiences that can be created to delight consumers through music. 

For example, Intel has worked with music composer and director A R Rahman recently on ‘Le Musk’, the first Indian movie to be shot entirely using virtual reality (VR). Again, on the 40th anniversary of the movie ‘Grease’, Intel worked with the original director to create a massive VR rendition of the title track using volumetrics which had 130 different cameras in a massive dome, giving audiences an experience of almost being part of the ensemble.  

Avenues for music monetization: Revenues from digital means contributed nearly 78% (Rs 665 crore) to the overall recorded music industry revenues in India and 54% globally in 2017-18, according to the Equirius – Indian Radio Sector Thematic 2019 report. On a standalone basis, the music ecosystem and its ability to drive more consumers to subscription in the Indian context is going to be a little more challenging as the average Indian consumer will look at a lump sum of a wallet like Rs 50 or Rs 100 a month, and within that they would want a bouquet of services which could include a range of video services and perhaps a couple of music services, says Roy of Hungama. 
That said, Katial of ZEE5 believes that consumers are willing to pay top dollars for content that appeals to them, as can be seen from the case of subscription-based OTT platforms. However, the key to monetising the music ecosystem is for artistes and platforms to go behind the paywall and offer only limited content for free, as is the case globally. This is the only way people will see value in music content on OTT platforms, like music-specific shows, musician biopics or even music-centred documentaries, which brands will also see potential in investing in through advertising or co-curation of such content, he adds. 

“The number of music-based long form shows have suddenly increased. Earlier, when people thought of long form music content, it would either be an unplugged kind of session, or some collaboration, but now we are seeing a spurt in music reality shows and there is so much more in this space, and we are only just getting started here in India,” says Mandar Thakur, CEO, Times Music. 

Going The Extra Mile Through Live 
The journey from experiencing music through streaming to attending a concert and then going to a music festival is a natural progression for most music fans today. For this reason, music industry experts believe that the live music space is growing as fast as the digital music space, which of course is an opportunity which brands must capitalise on. “The first music festival which really captured people’s attention was Sunburn way back in 2007. Today, there are at least 10 major music festivals including Bacardi NH7 Weekender, Vh1 Supersonic and Mahindra Blues. The big growth going forward is taking these festivals to smaller towns which have never seen a music festival, and there is a lot of scope there. Our responsibility will be to ensure discovery of these events and smoothen the overall eventgoing experience,” says Shreyas Srinivasan, Founder and CEO, Insider.in. 

Today, fans plan their calendars, travel and holidays around concerts and music festivals and for brands, this is a great opportunity to not only sponsor such festivals, but curate content for them and even support a music artiste’s brand journey, says Lydia Buthello, EVP Brand Experience & Events, Star India. 

Brands can also create a new identity for themselves through these festivals. Besides, they can also support causes that the brand stands for through such festivals such as gender equality, sustainability and CSR, among others. “Bacardi NH7 Weekender is a great example of a sustainable business model for the brand which has become more of a cultural festival today, apart from just having great artistes and good music. The festival today has 20-25 brands invested in each edition,” says Nirmika Singh, Executive Editor, Rolling Stone India. 
Merchandising is another revenue stream for brands at live events which is still at a relatively nascent stage.  “Brands also need to identify their purpose of partnering with a live event -is it pure marketing, sales or just CSR? However, what I do believe is music has the largest resonance as a performing art or as an indulgence with the consumer, and I think there is always a way to link it to the brand-consumer experience,” says Brian Tellis, Founder & Group CEO, Fountainhead MKTG. 

Mogo For Musical Identity 
What is that one non-intrusive piece of advertising that brings about instant brand recall and connects people across ages, languages and geographies? It has to be a MOGO or a brand’s musical logo or sonic identity, which is slowly gaining as much importance as a brand’s logo or visual identity. 

HDFC Life, Vistara, Raymond’s, Titan, Gaana, MG Motors, Tata Salt and CNBC TV18 are just a few examples of brands that have harnessed the power of MOGO, such that consumers, wherever they are, or whatever they are doing, hear the familiar notes and immediately recognise the brand behind it. 

“Today, brands are recognising the importance of ‘ear-points’, just as much as touch-points, to provide consumers with a multisensory brand experience. These ear-points essentially capture brand attributes and musical notes are composed accordingly for a mogoscape, which is a 90-second master composition for a brand, and a MOGO, which is shorter. Brands can buy the rights to the mogo to own their sonic identity, or they can go in for a licensing model for a specific period,” Rajeev Raja, Co-founder, Brandmusiq says.  

“Sonic identity is a valuable marketing tool. Secondly, it also works primarily, it doesn’t take much attention. You are driving your car, you are busy at work, but suddenly you hear a particular tune, it sends you back to a particular memory. Specifically as Indians, music has always been part of our culture and so the concept of sonic identity truly has huge potential as it makes the whole brand experience far more real and provides much bigger recall,” says Lloyd Mathias, Business Strategist and Angel Investor. 

With inputs from Rahul Kamat

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