Is digital music streaming a threat to FM radio?

While digital music streaming has some clear opportunities over FM radio, it will never take over it, as radio serves music to a vast fragmented population

e4m by Saloni Surti
Updated: May 30, 2013 7:50 PM
Is digital music streaming a threat to FM radio?

Music is no longer just a hobby or a tool to pass time. It has evolved to become a part of consumers’ life, especially youth who celebrate rhythm in its true glory. Listeners now are impatient and will not think twice before switching platforms to get access to their favourite tunes.

While FM satisfied the listener need in the early days with its mobility and variety, the advent of technology, high speed internet and of course, a lot more genres of music, has put radio in a fix. Online music streaming has not only evolved as an additional music platform but also as a potent individual medium in itself.

Technology and internet speed are only on the high. Does this imply that digital music streaming can take over FM radio services?

Digital view
Vehrnon Ibrahim, Radio Consultant explained that there is an opportunity for online music streaming as FM radio cannot serve what everybody wants at every time. Online radio is an augmentation to digital streaming and FM.

As radio enjoys the familiarity factor, technology enjoys the convenience factor. Neeraj Roy, Managing Director and CEO, Hungama Digital Media Entertainment stated that initially number of devices was limited and there was no anxiety from consumer perspective. If all these devices are connected and apps are designed, consumers do not even need a browser.

“Digital holds some gains over radio, but it is not likely that the money will start going away from radio,” expressed Shridhar Subramaniam, President – India and Middle East, Sony Music Entertainment. Subramaniam said that the audience will increase or continue to grow, but revenue per listener or hour will be flat.

Radio view
While digital has a lot of gains, radio has green pastures too. Ibrahim said that while listeners tune into digital streaming, at the end of the day, they will come back and associate themselves to somebody they know.

“Also, India is a fragmented and highly multi-cultural country. Thus, launching a digital service is not equivalent to creating a habit, which radio has already managed to do,” remarked Roy.

According to Roy, radio has a lot more reach than digital in terms of delivering music.
Radio possesses an edge as it understands editorial well and has very good window of opportunity in terms of interacting with their listeners and experimenting. Digital music streaming, on the other hand, has narrow opportunity to experiment as it caters to niche audience. Thus, both the mediums, as of now, continue to co-exist peacefully in the ecosystem. 

The above mentioned experts were sharing their views at the India Radio Forum 2013, held in Mumbai on May 28.

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