Earlier today: Online music streaming service Dhingana has shut down. It’s website now carries a message for visitors stating that “all good things must come to an end.” We’ve contacted Swapnil Shinde, the Founder of Dhingana, for an update on whether the service is going to continue, and now we have an answer. There’s no indication from Dhingana about why it shut down. In December, after reports that Dhingana might shut down, its then CEO Rohit Bhatia had told MediaNama that the company was in the process of restructuring its operations, declining to comment on the possibility of a shut-down. This means that they major music streaming players in the market remain Times Internet backed Gaana, Tiger Global backed Saavn and T-Series’ favorite music service / aggregator - Hungama.
The Myopia Of India’s Music Ecosystem
This might end up being a last-man-standing game, and the way I see it, the key problems in this ecosystem are two: exclusivity of licensing, where one player corners the rights to a particular music catalog, and another where there is a lack of standardization of licensing.
Exclusivity increases cost of operations, and in an ecosystem that is still nascent and hasn’t yet figured out a viable monetization model, the risk of running out of money is always going to be there. Labels and aggregators, which typically take a transactional, show-me-the-money approach to licensing appear to have no interest in helping build an alternate revenue stream. With time, their short sightedness might cost them, especially since physical distribution is dying, and mobile VAS is appears to be a fraction of the size it once was. An issue that Dhingana pointed out was that they didn’t have rights to mobile music, which hampered their monetization. Those rights, apparently, are with Hungama Digital exclusively. Hungama Digital, which is both a music aggregator and a direct to consumer service (conflict of interest, anyone?), competes with other streaming services, and this exclusivity on mobile gives it a competitive advantage over other service providers. Much of the new music released in Bollywood is with T-Series, and as an extension of that, with Hungama on mobile.
The other issue is that of standardization in licensing: no startup today can go and license music easily, because each deal involves protracted negotiations. As Apurv Nagpal, former CEO of Saregama, had told MediaNama: Every deal is different. This means fewer music startups, lesser competition, and no focus on building an ecosystem. Imagine if book publishers gave books exclusively only to one online bookstore: would the Indian e-commerce ecosystem be as big (albeit still not healthy) as it is now? Imagine if they negotiated rights separately for each book.
Someone joked to me recently that the biggest mistake that Dhingana made was that it disclosed that it had raised Venture Capital funding, saying that “It just made the labels more greedy.”
However, it is unlikely that the change in licensing practices is going to happen downstream. What Abhay Deol has done with One by Two might be a sign of things to come, and we hope that will force the music industry to be more reasonable.
Dhingana So Far
Feb 2012: To Focus On Mobile & Social; To Launch Open Graph Integration
May 2012: Launched Open Graph Apps On Facebook
Aug 2012: Launched Ad Platform; Roped In Gokul Rajaram
Oct 2012: Raised $7M In Series B Round From Lightspeed & Existing Investors
Jan 2013: Inked Two-Year Advertising Deal With Universal Music
Launched Mobile Site; Monetization; 3.5M App Downloads
Feb 2013: Appointed Rohit Bhatia As CEO; Based In India
Mar 2013: Introduces Radio Stations; Plans RJ Based Programming
Apr 2013: Partnered Sony, Universal & Others To Improve Its International & Regional Catalog
May 2013: Launched Video Ads On iOS; Android To Follow
Jul 2013: Launched Paid Subscriptions; Revamps Website
Aug 2013: Launched App for Windows 8
Nov 2013: Introduced Carrier Billing In Android App With Idea Tie-Up
Dec 2013: Tied-Up With General Mobile To Preload Apps On A Million Devices
Dec 2013: Is Dhingana Shutting Down? CEO Says They’re Restructuring, Update Next Week