The producers of the movie F.A.L.T.U. appear to be the first in Bollywood to offer a digital only purchase of the movie’s music: powered by Geodesic owned FilmOrbit (which finally makes an appearance, after a year and a half), music from F.A.L.T.U is available for download in the form of individual songs or even the complete album for download on the movie’s website (Hat-Tip: Milliblog and Karthik Srinivasan).

Currently the music is available for download in India, but Geodesic CEO Kiran Kulkarni, told MediaNama on twitter that worldwide mobile payment is being launched this week. The F.A.L.T.U movie homepage features a radio widget powered by Geodesic’s Mundu Radio, which streams songs from the movie. Geodesic’s VoIP service Spokn has also been deployed to let users record voice messages and upload it on the movie’s Facebook page.

The producers of F.A.L.T.U. appear to be pushing really hard to encourage legal downloads online, and we purchased the music to see how the experience compares to that of free, and try and find a work-around by which we could download the same for free from the same site. A quick overview:

– Got the pricing right: Amazed at the pricing of the music: where most music labels are pricing their music at Rs. 100-120 an album, or higher, music from F.A.L.T.U. is priced at an economical Rs 40 for the entire album (11 songs), or Rs 10 per song. This will obviously encourage buyers to buy the entire album (11 for the price of 4 songs), hence give the producers an average revenue per buyer of close to Rs. 40. While we agree that there’s little or no competition for free, Rs. 40 as a price point is fairly low…low enough to encourage legal digital purchases.

– Buying Experience: we clicked on the ‘Buy Album link’ and were asked to enter the e-mail address (screenshot), and after filling in details like billing address and contact number (screenshot), we were taken to a payment gateway.  Options for payment included Credit/Debit card and Net Banking, as well as prepaid cards like ITZ. 

After the payment processing, Download buttons for each track appear.

– Downloading the music: Post payment, click on a download button to download a track. Note that even if you’ve bought an entire album, there’s no “download all” option (a zipped file would be ideal), and it’s tedious to download each track one after another. In comparison, with torrents, you just click and forget-about-it.

– Encoding: interestingly, in terms of encoding, the music is offered in both 320 kbps and 192 kbps, both high quality

encoding.

– DRM FREE: This is the awesome part… the F.A.L.T.U. music is DRM free, unlike the digital downloads at Hungama.com which restricts transfers to a maximum three. We were able to transfer the music and play it on two different computers and three mobile phones  – yes, we did all of this – and had no issues.

– No album art? There is no album art with on the song, unlike iTunes downloads.

– Repeat Downloads; Links Emailed: Post purchase, the F.A.L.T.U. website sent us, via email, links to download individual songs. We tried a workaround for this, and it didn’t work: Clicking on the links took us to the movie website where we were prompted to enter our e-mail address, after which it sent us a password to login. The same happened when we logged on to the website from another PC. So, we were allowed to download the songs more than once, using the e-mail address and password. There didn’t appear to be a limit to to the number of times the songs can be downloaded or if there is a mechanism to track IP Addresses. This mechanism prevents hotlinking of the song files on other websites. But what if a pirate puts up the e-mail and password on a website or forum? Well it will be easy to track the identity, since the links are connected with an email account, password and most importantly, the credit card.

– Problems Of Discovery: Although, the producers are promoting the film on TV, and running scrolls on news channel tickers about the music download, they need to work on the SEO aspect. As Miliblog rightly pointed out, a Google search for ‘F.A.L.T.U songs’ displays websites with illegal downloads on the first page. The official site doesn’t figure in the list. That, and the fact that there are two completely different sites – one for the film, another for downloads.

Nikhil adds: How To Disrupt The Label Business

While there is no competition for free, this is an fairly credible alternative. We thought subscription would be the ideal mechanism, but getting users to pay on a regular basis, and DRM protecting music, isn’t really the way out. F.A.L.T.U. looks like it could set a precedent for future releases. Given that most of the money in music is via Caller Ring Back Tones, and no money is made online, this should be seen as incremental revenue.

Also, what if film producers take an Indie music approach, and bypass record labels and aggregators? We’re not sure if this is possible yet, but what if a plug-and-play platform can be set up (both for online and mobile), wherein producers can log in and for a pre-defined, standardised revenue share, sell their music online and/or on CRBT?

Remember that the key role played by music labels has always been that of an aggregator, distributor and marketer – scale gives them higher efficiencies, and what mobile aggregators are doing, is a mobile version of a label’s traditional role, by aggregating, tagging, organizing distribution and marketing. This is a potential route to disruption, even though aggregating distribution will be a significant task in itself.

What the industry needs to do, though, is what F.A.L.T.U. has done right – make downloads easy, make them available for ever, and most importantly, make them affordable.