180, a bilingual film shot in both Tamil and Telugu, has released its music online for purchase in a ‘Pay What You Want” mode. When attempting to purchase the music for the film users are given the option to enter the amount that they want to pay for each single. (hat tip: @beastoftraal)

The “Pay What You Want” model was first attempted by the band RadioHead back in 2007 for its album In Rainbows. A few differences:
– Firstly, there are no free downloads in case of 180 (a minimum of Rs. 1 has to be paid), while in case of In Rainbows, consumers could avail of the free download, only having to pay for credit card transaction charges.


– Secondly, In Rainbows was self-published by Radiohead, a move that one thought would lead to more and more bands choosing self publishing over signing their music over to labels, but that never really did happen. In comparison, the music for 180 appears to be with Think Music.

– Thirdly, in case of 180, there’s a CD delivery option if you buy the album. In Rainbows was released online only initially.

Note that if you order a single from 180, the download links are available only for 36 hours, or a maximum of three clicks. We downloads are zipped MP3 files, which don’t appear to be DRM protected.

We’d love to know how many people purchase the music online via the site, and more importantly, the average purchase price of the music. Remember that much of the music tends to be downloaded via P2P sites, and in case of online purchase of music, any sale would be deemed as additional income. For some users, allowing them to choose what to pay for the purchase will make them want to buy. Mobile music has become increasingly important, with Caller Ring Back Tones contributing most (68%) of the revenue for copyright society PPL.

Payment Gateway Issues

Purchasing this content highlights the biggest issue facing online transactions in India – unreliable payment gateways. When we tried to purchase the music online, the transaction for an HDFC Credit Card using an HDFC payment gateway went through smoothly. When Karthik Srinivasan, who had first informed us of this initiative, tried purchasing the music via netbanking, it failed, repeatedly. He wrote to us saying that:

“Painful process – had to enter shipping address despite choosing the mp3 download option; don’t see why it is necessary. I paid through ICICI netbanking *after* seeing in their Facebook and Twitter stream that ICICI netbanking does not pose a problem.

Paid the money – I selected Rs. 5 per song – money was transferred from my bank and then boom…transaction confirmation error. I have the login I created, but I have no idea where to go, to download the mp3s. There’s no visible link anywhere in the site or in http://www.thinkmusic.in where I can login and check if I can download the tracks since the money seems to have been transferred already.”

He received the same error with HDFC Netbanking. He also received an SMS stating that the earlier earlier transaction had failed and the money will be reversed in 2-5 working days. He eventually succeeded using IE8 and an ICICI Bank Credit Card.

Now not many people I know will make three attempts to purchase music, and remember that unlike an app store wherein credit card information is stored, each attempt at purchasing something on an Indian e-commerce site is a 3-5 step process, with multiple pointless forms being filled each time.