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Venky’s Invests In Akon’s Hitlab.com; India Plans


Poultry company Venkateshwara Hatcheries (Venky’s) has acquired a minority stake in Hitlab.com, an online music community backed by musician Akon. Hitlab serves as a site for discovering singing talent, allowing users to create profile pages and upload their music. An algorith compares the DNA of the songs with those which topped the Billboard charts. Hitlab is a joint venture between a Canadian internet company, and Akon, and Venky’s London, a 100% subsidiary of Venkateshwara Hatcheries, has come in as a third (minority) shareholder in the main company. A Venky’s representative declined to comment on the amount invested and stake acquired. Remember that Venky’s had acquired in the English Premier League (football) club Blackburn Rovers, last year.

India Plans

Now there’s a Hitlab India in the making. The announcement comes just a few weeks shy of Akon’s concerts in India – on the 16th of April in Delhi, and 17th in Bengaluru, and Hitlab is asking Indian artists to submit their music to the website, in order to be selected to perform as the opening acts at the concert; the winners will be announced on April 13th 2011. As per a statement released by the company, “new fans to hear their song on Akon’s Hitlab radio show. Artist and fans will also be able to profit form a soon to be launched innovative distribution network.” Venky’s is also the title sponsor of Akon’s India concerts.

How Hitlab works

Hitlab uses artificial intelligence algorithms – a proprietary Dynamic Hit Scoring (DHS) music analysis technology – to analyze songs for hit potential, comparing their “music DNA” with that of previous hits on billboard charts, to their their “hit potential”.

The terms and conditions make for interesting reading: users who upload their music grant to HITLAB a limited license to “use, modify, delete from, add to, publicly perform, publicly display, reproduce, and distribute such Content solely on, through or in connection with the HITLAB Services, including, without limitation, through the HITLAB Services to applications, widgets, websites or mobile, desktop or other services which are linked with your HITLAB account”, but it does not give Hitlab the right to sell or distribute content outside of the linked service. We’ve seen instances of singing competitions taking ownership of the content in India.

Our take

Remember that services like Pandora do something similar – they analyse the DNA of your preferred songs, and recommend similar songs to them. Keep in mind that there’s more to a song becoming a hit than just the music – marketing, distribution (especially social discovery) make a big difference now. The distribution model, thus, becomes all the more important. We wonder whether a platform that is essentially linked to one artist can really scale. What happens when Akon is not touring India?

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