Apple's iTunes debuts in India

Last Updated: Wed, Dec 05, 2012 04:24 hrs

With Apple Inc announcing the launch of its iTunes Store in India, Russia, Turkey, South Africa and 52 other countries, justifying pirated entertainment libraries on personal devices might now become more difficult for users.

According to a KPMG report, the share of digital music in India's overall music market could grow from the the current 49 per cent to 79 per cent by 2015. Close to 50 per cent of the total music revenue in the country is estimated to come from mobile downloads.

Sony Music President (India & West Asia) Shridhar Subramaniam believes the iTunes launch will lead to the start of paid download services outside the operator ecosystem. "The experience, range and the market-friendly pricing is attractive. We are confident the store will make a big impact."

Apple has priced its content reasonably, with individual songs starting at Rs 7 and music albums Rs 70. In the US, iTunes Store tracks cost more than $0.99 apiece. iTunes also allows rent and download of movies. A high-definition version of a movie like Ek Tha Tiger is available for purchase at Rs 490, while a standard version costs Rs 290. Users also get the option to rent the title for Rs 120 (HD), or for Rs 80 (standard).

The cost of downloading music from some key platforms
(Price/song )
iTunes India
Rs 7 onwards
Rs 9 onwards
Nokia Music Store
Offers unlimited music subscriptions, no individual downloads
Rs 10 or 99 DRM free content pieces for Rs 99

According to a Ficci-KPMG Indian Media and Entertainment Industry Report 2012, the Indian music industry clocked a 19 per cent year-on-year decline in sales of physical music. This was made up for by a 24 per cent year-on-year jump in digital music consumed last year.

In June, Apple launched iTunes Store in 12 new Asian markets like Hong Kong and Singapore, but India was left out. And, though Apple is yet to launch its e-books (paid) in India, rivals like Hungama, Flipkart's digital store Flyte, Nokia's Music Store, etc, will feel the heat. Apple's launch, believe experts, will bring new visibility and emphasis to legal entertainment and multimedia content.

Devraj Sanyal, MD of Universal Music for India and Saarc, calls it great news for the industry, adding it will help curb piracy.

Even the film producers have a reason to rejoice, as iTunes gives them another way to monetise their library. "The prices for film downloads may not be very high, but it's better than consumers downloading pirated low-quality versions. Once a consumer gets the experience, he will start downloading more. It's about mindset, which is changing. And, we also get a legitimate share per download. So it's a win-win for all," a senior executive from a film studio said.

However, on-demand streaming music players like Dhingana differ on iTunes' impact in India. "The way forward for the music industry is streaming. Music services like Spotify, growing at a much faster rate than download services, have confirmed this," says Snehal Shinde, co-founder and CEO, Dhingana.

Apple's local dilemmas
iTunes Store purchases require a valid credit card with a billing address in the country. This could possibly be the only hitch for users. This is where Nokia scores. The Finnish mobile vendor's Music Store, with over 4.5 million free songs, recently announced operator billing service with Vodafone, to become the first music store in the country to offer integrated operator billing, besides credit cards and voucher billing. It claims to clock 1.4 million song downloads a day.

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