In a business driven by partnerships, one Internet radio service is putting down deeper roots in the world’s second most populous country. MixRadio is now being pre-loaded on the Samsung Z3 smartphone that debuted Wednesday, and won’t be made available on any other Android device in the region.
“This is a market we’re heavily invested in,” Jon Dworkin, MixRadio’s Chief Marketing Officer, tells Billboard. MixRadio has been available in India, a fast-growing market for both mobile Internet and smartphones, for about a decade. The company claims to have reached 20 million listeners in the country with the help of a localized catalog with 13 genres of Indian music including Bollywood, Telugu, Tamil to Punjabi, Bengali, Oriya and Marath.
Samsung had the largest share of India’s fast-growing smartphone market in the second quarter at 27.8 percent. Cisco estimates the number of smartphones in India grew 54 percent to 140 million in 2014 and will reach 650 million in 2019.
A mobile partnership is an appropriate plan of attack for a service owned by Nokia from 2007 to 2014. MixRadio, formerly Nokia MixRadio, was born from Comes With Music, Nokia’s attempt to build an on-demand music subscription service into the price of mobile devices. Comes With Music was folded into Nokia’s Ovi portal and rebranded as Ovi Music Unlimited in 2010, which was shut down in most countries in 2011 but continued to operate until 2014 in India and a few other countries.
Even though Nokia failed to create a lasting digital music service, MixRadio was able to accumulate relationships and an understanding of the mobile device marketplace. “We’ve always lived within the rhythm of devices. We understand very well the DNA of the device business, the operations of the business, the go-to-market and planning,” says Dworkin.
Purchased last year by messaging app Line from Microsoft, which bought Nokia last year, for the most part MixRadio follows a familiar model. Listeners in 31 countries can create stations based on artists and songs from MixRadio’s 30 million-plus catalog. And because Nokia previously owned the company before selling it to Microsoft, MixRadio is focused on mobile use cases.
But MixRadio differs from most of its peers in two areas: a heavy emphasis on curated stations and the ability to save music for offline listening. The availability of playlists taps into consumers’ desire that music services provide some handholding in traversing huge music catalogs. Offline listening allows for listening where mobile service isn’t available and — more likely in a country like India — where limited-use, prepaid mobile plans are prevalent.
India, one of 31 markets served by MixRadio, has a growing number of connected consumers and a limited number of music streaming options. A study by Ericsson found that 70 percent of smartphone owners in India stream video every week and 40 percent of them stream music. At the same time, only 20 percent of Indians living in urban areas have 3G data plans.