An innovative partnership between a social media giant and a music streaming service is taking place halfway around the world. Indian music streaming service Saavn is working with Twitter to create a listener-created radio station, @SaavnRadio, built from its listeners’ tweets.
“Social music has always been kind of read-only,” says Rishi Malhotra, Saavn’s co-founder and chief executive officer. @SaavnRadio reads and writes. It ingests requests from Twitter — Saavn has access to Twitter’s API — and runs them through its auto complete and search functions. After throwing out any duplicates that might have tried to game the system, Saavn populates @SaavnRadio and streams the songs to its listeners.
The idea was to combine content discovery on Twitter with Saavn’s catalog of music music, says Arvinder Gujral, business development director, South and South East Asia. “There are so many conversations around music on Twitter that it was only logical that we extend those conversations to further enhance user experience on the platform.”
This marriage of social media and music streaming service is a unique way to leverage users’ music preferences and penchant for sharing. It’s a new take on the old method of calling a radio station to request a song. The metaphor isn’t far off. The unique aspect here is that @SaavnRadio takes the unusual step of integrating human language. Where radio station requests come in spoken words, @SaavnRadio integrates typed words.
Twitter has attempted read-and-write music in the past. Its Twitter Music app took songs trending on the social network and created a list of most popular songs. Integration with streaming services allowed for songs to be played individually or as a continuous playlist. Twitter Music failed to connect with consumers, however, and was shut down in April, exactly one year after its launch.
Now Twitter is leaving the product to the streaming service while supplying the data that creates a social music service. “One thing Twitter is doing well is thinking about itself as a platform, ” says Malhotra. “It’s a platform for people to build on, especially publishers that have a social DNA.”
Overshadowed in Western countries by subscription services like Spotify and Beats Music, Saavn has built a catalog of 2 million tracks and product targeted at Indian and Indian expatriates in other countries. The service is available in over 180 countries and, unsurprisingly, is most popular in Indian. But Saavn has appeal outside of India. The United States and United Kingdom are its second- and third-largest markets. The latest figure the company release is 10 million monthly active users — one-fifth of Spotify’s monthly reach. But Saavn is growing fast, having seen a four-fold increase in streaming activity since January.
India, the world’s second-most populous country, is ripe for digital music success, and smartphones will be the key.The country had the fastest-growing smartphone market in Asia, with shipments growing to 23 million in the third quarter, according to IDC. Technology analyst Ben Bajarin believes India will soon be the world’s second-largest smartphone market, behind China and the much smaller United States. Bajarin estimates there are already between 110-120 million smartphones in the country — a small fraction given over 900 million Indians currently have a mobile phone. With such a large opportunity at hand, he expects the country to become the focus for hardware makers seeking to gain a foothold in the country.
That’s good for music services like Saavn; as the smartphone market grows, Malhotra sees cost of data is dropping and believes music streaming services can benefit. “I think the biggest friction in these countries is data friction. People will stream over data, but they don’t live in a ubiquitous data environment yet.”