Mobile, Not Net, Drives Indian Music Sales

Many Indians enjoy streaming or downloading music on the Internet, whether the latest Bollywood hit or an oldie. But mostly people do this illegally on sites with pirated content, which is why there was an opening for Google to launch a service in India to let users to find legitimately licensed music, as WSJ reported today. (The service launched Friday and is available at www.google.co.in/music.)

For the music industry, the mobile phone, not the Internet, is becoming a huge driver of sales as India’s 670 million wireless subscribers slowly become accustomed to using their handsets for more than just calls. Mobile phones aren’t as susceptible to digital piracy as PCs, because wireless carriers can tightly control what content they sell.

Sales of ringtones and songs on phones already make up about 30 percent of the Indian music industry’s 7.5 billion rupees ($168 million) in total revenue and are expected to account for two-thirds of an 18.7 billion rupee market in 2012, according to PricewaterhouseCoopers. At that time, Internet music will still only be a 400 million rupee market, or about $9 million. The rise of mobile music sales is happening as sales of CDs and cassettes are declining sharply year after year.

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