Melody on the move

Written by Ayesha Dominica Singh | Updated: May 31 2009, 06:44am hrs
When in the end of 2006, Bharti Airtel launched Airtel SongCatcher, Indias first instant music on mobile, little did anyone realise that by May 2009, the telecom titan would become the countrys largest music company. While the company did not divulge the exact revenue earned by Music Bharti, Saregama had an annual revenue of Rs 150 crore in the fiscal ending March 31, 2008.

Mobile phones have done the same to the music industry what Mercedes did to the concept of safety in the automobile industry. Set a precedent to follow. A Ficci-KPMG report states, The Indian digital music market is estimated at Rs 180 crore in 2008. Digital music distribution is mainly restricted to Indias rapidly rowing telecom segment. As mobile and broadband penetration in India continues to grow and with the rollout of high speed 3G data services, the market for other digital distribution platforms such as a-la-carte downloads, streaming and music subscriptions will evolve, as it has in other markets worldwide.

And setting precedents is just what this industry is doing. Airtels SongCatcher was created out of a simple need to provide a customer with music they want wherever they hear it. DJ Russel, who uses this technology frequently in his profession, explains, The algorithm that the technology is based on very simply analyses the DNA of the song and having identified the patterns and matching voice frequencies with the songs in its database, it provides the listener with an SMS of the name of the track and will also download the track as a hello tune to the phone. It is precise in so much as it can distinguish between the voice of the DJ, the pitching of the track, and the noise of the crowd as well.

Graceful beginning

But music recognition or instant availability on mobile phones didnt begin here. Preceding this was Gracenote Mobile MusicID. Gracenote, a subsidiary of Sony Corporation of America since 2008, is a company that has changed digital media management through its music recognition technology. In 2004, Gracenote joined hands with Philips Research, the research and development division of Philips Electronics, to introduce Gracenote MobileSM. It was the first international solution for music recognition along with associated music content delivery for the mobile phone platform.

In late 2004, Gracenote went on to combine content and commerce and allow customers through various service providers to automatically purchase tracks via Gracenote LinkSM. Continuing on in May 2006, Gracenote and Sony Ericsson announced a global partnership to enable music identification across Sony Ericssons Walkman series worldwide. Gracenote then commenced its Mobile Music 2.0 platform in 2007 to power music discovery based on its database of more than 60 million tracks. The first compatible handsets were the Sony Ericsson W580i Walkman phone and K850 Cyber-shot phone.

All of this would not have been possible without mobile phone companies having invented phones that provide every mobile phone user with music playback technology. Sony Ericsson, in 2005, set in motion its ingress into the mobile music market with the launch of the W800, the first Walkman branded mobile phone. This was followed by the revolution of mobile phones that were not only music-enabled but also had access to FM radio and music already present on its memory card.

In competition with Sony Ericsson, Nokia gave the world the XpressMusic series with its unique playback experience. The iPhone entered the mobile phone market to provide users with all the technology, skill and feel of Apple, along with new features that yanked the world from complacency to immediate interactivity. Russel Hodges, proprietor of Audio Wave, a pro-audio rental company mentioned IPJ. iPhone/iPod Jockey allows users to possess musical ability in the palm of their hand and transform their lives into one big party.

From stereo widening to touch technology, consumers everywhere can feel what has now come to be called an eargasm; anytime, anywhere, on the go. In todays world of conspicuous consumption, music on mobile phones has crossed barriers and transformed to cater to an ever-growing need to make the world compact enough to carry with us at all times. So, come sing along.