Indian internet radio stations are here to feed eclectic musical tastes, says Sanjana Chappalli
A ROLLING STONES concert in November 1994 was one of the first concerts to be streamed live on the internet. Mick Jagger reportedly opened with these words, “I wanna say a special welcome to everyone that’s, uh, climbed into the Internet tonight and, has got into the M-bone. I hope it doesn’t all collapse.” Fifteen years on, the possibility of a collapse of internet radio stations is nowhere in sight. And India is climbing on too.
Launched six months ago, My Opus Radio (myopusradio. com) tags itself as India’s first internet radio station for international music with a base of 2,000 listeners. Three months after its launch, it expanded to nine channels, offering a choice of blues, rock and more. “The plan is to offer independent artists in India a platform. We want to build a base of listeners and work towards an in-house record label,” says Gina Braganza, founder of Bengalurubased My Opus Radio. As in traditional radio stations, listeners tune in with no control over the songs played but are not limited to local tastes. From channels that play only 1950s Broadway tunes to others dedicated to Morrocan pop — there’s a station for everyone. Stations like Pandora and Jango have also made it possible for listeners to tailor the music while staying open to surprises. “FM stations are filled with local music or RJs who are in love with their own voices. Online stations give you the music without the fuss,” says Reema Nair, a programmer. Internet radio stations are amongst countless ideas cashing in on India’s 81 million internet users (fourth largest population in the world) and 1.3 trillion worldwide. My Opus, for instance, intends to keep their radio stations free for listeners while making their money from clients such as large retail stores who want customised stations.
FROM 1950S BROADWAY MUSIC TO MORROCAN POP — THERE’S AN ONLINE RADIO STATION FOR EVERYONE
“We need to distinguish between traditional radio stations and ones that only exist in the internet space,” says Braganza. Vivek Madan, who runs his own channel on My Opus Radio, says, “In the online space we don’t have marketing telling us to mention the sponsors five times every half hour. It affords a greater degree of independence than offline radio.” But internet radio is not limited to international music. Radio Verve was originally launched to showcase music performed by Indian rock bands. It has since widened its scope to heavy metal, easy listening, regional language and Indian classical. “Many stations hosted overseas play Hindi film songs catering to the diaspora. Those are the first sites I hit when I log in at work,” says Deepak Varma, an IT consultant who spends 10 hours online every day — most of them plugged into internet radio. Bollywood- Sargam is both Nair and Varma’s favourite. Hosted in the US, Bollywood Sargam has over 130,000 users every day. Staggering as these numbers sound, they are but a mere slice of Indian internet radio’s potential.
This article was originally published in Tehelka, a leading independent news magazine in India, known for its investigative journalism.