The big Twaang theory
Mobile music library Twaang recently crossed 1,00,000 subscribers. Anu Prabhakar speaks to co-founder Vishu Raned about the app and the team’s plan to make the otherwise inaccessible works of international musicians available to music aficionados late next month
Twaang, a music app exclusive for non-film music, was born out of what co-founder Vishnu Raned calls “the typical Bangalore combination”. “Music, beer and computers,” chuckles the 38-year-old, while explaining how Twaang co-founder Shirish Hirekodi and he connected over 15 years ago and forged a friendship when they were fresh college graduates.
The Twaang team with Raned (second from right)
The mobile music library was also born out of another typical Bangalore trait — a traffic jam. “Shirish stays only 25 km away from my house, but I was stuck in traffic. I had a Blackberry back then so I couldn’t listen to the radio on my phone. And the music station I was listening to in my car had a radio jockey who got on to my nerves,” remembers Raned. “That’s when I thought, how great it would be to have a variety of music you want to listen to on your phone, as long as you have access to the Internet,” he says.
A melting pot of genres
The nearly two-year-old app (Twaang was launched in November 2012, a few days after Diwali), crossed 1,00,000 users in June this year — an important milestone, considering that the app first started out with 70 users.
Twaang’s work model is simple. Once a user downloads the app (which is currently available for iPhones & Android), s/he can explore, stream, listen to the track. There are 1,10,000 (and growing) tracks on offer, which span across genres — so far, the app has Indian classical music, folk music, contemporary and fusion music, live concert recordings, progressive rock and devotional music. For a price of R249 per month, the user can access the app’s ‘premium version’, which allows her/him to download songs on the phone.
Explaining the curious absence of film music, the Bangalore-based techie explains that including movie songs didn’t make sense to their business model as they are rarely perennial favourites. “You might listen to a Lungi Dance for a day or two and then, you are on to the next song,” points out Raned.
Heavyweight musicians such as Shubha Mudgal, Grammy-award winning Hindustani classical music instrumentalist Vishwa Mohan Bhatt, Raghu Dixit, Zakir Hussain and the young carnatic progressive rock band Agam are among the many musicians who have their music on the app. “Earlier we used to work with record labels to obtain music contant but now we work directly with the musicians who send us their music content. We digitise their music and bring it to life,” says the techie.
This, as a result, paved the path for exclusive music releases on the app. Mudgal, who called Twaang a “wonderful idea” in a YouTube video, released the audio of her live concert album, Songs from the Inner Courtyard, exclusively on the app, roughly two weeks ago. “We have over 400 exclusive music releases lined up for release on Twaang over the next 12 months. People hardly buy CDs today and musicians understand that going digital is the best way to reach their listeners,” he explains. “The music rights remain with the singers and we upload only original, legal and very high quality music,” he adds.
The Twaang team of five members, which includes Raned’s wife, also design album covers for studio recordings and live concert performances.
The Twaang app
Raag on request
For an app that was created to target Indians and the diaspora abroad, the real surprise was the global reach the app ended up enjoying. “Out of our first three subscribers, one was from Poland and the other was from Switzerland,” says Raned. Buoyed by the app’s global success, the Twaang team is all set to include the works of international musicians to their library late September, for the very first time.
“We discovered so many different genres of music while working on Twaang,” says Raned. “Apart from grainy YouTube videos, these music albums are inaccessible and you can’t listen to them on your phone. So in this business, we end up being our own biggest consumers,” he laughs.
“We get a lot of requests from international listeners and musicians, who want to reach out to Indian listeners. So far, requests have come from Brazil, Central America, Austria, Sweden and so on. Once a Brazilian got in touch with us, asking for the music of flautist Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia. Another user from Central America wanted to listen to violin players Ganesh and Kumaresh,” says Raned.