Tuesday, May 09, 2006

iPod and India

I think iPod and iTunes (for that matter, ID3 tag format) are poorly designed for bollywood music for the following reasons...

1. Songs from Bollywood (and other industries like Tollywood, Kollywood...) have atleast two artists or more aptly atleast two 'playback singers'. ID3v2 and iPod work well when there is a single artist. Multiple artists fragment the song collection into larger number of artist categories. For example, there are numerous songs sung solo by Kishore Kumar as well as with Lata Mageshkar and Asha Bhosle together or separately. iPod classifies these songs under the following categories:
  • 'Kishore Kumar and Lata Mangeshkar',
  • 'Kishore Kumar and Asha Bhosle',
  • 'Kishore Kumar'.
  • or even 'Lata Mangeshkar and Kishore Kumar'
While the listener may always recall it as a Kishore Kumar number. Needless to say, best sold albums by AR Rahman have atleast four artists a song. One needs further ehtnographic research to determine how bollywood music is classified and thought about in listerners' hearts and minds.

2. Playback singers (artist in iTunes) are different from the composer by rule. More importantly, the name of the movie's superstar is prominent keyword in people's minds more than artist or composer. They are known popularly as Shahrukh's song, Rajnikanth's song, Amitabh's song, Chiranjeevi's song etc. iTunes or iPod doesnt even account for this factor which is inherent to bollywood music.

3. Some of the info fields in ID3v2 like Genre have no relevance for mainstream bollywood music. Its all the same: 'filmi music'.

4. Neither CDDB nor Indian recording companies or any othermajor online Indian music websites have a consistent spelling for the artists. You get to see about six different spellings ...'AR Rahman', 'A.R. Rahman', 'AR. Rahman', 'AR Rehman', 'Rehman AR', 'AR. Rehman'....you get the picture.

5. In India, one gets to buy all the 6 tracks of an album for 99c (INR 44.5).

A bigger question is.....Isnt India a Tier-3-4 market at the bottom the pyramid? Immense commodification of music CDs and abysmally low prices of them at less than a dollar are the very proofs.

Isnt iPod and iTunes a Tier-1 product or one that encourges and thrives on Long Tail ?


Vineet said...

Interesting post about buying Indian music on iTunes. Perhaps Apple will do something to help resolve these issues by opening a iTunes India store.
The demand is definitely there and iPod's are affordable by Indian professionals in India and abroad.

- vineet

Anshul said...

Truly said. What is needed is a change in metadata format to reflect more than one artist so it can correctly come up on the Artist listing in Tunes and iPod.

The change will be resisted of course, till the demand becomes too high.

In India though a lot of people think of organization by album (Film Name) rather than artist - so that's a decent workaround for most people

technophobicgeek said...

You nailed it, buddy. I've been trying to figure out how to use Itunes/Ipod to get around it. Of course, I usually organize by album and don't let Itunes organize automatically. But I wish it did!

Anonymous said...

i think one major problem is with the artist-composer tag.

in india, its the music composer first. then the singer.

people generally search for songs based ont he composer.
that makes sense.

well its not so in the US. its a very bad greedy and capitalistic music business model there. the composers dont get a fair deal at all.

i tag my songs with the the music composer's name in the artist field.

india is different.

the problem soars when using this service

i want to find a particular music director's listing. but cant

Anonymous said...

who cares ? just toss all your songs into your ipod and use shuffle mode all the time..

Anonymous said...

I think the price per track is the key here. I can get a film audio CD in India for a 100 rupees. I can then rip them in as MP3 using iTunes. So if they have to beat the price, they need to go down to Rs 15 or so per song. Now, one doesn't know how affordable that is for apple.Anyways, you are right abt the fact that Indian music needs to be treated differently!

Swapna said...

I didn't buy a Ipod for some of these reasons plus ipods don't play all the different formats of songs.

Unknown said...

You got most of things i thought.I would also like to see multi-language support in Ipod.That might give ipod a great edge over other mp3 players.

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Unknown said...

ID3v2 actually allows an "artist" tag and a "composer" tag. Furthermore, a single track can have multiple "artist" tags.

Having an iPod support that though...well, that's what brought me to this page in the first place.

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Anonymous said...

Just so you're aware, the id3v2 tag format does allow for multiple artists. The main problem is that most clients don't implement the standard correctly, and either don't allow for this, or require it to be encoded in some peculiar way. I'm not sure which is the case with iTunes.

Shekhar Phatak said...

I think it would be great if Indians start buying music to begin with. I like the comment on capitalist America. At least Americans don't steal music like Indians do!