Last week, Flipkart announced the end to Flyte, the company’s year old digital music service showing us all that there are still tons of challenges for digital music distribution systems in India.
Flyte is scheduled to close its services on June 17, 2013 – notice of which has been given via the Flipkart website which has also advised Flyte customers to use up their account balance by June 17, and download their mp3 purchases by August 15, 2013 after which they will no longer be made available.
Why did Flipkart decide to shut down Flyte?
The reason up on the company’s website simply states that Flyte is being shut down for business reasons. Stories in the media have stated that Flyte was unable to sustain itself as a lucrative business strategy for the company. Flyte was intended to be a platform for the distribution of digital music, similar to Apple’s iTunes. The music files were all Digital Rights Management Free (DRM Free) and thus carried no software restrictions on how the file could be accessed, shared or played. According to the company’s media statements, Flyte made catalogues of music easily and legally accessible to the public at affordable prices. Although Flyte did have a fairly successful run with a huge number of subscribers, the numbers were not enough to make the business a successful, self-sustainable one.
Any idea why there weren’t enough subscribers?
One reason mentioned by Flipkart’s representatives in its official statements is that a legal digital music distribution platform cannot work in a scenario where music piracy and micro-payment issues remain unresolved. On their site too, Flyte has made its position clear on anti-piracy by stating that music downloaded from Flyte, is qualitatively better and responsibly sourced, when compared to its pirated counterparts.
So its piracy then – that’s the problem?
Piracy might be one of the reasons for a failed digital music distribution experience, but instead of focussing on how to curb piracy, it might serve us better to actually think about why so many people prefer to pirate music, rather than resort to a legally acceptable alternative.
It is possible that existing distribution models do not offer a wide range of music products – a particular distribution model may only provide its subscribers access to a limited number of song catalogues. Payment mechanisms and pricing mechanisms of digital distribution platforms may not always be convenient – some people might find the products being priced too high while others interested in paying, face difficulties in actually making payments owing to poorly constructed digital payment infrastructure.
Finally, fewer number of people really see much point in legal downloads since there is little to persuade us into thinking that the money spent on buying music, actually finds its way back to the artists themselves. Problems of poor digital infrastructure, limited product resources and a lack of transparency in the music industry are what lead to piracy, and perhaps a digital distribution platform needs to focus on remedying these issues before actually hoping to score a profit in today’s industry.
There is more information about Flyte on their website, but in case you have something to say about digital music distribution or piracy or anything else you think relevant to this post, then go ahead and leave a comment to start a discussion on something I would love to hear your views on.