The partnership with Sky Digital is part of Warner Music’s mandate of “taking the Indian sound global,” Jay Mehta, Warner Music India managing director, tells Billboard. The tie-up follows a similar distribution deal with Bollywood label Tips Music and a licensing agreement with Punjabi music aggregator Ziiki Media, which were announced in May and October 2020, respectively.
In addition to running an in-house label whose roster includes such Punjabi singing stars as Sunanda Sharma, Sky Digital currently serves as the aggregator for over 40 Punjabi music labels as well as several Hindi, Haryanvi and Bhojpuri ones. Sky Digital also manages a suite of regional music YouTube channels in those languages that collectively have over 15 million subscribers.
Among the recent big Punjabi hits distributed by Sky Digital are “Vail” by Mankirt Aulakh and “Bambiha Bole” by Sidhu Moosewala and Amrit Maan, both of which hit No.1 on YouTube’s India Top Music Videos chart last year. Still, Sky Digital’s share of the national audio streaming market is estimated to be only around 1%. That’s because many regional music language labels only release content on YouTube.
The deal “gives us a window to now bring all of these labels, which were only on YouTube, to the entire streaming world,” Mehta says.
Punjabi music accounts for almost 14% of all consumption on audio streaming services in India, making it “by far the biggest regional language,” he says. It also has a significant audience abroad, and according to Mehta, is the regional language with “the largest consumption” in the Indian diaspora. “I was looking at the Sky Digital analytics,” he says, and “50% is outside India.”
While Haryanvi and Bhojpuri make up around 5% of total plays combined, they are two of the fastest growing languages in terms of year-on-year growth in listenership.