We have been trying to speak with Dhingana CEO Rohit Bhatia for past few weeks, but he’s been requesting more time for bringing clarity on the startup’s future. Dhingana is among the top-funded music startups in India. It raised $7 million in Series B funding in October last year from Lightspeed Venture Partners, Inventus Capital Partners and Helion Venture Partners.
Dhingana’s website is now showing this goodbye message:
We hope that you enjoyed listening to Dhingana as much as we enjoyed building it.
But alas, all good things must come to an end.
We thank you from the bottom of our hearts for letting us be a part of your musical moments!
– The Dhingana Team
As Medianama noted, there are some harsh realities facing the Indian music streaming services. One of the biggest challenges is working with music labels and lack of standardization in signing those agreements. Another issue is music piracy — India’s media and entertainment industry loses about $4 billion every year due to copyright infringement.
Dhingana started facing a crisis when its biggest partner — T Series — said it will not renew the agreement. T-Series president Neeraj Kalyan had confirmed to TechCrunch, that the company will not renew the license set to expire for nearly 8,000 songs from Dhingana’s catalogue. Until then, Dhingana’s CEO had said discussions were on for exploring the road ahead, and it all looked like a near-death experience. But it’s all over now for Dhingana.
As we had reported in December last year, Gaana.com (backed by Times Internet Ltd) and Saavn (the Spotify for Indian music), continue to survive and even expand their services, thanks to the deep pockets and some innovative business models. Their success also reflects that the digital music scene in India may not be so gloomy after all. Gaana for instance, has around 7.5 million monthly active users.
However, the streaming business has to become a paid service sometime soon to ensure independent startups are able to scale and survive.
“The streaming business has to slowly move from free economy to paid economy as sustainability of ad-supported revenue model is a big question mark. Free music is a very dangerous thing, and we would not like our next generation grow up believing music is for free,” Neeraj Kalyan, president of T-Series had told me December last year.
We are still trying to speak with Dhingana’s CEO and its investors. We will update this story after we hear back from them.
Meanwhile, Dhingana’s shutdown underscores some of the existential questions faced by startups in India’s online music, entertainment space. Curbing piracy and ensuring a healthier ecosystem where music labels and streaming services working more closely can help, but it might take longer, and Dhingana could not wait that long.