India is home to the highest number of YouTube viewers in the world. But the platform’s music ranking is not without flaws.

The following MBW feature comes from Amit Gurbaxani (inset photo), an India-based freelance music journalist and expert on the modern evolution of the country’s music industry.

India is home to the highest number of YouTube viewers in the world. The video streaming service’s reported base of more than 450 million monthly active users in the country dwarfs the country’s customers on audio OTTs, which total around 200 million.

This arguably makes YouTube the platform that offers the best representation of pan-Indian popularity. Its weekly charts are therefore a snapshot of the music that Indians listen to the most.

Except that tracking Indian music videos has proven particularly problematic for YouTube.

Shortly after launching Charts for India in September 2019 – almost a year and a half after launching them in over 40 other countries – I interviewed Chris Clark, Chief Product Officer at Google, about the challenges of assembling graphics for a country with exceptional diversity. and a vibrant national music industry.

Although it is often mistakenly considered to be limited to Bollywood, in reality the overall listening share of Hindi movie songs has steadily declined over the last half-decade and while that of pop and Commercial Hindi music in other regional Indian languages ​​has increased.

It was something Clark and his team were aware of even three years ago.

“The more we dug into the Indian music market, the more I learned about regional music and music in different languages ​​and the possibility of Bollywood dominating,” he said.

“So we postponed the launch of the maps because we wanted to do a more bespoke version that included regional and language variations.”

So far, YouTube has done relatively well in covering India’s varied consumer base. But there are other challenges that have proven more difficult to overcome – such as ensuring that all music videos are considered when counting ratings and, somewhat unusually, that they are not then removed from the platform.

“We rely on music labels and artists to claim things and help us with sound recordings,” Clark said at the time. “We do our best to bring together literally all musical content, even if it comes from a small label.”

Their biggest miss so far seems to be the lyric video”Arabic Kuthu” film in Tamil language The beast.

The song went viral and reached the top five on all genre charts of most audio streaming services, including Spotify India Top 200, Apple Music India Daily Top 100 and DSP Wynk Local Top 100. Music. million views on YouTube since it launched the service in the first quarter, it was notable for its absence from their charts of the best music videos for India.

When I noticed this in February I asked around and some industry experts told me the most likely explanation was that the video being posted on a movie production company’s channel , Sun TV (the creators of The beast) YouTube’s chart tracking system didn’t detect it.

I then emailed Google’s press team in India in early June, and although I received a fairly generic response, later that week “Arabic Kuthu” – almost four months after its release – eventually entered YouTube India’s Top Music Videos.

“YouTube hosts a lot of non-music content and needs ways to filter that content out of the music ranking if said content is non-music,” a Google spokesperson said in response to a questionnaire sent by Google. The music industry around the world.

“Our charts are built on both algorithm-based rating engines and human reviewers. With over 500 hours of content uploaded to YouTube every minute around the world, there may be rare instances where a video for a song may be classified incorrectly (i.e. missing content that should be included or content included by mistake).

“When this happens in any part of the world, we respond quickly and will include the video in the review of applicable maps the following week.”

The alert seemed to come from my email, rather than Sun TV, which doesn’t seem bothered by the non-recognition of its soundtrack achievements on the YouTube charts. Company representatives have not responded to multiple emails I have sent.

But even when “Arabic Kuthu” finally made it to the top music video charts, the problem wasn’t entirely solved. The track that debuted was its official music video, currently on over 240 million plays, as opposed to its more popular lyric video, which has been streamed over 465 million times and has yet to chart. object of the investigation.

The lyric video, in fact, has almost as many views as the other clips for topping the music video survey in India this year. It was watched more than the Hindi version of “Saami Saami” from the Telugu blockbuster Pushpa: The Rise (420+ million) and the regional Indian Bhojpuri language hit “Le Le Aayi Coca Cola” (260+ million). Only the Hindi version of “Srivalli”, another Pushpa hit, beats it at almost half a billion.

Why the lyric video for “Arabic Kuthu” didn’t chart remains a mystery. Especially because YouTube allows multiple video versions of the same song to appear separately on its Top Music Videos ranking. In fact, there is no problem with the same video being posted on two different channels appearing twice in the top music video rankings. Like, for example, the Telugu version of “Mehabooba” from the KGF2 film whose streams on the label’s regional language channel Lahari Music and the Telugu subchannel of T-Series are counted separately and charted at different positions for a few weeks.

That wasn’t the only thing I asked Google. The other peculiarity is that the videos randomly disappear from the ranking the following week. This, of course, happens for a number of reasons, the most common being the removal of videos for copyright infringement. But this seems to happen more in India than anywhere else in the world. In fact, a video is five times more likely to be deleted from the Indian chart than from the global chart.

“Why the lyric video for ‘Arabic Kuthu’ didn’t chart remains a mystery. Especially because YouTube allows multiple video versions of the same song to be listed separately on its Top Music Videos ranking.

“Removal of graphic content can happen for a number of reasons, e.g. content violations, copyright takedowns, videos [being] made private, video deleted by uploader, etc. said the Google spokesperson. “In cases like this, we place the message ‘the video is no longer available’ instead of removing the videos entirely, to ensure that the position of the charts for other entries this week are not affected. “

To be fair to YouTube, the task is not easy. The Bollywood Tips label runs its official channel as well as another called 90’s Gaane (songs from the 90s). But there are several channels with the same name that unofficially publish his videos. For example, the Evergreen Bollywood Hits channel, whose upload of the 1990s hit “Pardesi Pardesi” from the movie Raja Hindustani has been in the Indian YouTube top 100 for 12 weeks now.

Then there is the fact that the channels play fast and free with their downloads. In the case of Pushpa’s song videos, which have been released in Telugu as well as Hindi, Kannada, Malayalam and Tamil dubbed versions, what you see is not what you get. For example, although the chart for the week ending January 13 shows the Kannada version of the hit “Oo Anthiya” at #1, clicking on the video redirects to the Telugu version “Oo Antava”. YouTube can’t tell if the videos were mislabeled by the music label, T-Series, or if the links were changed after the graphic was posted.

These are complex issues, few of which are within YouTube’s control. But for an industry that has long grappled with the value gap service and is aiming to release an official all-genre chart in the near future, these are worrying concerns.

In its 2021 Digital Music Study, trade body Indian Music Industry said YouTube revenue accounted for less than a third of label revenue.

On the bright side, since our email to Google, the number of “unavailable videos” has dropped dramatically, from 15 in the week ending April 14 to one or none in the past two months.The music industry around the world

Shirley K. Rosa