Taazi.com, the legal Pakistani music download service, has been around for a while and provides the unique option of buying a song with your cell phone credit (for Mobilink, Telenor, Ufone, Warid and Zong customers). International customers can make payments through PayPal.
E-banking solutions have been available in Pakistan for almost two decades. With Easy Paisa launching in 2009, a new realm of possibilities was introduced. The music industry is finally catching up. Since not everyone has a bank account but even street hawkers are sporting multiple mobile numbers to provide faster on-demand services.
When we first heard of Taazi.com in 2014, it was an endearing effort by well-known musician Haroon of Awaz fame. He also had a successful solo career for a few years, only to disappear like every other Pakistani pop act. No one expected Taazi.com to succeed. It seemed like an honorable but futile effort to many, since most Pakistani consumers still prefer cash or cheque payments, despite the availability of various online payment systems.
However, Taazi.com, along with the popular Burqa Avenger series of animations, music and video games, have been one of the finest comeback stories in Pakistani music scene, prompting that musicians can not only come back but also use their entrepreneurial spirit to revive a flaky music industry and create opportunities and collaborative ventures for other musicians as well.
Moreover, a functioning payment model that gets adopted by the public would benefit the local music market greatly, since musicians on Taazi.com are entitled to a lot higher royalty share than elsewhere in the country (upto 60% as opposed to around 25%). Despite the fact that Pakistan has a smaller market and piracy is common place, such advantage gives musicians hopes for such a platform that actually works.
Taazi.com provides listeners the options to discover and purchase music. While independent musicians can upload and sell their music. Traditionally, indie musicians would upload original music to international portals like iTunes, CD Baby, Amazon, etc. in hopes of getting some international sales and possibly being discovered by label and film or television music scouts, but with the size of these stores and the amount of competition, such chances were slim. A local music service, that’s also heavily marketed locally and enables social interaction between artists and audience, increases the chances of such musicians selling direct-to-customer and possibly making a decent living.
While the singles versus album sale has been a debate world over, this system finally allows Pakistani musicians to sell singles easily. Singles cost Rs. 10 to 20 (plus tax) in pak rupees and $0.99 for PayPal users.
The website has improved a lot since it was first launched. The mobile site is also quite robust (although ad ridden, but a good pop-up blocker takes care of that) and signing up to the site with your phone number and one time password (through sms) is also quick and easy. Purchasing the song also simple enough for most people who are used to mobile features like changing packages, etc.
Once purchased, the song/album/ringtone can be downloaded as well as streamed any time from the “Purchased Content” menu. The downloaded file has decent sound quality (128 kbps, around 3 – 4 MB file), which is sufficient for most users. Maybe future updates will include multiple bit rate options for audiophiles (who are more of a niche market even in the western music scene).
The music catalogue still needs to grow, but considering that song submissions depend on artists registering their songs (some big names like Ali Zafar,QB, Abbas Ali Khan and Ali Azmat are already supporting the service), rather than shareware/peer-to-peer models of counterpart streaming services, it is quite a decent effort. Also, this time with a smaller catalogue and customer base has apparently benefited the service a lot, since the service works without glitches and payments are secure and easy.
Taazi.com is an innovative idea that needs to be supported for it to survive, along with the current and future musicians that it has vowed to support.