Left to Right: Ashok Basnet, Aayush Shrestha, Bibek Subedi (Bijay Rai/Republica)
Three computer engineering classmates of 2013 batch from the Institute of Engineering (IOM), Pulchowk, attended the Startup Weekend program in September 2014. In that three day event, they created their first prototype of a minimal viable product. They became the first runner-up and six months later a streaming music app, Lishn, appeared in the market. The conviction that the product would be successful and attractive led the team to launch it on April 14, 2015 from their office in Jwagal, Lalitpur.
In the beginning, Aayush Shrestha, Bibek Subedi, and Ashok Basnet spent Rs 40,000 each to work on the app and right now they are involved in the development of their startup. They are currently holding professional jobs and take up freelancing jobs now and then to pay the expenses for the website and app. They also pay for the server and office rent, which costs around Rs 18,000. Even though the trio is facing losses, optimism is high as they believe that Lishn has a future in Nepal. They believe that it will revolutionize the way Nepalese listen to music.
In a tête-à-tête with Republica’s Arun Budhathoki, Aayush Shrestha, the co-founder of Lishn, talks about the future of streaming app, the present challenges faced by musicians, and their visions to challenge the status quo of the music industry.
What is Lishn Music? How did it start?
Lishn is a music streaming app where one can listen to songs via android app and website. However, it is a platform for independent artists through which they can make songs available to the public and earn at the same time. It is an income-generating platform for musicians.
I had the idea of the streaming app since a long time. There was a friend named Chintu Rimal who had a viral song on YouTube called Churot but the problem he faced was that he couldn’t earn from it. I realized that singers weren’t earning from their songs. Hence, we started our app and initially, artists making cover songs were promoted.
How does it help Nepali musicians and artists?
Lishn is an artist-centric company. Listeners can find songs easily in the internet today but for an artist it is getting hard to find economical success. The company focuses on providing monetary and popularity value to the artists. When an artist registers a song with our company, they earn according to pay per click, which is 75 paisa, saved in their account. The artist can withdraw the earning when the amount accumulates to Rs 5000. We also make sure if the clicks are legitimate or not through our backend technology.
What’s the response of musicians and artists?
At present artists in Nepal cannot earn well due to the geographical constraint because cost per click (CPC) and cost per million (CPM) is low, and the money is minimal. We are lucky in the sense that we don’t have to go out and look for independent artists, as they themselves approach us. We only have one mainstream artist, Madzone, in our helm at the moment. The reason is because music companies own the full rights of the artists’ songs, and musicians cannot redistribute their music to other platforms. What we are trying to focus right now is to assist the artists to garner freedom and flexibility through us.
We have tried to talk with few music companies but they are skeptical and take our company only as a startup. On the other hand, musicians and listeners are positive about us. They like our whole idea and approach.
How will Lishn help the Nepali music industry?
We are facing financial constraints and suffer from lack of resources but certainly there are plans to develop an iOS version. The reason why Lishn cannot be streamed properly on mobile phone browsers is because we are focusing on the website and android app. Once we have enough financial output, we’ve plans to strengthen all of our digital platforms.
The music industry in Nepal is treading on troubled waters since almost no one buys music these days, and the companies are focusing on online distribution. We believe our startup will solve that problem. Our company is different because we focus on providing free content to users. Also, we aim to earn via advertisements and premium membership. The membership fee will center on providing more features on the app in near future. We are thinking of charging Rs 100 and users can experience ad-free music and play music in offline mode. The income generated from it will be shared with the artists.
Lishn is an innovation which aims to become a forerunner in the online music distribution. Even without marketing our app, we have accumulated 500 music catalogues. We will think of investing on promotion after the catalogues reach to 800.
We are also focusing on folk and country songs for listeners outside the valley.
What’s the future of Lishn?
Lishn’s future lies on listeners and artists in Nepal and abroad. And it will take up to two to three years to achieve any visible success depending on the low data cost, cheap infrastructure and internet, advancement of the online payment system, and mainly cultural change. The notion of paying online is a new thing to Nepali people so this perception needs to be changed. And that’s what we are trying to do—make a cultural revolution.
Moreover, we aim to focus on solving the problems faced by the Nepali music industry and the issue of musicians immigrating to other nations for better prospects. We are building a stable platform for music companies and artists so that they can earn through online distribution in Nepal itself.
What message you have for tech aspirants?
The message we have is simple and clear: don’t just create a cool product that will solve only a small portion of a larger problem. Brainstorm how big the problem is and expand your focus beyond Kathmandu, as most enthusiasts are stuck only inside this bubble. I suggest engineers should see problems beyond the valley and make life easier for other Nepalis throughout the nation.