We all love to hum and sing, no matter how cacophonous it can get to those around us. But, what if there was a tool that made us hit the right notes at the right rhythm, making it more soothing to the ears?
Gopala Krishna Koduri was thinking along the same lines when he had the idea ofan AI 24X7 music buddy in the form of an app. This digital music teacher has more than 130 exercises and 200 raga and singing lessons in all disciplines such as Carnatic, Hindustani, Bollywood, devotional and western music. It offers over 50 Hindustani classical music lessons covering all commonly taught ragas and over 24 Carnatic music lessons.
The app was launched in 2019 by MusicMuni Labs Private Limited belonging to Gopalaa spin-off of the Music Technology Group, Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Barcelona, Spain.
Inspired by culture shock
Gopala, CEO and co-founder of Riyaz, was born and raised in a small town in Andhra Pradesh where his exposure to arts and culture was very limited. But when he joined IIIT-Hyderabad for his BTech, he realized that he had missed out on cultural diversity growing up.
“It was during my freshman year in college when I heard a group of people singing in Hindi. It was kind of a culture shock because until then the language was just a subject that I had to digest at home. school. I realized how beautiful the language and its songs were,” recalls Gopala.
He started attending concerts and music festivals to learn more about India’s diverse musical heritage. He also felt compelled to share this musical culture with more people through technology.
“This generation understands the language of technology, so I used my coding skills and showed them the intricacies of music graphically. It increased their appreciation of music in general,” Gopala quips.
How it works
Riyaz helps calibrate the different elements of the user’s voice, such as range, pitch, root note, and frequency. There are vocal references for different songs and ragas. When the user starts singing, a graph shows how well they match the benchmark.
With the help of the app, users can get real-time feedback on their singing. Although it does not replace the traditional methods of learning music from a “guru”, the application is particularly useful for self-taught people and music lovers.
“The graph and instant feedback help singers identify their shortcomings and mistakes, and help them improve on them,” Gopala explains.
The app also offers vocal warm-ups, singing challenges, vocal monitor and song library. Like Instagram reels, there are short videos of people singing different songs that can be liked, saved, and shared on other social media platforms.
As for monetization, a user can access the app for free for 10 minutes after signing up. After that, users can opt for subscription plans priced between Rs 499 and Rs 1,999.
Although it was planned to increase $2 million in funding, the team learned about the market scenario during the pandemic and reduced its target. They raised $1 million in the pre-seed and seed rounds, with the latter round taking place in 2021. The seed round saw participation from investors such as A better capital and Multiply businesses. Previously, they also received a €150,000 grant from the European Union for 2016-17.
Gopala reflects this in his last interaction with YourStory, he explained how the app focused on Carnatic and Hindustani music. However, that had to change as many non-classical singers and music lovers felt disconnected.
“We noticed that music lovers were abandoning Riyaz. Therefore, we decided to launch a feature that would allow people to sing and upload any song on the platform instead of just classical music tracks. The platform would then convert the song into a learnable format for other singers,” Gopala says.
This strategy has helped Riyaz retain the membership of music lovers, especially those from Tier II and III cities. It also allowed talented musicians to guide music lovers through their own content.
As the pandemic has seen music apps become popular among the masses stuck indoors, Riyaz has maintained its distinct fanbase by improving its educational features.
“Most of the apps you see on the market, like Karaoke and others, lack the technology stack to enable learning. They are more entertainment-oriented while we help people interested in music learn to sing by focusing on pitch, range, rhythm and other elements of singing,” says Gopala.
The app saw a 100 to 150 percent ascend in use, with approximately 100,000 downloads each month, according to the founder. Although this peak demand has now diminished, Riyaz has maintained approximately 40,000 downloads per month.
The higher purpose and its challenges
Numbers aside, for Gopala, the main purpose of the app is to spread musical culture. He believes that traditional forms of learning music in a music school or from a guru limit accessibility to music to those who can afford to pay the fees. He also believes that a music-savvy audience would inspire artists and musicians to up their game.
“The lack of musical knowledge reduces the quality of the music created by the artists. They feel the need to level up their artistry because the public is perceived to be weak and not musically literate enough to appreciate high caliber musicians. My mission is therefore to spread musical culture in society to bring this common denominator – the public – to a higher level. Music needs to become more democratic,” says Gopala.
Today Riyaz has more 2.5 million paying subscribers and 1,50,000 monthly assets users spread across the globe and in India. The application is supported by a team of 25 musically inclined individuals in addition to Gopala.
Along with market competitors like Voxtrain, Smule, SingTrue, Yousician and others, Gopala says the next five years are crucial for Riyaz as he wants the platform to become the largest community of music learners and lovers in the world. world.
“So far, we have only seen social networks of musicians, but not a platform for music lovers to learn to sing on their own. With the help of the Riyaz app and its components, we hope that these autodidacts can improve their skills and take them to a much higher level,” he concludes.