I don’t think anyone can deny it anymore – Ramadhan, aside from being the holiest month for Muslims around the world, is also a big month for businesses. Businesses can initiate special Ramadhan packages and discounts (especially food and beverages), and the clothing stores break out Muslim-themed collections and capitalize on the fact that most people (in Indonesia, at least) want to buy something new for Lebaran. And of course, Lebaran cakes are everywhere!
The entertainment industry hasn’t skipped a beat on this. The Ramadhan season can be the most challenging – and most rewarding – times of the year. TV arguably has the highest ratings around Maghrib (sunset, when Muslims break their fast and can start to eat) as even restaurants in malls will rely on the TV to wait for the adzan call. And for the past 10 years, sahur time on TV (when Muslims eat an earlier breakfast before sunrise) has changed from a solemn affair to an all-out entertainment bonanza, complete with live quizzes, cabarets and comedy shows – which advertisers will gladly pay for, of course.
Many mainstream artistes and musicians release a song or even an album, adding to the many music offerings already offered by more Muslim-nuanced artistes. It’s genius really – fans can keep listening to their favorite artist or musician, while still listening to something more suitable for the season. TV Dramas and movies go out in full force for the season, taking over the airwaves and cinemas.
The biggest challenge? All the preparation of Ramadhan-themed entertainment content, which could be up to a year before, only has a 30-day window (plus around 7 days after Lebaran during the holidays) to be sold to the public. It’s a very short window to push promotion of entertainment content, especially since a promotion lead up of Ramadhan-themed content can’t be started until at least one month before, and more effectively 2 weeks before.
And the usually, the best thing you can do for a promotion and sales window like this, is spend marketing dollars like crazy and hope for the best. This would apply for SMS subscription content, ringbacktones and ringtones, music downloads, and so on, as it would for more traditional forms of content.
All the noise in the media might be all about Ramadhan discounts and offering the latest Ramadhan-themed music or movie, but the world of apps has equally been active – one of the most notable being Indonesian app maker 7Langit’s Qur’an app has undoubtedly reached 100 million passages read through its app after its launch around 3 years ago.
Qur’an reading is highly encouraged during Ramadhan, and notably the highest use would be during this month, especially in the world’s most populous Muslim country. Apps have notably been lower profile than music and movies, but we should expect it to gain some mainstream promotion once the telcos figure out how to monetize it.
I don’t expect video podcasts of Muslim sermons to become mainstream, and I haven’t seen anybody trying subscriptions to audio/video sermons pushed to phones before Maghrib, but the public’s appetite for Ramadhan-themed entertainment will not go away anytime soon, and apps like 7Langit’s Teman Ibadah will certainly receive a warm welcome from people eager to continue perfecting their prayers.
I, for one, would be interested in an app that can give me a refresh and realignment of Muslim ways and methods. So, the stage is set – and next year’s Ramadhan should be a good year for app developers. If you haven’t already, start something now!
Ario is a co-founder of Ohd.io, an Indonesian music streaming service. He worked in the digital music industry in Indonesia from 2003 to 2010, and recently worked in the movie and TV industry in Vietnam. Keep up with him on Twitter at @barijoe or his blog on http://barijoe.wordpress.com.
[Image from Flickr/US Embassy Jakarta]