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Facing The Music, Happily!

Vikram Mehra

Digital has spelt good news for the film music industry. Here’s why

Film Music Still Holds Fort

This one will definitely get me brickbats. I agree that there are some great indie musicians on the scene, and the do yens of classical music still hold fort but the fact remains that the only music that touches the life of Mrs Sharma in Ba thinda or Mrs Iyer in Tuticorin is still film music. Like it or hate it, but you can’t deny the still omnipresent power of this music, bo th inside and outside India. At Saregama, we recognise this fact, and hence have made a c omeback into film music acquisition.

Lyrics And Melody Are Making A Slow Comeback

There was a time till a few years ago when film songs were more about whom they were picturised on, lyrics were shallow and the music sounded all-too-similar. But there seems to be a change coming in. The variety and quality of film music is definitely improving. I credit this to the arrival of streaming OTT apps, where audio and not the video governs the success of the song. I would also like to touch on another factor contributing to the decline in song quality… the death of ‘music composer for the film’

phenomenon. More and more filmmakers are giving a single-song mandate to composers, resulting in a very low sense of ownership in the minds of composers, which adversely effects the quality of output.

Streaming Is Growing Rapidly

The arrival of digital in the ‘90s and the early 2000s rang the death knell of the music business because of piracy. But the same digital is now coming to the rescue of the music industry, in the form of streaming OTT apps. Today, in India alone, there are around 10 full-fledged audio streaming apps offering customers millions of songs at the press of a button. The biggest service they do is to make any song available to anyone anywhere, any time in the country, thus not only making access easier but also knocking off piracy (difficult access to legal music was one of the drivers of piracy). As music labels, we need to ensure that our music is fully digitised with rich metadata sitting behind it, so that discovery is easy. Remember, licensing of content to OTT apps is becoming the biggest source of revenue for all the labels.

Consumer Is Ready To Pay

Carvaan, the digital audio player from Saregama that comes preloaded with 5,000 songs, has become an overnight success. The company has already sold around 100,000 units at a retail pricing of `5,990. Over 3,000 electronic retailers are selling the product across the country, and with the launch of Tamil Carvaan, the sale numbers are expected to grow. More than being an indicator of the physical format making a re-entry, Carvaan’s widespread success is a validation of the belief that the Indian consumer is ready to pay for music, provided he or she sees value in it.

Digital Becoming The Primary Source Of Sampling New Music

Till a decade ago, the primary way someone used to get exposed to new music (film and non-film) was through music channels on TV. But times are changing fast. The entire sampling is now moving to the digital media, not just among urban youth but also across age groups in smaller towns. This has huge implications on how marketing monies should be spent today on promoting new music.

Live Is The King

Consumption of live music is no longer an upmarket youth phenomenon… It is moving mainstream. From destination events happening in Pune and Goa, to huge concerts by some big Indian and international names, to corporate functions, to small weekend events around Rafi & Kishore songs to club gigs, people are consuming live music like there is no tomorrow. This has a direct correlation with growing disposable incomes, changing social trends around group-based entertainment and movie theatres not rising up to the challenge.

 Retro Is The Flavour Of The Season

The phenomenon that gives me most pleasure is the growing popularity of retro music. Whether it’s the number of movies reinterpreting old hits or radio companies launching retro-targeted stations/ programmes or the success of Carvaan, all indicate the popularity of retro. And the reasons are both rational and emotional. There is very little debate about the quality of lyrics and composition of retro music being far superior to the current one….the problem that the current generation finds with retro music is the instrumentation which sounds dated. So the momen t the song is reinterpreted with modern instruments, it becomes everyone’s darling. Also what an old song does is allo w children to enjoy the music along with their parents… a kind of conversation point between otherwise reticent relationships.


Rebirth Of Copyright Societies

Copyright societies in India have always got a bad name for right or wrong reasons. With the new board coming up at IPRS, digitisation of licensing at PPL, rationalisation of tariff at both societies, approach changing from confrontation to cooperation, one believes that societies will grow rapidly and fairly in the next 2-3 years.


– Eight changes over the years, Vikram Mehra, Managing Director, Saregama India Limited


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