While technology has completely revolutionised the music industry, Bhushan Kumar, MD Super Cassettes Industries, says the only way to survive as a business is to embrace change wholeheartedly
The biggest turnaround in the music industry is the change in format from the physical sale of cassettes to the digital platform. This transition began around 15 years ago, when the sale of cassettes began to decline and we wondered how music companies would survive. Everyone was worried because the digital platform had always been viewed as being free.
Digital sale means everybody uses music on television. When I say television, I mean when they have dance shows or awards shows on TV. These used free music. Music companies, including ours took the initiative to put a stop to this by pointing out that this was protected by copyright. We pay tons of money to buy music. That was the first change – music going on to television and providing revenue.
Private Radio Stations
Next, the radio station wave hit us – a time came when private radio stations took over. Before that, we were dependent on All India Radio. There was no choice and whatever they dished out, we had to accept.
Biggest Revolution – Mobile phones
We never dreamt that the mobile revolution would be as big as it is. Initially, we used to provide ringtones made out of movie songs. In return, they used to give us free phones, 20 to 30 free phones, and we used to be thrilled! We had no idea then that this would be a big market. Today, the caller-tune market is huge.
Next, the Internet platform transformed things in a big way, in terms of music, movies and everything else. Technology has come such a long way, from music videos to watching films on Netflix.
These are the changes we have witnessed. As a music company we have always adapted to these changes and never once asked, kyun bandh ho gaya? Change is inevitable and technology is only accelerating the pace at which it is taking place. Sometimes, we become very emotional because our sentiments are attached to certain processes, as it happened when cassettes began to lose ground. I had seen the manufacturing of cassettes in our factory my with own eyes. Now, we don’t manufacture anything because everything is digital. It is recorded by the music director and we supervise it; the lyricist writes the music; the arranger arranges it; and the recordist records it. We give it to the digital platform and we market it and it goes into the pipeline.
Revenue sharing model has changed
With music apps like Saavn and Gaana coming up, the revenue-sharing model has changed. It’s a post-stream audio. With some people, we have a revenue-share model based on the advertisements they get. It’s a flexible deal. Internationally, people do it for `15-20 paise per stream but we go by the revenue share basis on the advertisement they get. It’s a basic lump-sum fee and some revenue share on this. In some cases we go by the per-view set-up. Like these apps, in the future many more technologies will arrive that will allow us to generate revenue as well.
Something else that has changed drastically is the distribution model. Earlier, one had to be hands-on with distributors, talk to them daily and boost their morale, just like in the consumer goods or food products industry. The marketing guy had to stay in touch with distributors, wholesalers and retailers. That doesn’t happen in the music industry anymore because we no longer sell music over the counter. Now, music is just a click away.
As told to Soumita Sengupta