He runs India’s biggest music label, which, according to conservative estimates, commands a 70% market share. The label’s YouTube channel crossed 14 billion views last year, surpassing the likes of such global pop stars as Rihanna, Justin Bieber, and Katy Perry. Bhushan Kumar, bossman of T-Series, in a rare one-on-one with Raj Nayak (COO, Viacom 18), shared his insights on the changing landscape of the music business, the future of film music, and the way forward for his music label.
Generating Revenue from Music has Become Easier
On being quipped about the evolving revenue streams in the modern-day music business, Bhushan Kumar counted digital streaming and sync licensing as the biggest sources of revenue for the label. He also alluded to callertunes and radio being viable sources of revenue.
Back in the day, when digital music was just getting started, there was a lot of fear in the company about the threat of piracy. We were relying only on the sales of CDs and cassettes to run the business. However, with the rise of streaming and other digital platforms, generating revenue from music has become a lot easier
On the Future of Film Music
With films getting shorter in duration, the viability of music-led films is being questioned by the younger generation of filmmakers. Shorter duration means lesser number of songs can be included, if at all. However, according to Bhushan Kumar, the format of music-driven films is alive and well. The key is to match the musical content with the content of the film.
I think synergy is very important between music and film. If you are going to include songs in a thriller, it is not going to work. However, for a film such as Sonu Ke Titu Ki Sweety, which is a musical, music is the driving force behind the film. The same goes for something like a Hindi Medium
He added on the importance of music for marketing a film. According to him, music plays a big role in promoting any film across channels. “For instance, it can get really difficult to promote a film on music channels if you don’t have music”, he said.
Film Stars are Needed to Promote Independent Talent
The ’90s saw a thriving independent music scene in India, with bands such as Strings and artists such as Bombay Vikings regularly coming out with singles. Independent pop music in India, is hardly existent, if at all. Bhushan Kumar plans to change with the help of the listenership that his label commands, and intelligent marketing tactics.
Music channels and radio channels are not very keen on promoting independent music, unless there is a brand value attached to it. We are roping in big Bollywood stars to release quality singles by independent artists. The big stars help generate interest in the content. We are keeping a mix between using Bollywood star-power and pushing artists as faces of their own music videos
He plans on releasing at least 25-30 non-film singles each year under T-Series, with the aim of giving independent pop music its own space in the Indian music landscape.
Record Labels are Still Relevant
In the internet-driven world of today, getting your music out is no longer a hurdle. There are countless platforms where artists can release their music and find their audience, YouTube and Soundcloud being the two biggest. However, the label-head reckons record labels are still very relevant because of their reach.
We have the audience and the network to get an independent artist massive listenership. For instance, Bom Diggy Diggy, when it was released, had 50 million views on YouTube in 3 months. We bought the rights to the song and included it in Sonu Ke Titu Ki Sweety. The song garnered 150 million views in just a month
The Way Forward for T-Series
T-Series is no longer just a record label. It is also a movie production house with some hits under its belt. However, Kumar insists that music will always be a priority for T-Series. Going forward, the company plans to focus a lot more on regional music, signalling that’s where the growth lies for music labels looking to make a mark in the country.
For T-Series, content will always be a priority. We will continue to release good songs and promote new talent. We aren’t afraid of the competition. To be honest, you only 10-15 songs a year to run a record label. The rest is just your catalog