Overview of Indian Music Industry 2022 by Vikram Mehra

By Loudest Team
September 21, 2022
Overview of Indian Music Industry 2022 by Vikram Mehra

Indian Music Industry (IMI) is the apex body which represents the interests of the recorded music industry in India. Our mission is to ensure the existence of a strong music industry and to nurture and propagate a rich musical culture in India. Through various advocacy measures we ensure that music rights receive their fair valuation and best practices in copyright law are enforced on a pan-India basis. We actively engage in lobbying with all our stakeholders and the government on matters related to the music industry while building public awareness about copyright and fair valuation of music through our various reports and campaigns.

All About Music Conference is a knowledge & business networking platform for the music industry. The All About Music conference has filled the gap in India's calendar of music industry conferences and B2B networking events.This time its happening at Taj Lands.On september 20,Vikram Mehra Managing Director of Saregama India Limited at RP addresed the topic Overview of Indian Music Industry 2022 on this conference and said,

Three difficult years for the industry; even more so because of the loss of some of the  biggest names of the industry. Whether it is Lata didi, Pandit Shivkumar Sharma, Bappi Da,  KK, Sidhu Moosewala, Sandhya Mukerji ji, Abhijeet Bandyophadhyay, SS Shastri and MC  Tod Fod,big names who contributed a lot. May I request everyone to stand up for a one minute silence please, to pay homage to them? 


So, these three years, I think everybody understands that [they have been] difficult ones. 

We could not shoot films. We could not shoot music videos. We could not do live functions.  Everybody’s journey was affected during this time. 

I think the great part about that was music somewhere came to the rescue of the end  customer. Recently IMI did the study of the digital market in India and 92% of the  respondents said that music helps them to calm down during these very, very stressful times.  So yes guys, you and I all work for money but there's a larger thing we end up fulfilling for  the community: to give people that two minutes of happiness or solace when they're down. A  big round of applause to all of us for doing that. 

And to our fascination, there are some other data points: globally, music is heard 18.4  hours every week and in India we listen to music close to 22 hours per week. So here we are all listening to music at all times, almost three hours a day, which is a very very heavy  consumption. When you start looking right now, it’s such a large country ka base. 

The silver lining and I seriously believe they have a silver lining; mom dad taught us this: Ki Har andhere ke baad ek roshni dekhai deti hai, that's a reality sic

What is a big gauge we got out of COVID: One, an altogether new generation got  introduced to digital. A lot of parents and grandparents who were dead-against the word  “digital” -’who were very, very comfortable with their children sideloading music onto their  phones, or going for apps that they were very comfortable with – for the first time, actually  started to try newer apps (streaming apps, short form video apps), because they were stuck inside their homes with their children and grandchildren. This means an altogether new  generation of users have now jumped onto the digital bandwagon. Just because COVID has  gone away doesn’t mean that those guys are going away from digital platforms. And I can  tell you this, because the biggest beneficiary will be my own company which has got the  music of that era, you have people in their 40s and 50s and 60s now holding on to that  digital part. 

The other huge benefit of this is that our dependence on film music has come down over the  last three years.  

All of us, even companies if they are not for it have jumped into the independent artists,  non-film music genre and have reaped rich dividends.  

Is the music going to die? No way. Film music is here to stay in this country. We are not  going to become America, not in our lifetime. [But] you may have, and already there are very  strong finds that you will have, a very strong independent artist game going on, which means  great news right now for us and for the end customer. 

We all also talk about the fact right now, how Indian music industry is not very big. That’s  a fact. Formal music industry is around INR 1800 -1900 crores here and there, in those range  of numbers. What shocked me,is that - if I go by the latest ICRIER study, which is one of  the biggest think tanks of India -they are telling us that the informal industry - what is the  informal industry, primarily the brass band waale - is a large number. That DJ market which  is sitting in there, musicians, people who make musical instruments, if I combine all those parts, the informal industry is roughly 75 to 300 times the estimates of the formal music  industry. That's the impact. They're saying that 14 million people are employed by the  informal industry. The biggest employer in India is the Tata Group and they have a million people. So, you're talking about the music industry employing a larger number of people than even the largest private sector company of this country. I think what we see is not  enough. The impact we see cannot be measured only in terms of the formal industry;  somewhere, there is a bigger impact we're having on society. And we need to ensure that  more and more of that informal sector actually starts getting onto the formal side. 

That's necessary because the future can be much brighter and why do I say so? There are four  points I keep on throwing around at my own company that I’ll highlight here: 700 to 750  million people right now have a smartphone in India, with one of the cheapest data costs that  you can find anywhere in the world! Yes, telecom companies have taken the rates up, and still you have one of the cheapest ones. And we are aping the east and west. 15 - 20 years  ago, I remember traveling to Hong Kong, Singapore and I used to laugh at Korea, I used to  laugh at] the kids there . Everybody used to be glued onto the phones. They used to walk  with their phone in their hand, staring at the phone and I used to think, “ha! Indians are so  much better. They're not like those guys.” Today, the moment there is a break, out here, 75%  of you will be glued onto your phones. Nothing important has come in there. Trust me,  companies are going to be working, even with your absence. But we are glued, it’s a habit  that we have. That means that much more consumption is going to be happening.  

Second, [about] where we are aping the Western world. Earlier, during the good old days of  Kyuki saas bhi kabhi bahu thi, the entire family used to congregate in front of the television  and watch it together. Content consumption was done for the lowest common denominator -  two hours of unique content was enough to satisfy the need of the entire family. In today's  India, in any of the metro or non-metro cities, it is perfectly okay for kids to be watching on  their own devices, grandparents to be watching something else, and yes, husband and wife  ,who are not heading for a divorce, are also watching content on two different devices while  sitting in the same room. That means that much more content demand is going to be there. If  we can ensure that we create good quality content, and we ensure that content is rightfully  monetized, there is money to be made for every stakeholder in this food chain. And that  comes to a very important point, who are the stakeholders? There are three primary  stakeholders, we have in our industry: people who create content, people who fund that  content, and finally, people who monetize that content. The industry cannot exist unless  somebody is writing, composing, and singing a song.If any of our labels or platforms think  right now that we are the creative geniuses, they are bullshitting; the fact of life is that there are creative people who are far more smarter than we are, as labels or as platforms, who are  able to create that content and they need to be properly reimbursed for it. 

Then, there are the labels. These are the guys who are going out there and putting big bucks  behind every song. Remember, a Bollywood song today is costing between INR 3 – 5 crores  a song, and for the non-Bollywood independent music that you're talking about, which are  big numbers, it can go up to INR 2 – 3 crores. Not every song is going to be a hit. For every  Shersha or Pani-Pani you see and the grand successes outside, there are lots of songs right  now which have not done well, and somebody is going out there and funding it. 4hat  company also has to recover its money. Then comes the platforms. All of us have a problem  with platforms right now, wondering why they are not paying enough. Platforms are also  spending crores of rupees for customer acquisition. They also need to find a way to make  money, at the end of the day,as they are also not in this business for charity. Somewhere, all  three stakeholders have to understand the pain of each other and find a solution that works for  all. Then only can we expect this industry to jump, leapfrog, and move out there within the  top five/top six globally. Otherwise, it’s a difficult task. 

Three-four things I’d like to say out here, what can help?  

One, the mistrust has to go. This entire part that we are all looking at the other guys and  saying, that party must be making lots of money and they're depriving us - that feeling has to  go. I keep on repeating the IPRS example. We did that with IPRS and after years of  infighting, finally, everybody came together and said, we will work together and Rakesh will  be presenting to you, I think tomorrow, and we'll see the numbers and realize at what pace  IPRS is growing, just because all the stakeholders came together and started working. 

My first point: platforms have to go pay. There is no way that streaming platforms can  continue being what they are. There are approximately 525 million paid subscribers  globally for music. What's so different about India? I don't understand. People keep on telling  me, “listen, nobody wants to pay in India”. People said the same thing to us when we  launched Carvaan, and today there are 2.7 million people who have paid $100 odd for  Carvaan. 

What's so unique about Caravaan, all we did was get the value right and people paid.  

Same thing should happen in subscriptions, that’s point two. We need to assist platforms to  go finally fully paid. Then only there's enough amount of money that will flow in. Audio  advertising-based platforms, sustaining themselves is difficult. I'm just quoting from public data, but if I remember it correctly, I think Spotify is managing 85 to 88% of its global  revenue through subscription. That's how platforms survive. If in China people can pay, and  in India, if people can pay for video OTT platforms, I don't see why people will not pay for  your audio OTT platforms. Jury's still out. 

I have Devraj sitting here who would strongly disagree if I say that INR100 per month may  not be the right pricing. Whether the pricing is INR 50 per month, or is INR 100 per month,  something needs to be done collectively so that the industry moves towards subscription. 

Second, short format apps: great. [But] they need to find a revenue model pretty fast. I think  everybody needs to learn from the revenue model that YouTube has cracked: there is free  content, which is sitting in and whatever money they are making benefits both parties.  YouTube also makes money and we also make money. Facebook is trying to do this for the  longer format content now. I think every short format app needs to track their revenue model,  otherwise, once again, it's not a sustainable story. As labels if we feel that a lot of content is  being consumed there, but we're not getting our value, obviously we’re going to jack up our  rates, which is going to make the entire ecosystem fragile. So a revenue model has to be  found by those guys and shared with the IP owners. 

Third, something I very strongly believe in, the concept of Safe Harbor has to go or at least  stop being misused. A safe harbor was created many, many decades back in US with a clear  understanding. It was done for ISPs, with the understanding that a pipe cannot be held  responsible for what flows through the pipe. Very fair point. How can an ISP be responsible  for what you're consuming. But if a platform is using the same content to then go out there  and profile the customer and show advertising, then the platform cannot hide and take  protection under safe harbor and not pay the rightful IP owner. 

We need to find a solution to this problem because this issue is becoming bigger and bigger.  We are very happy helping the platforms out in a fair and transparent fashion, whereby if  they make less money, we are ready to take less money. But if you are going to be taking our  content, hiding under the safe harbor and not paying us, I think then the battle line should be  drawn at all times. We need to find a solution to this problem. 

Labels, I think have to take more responsibility in investing in newer artists. Unless we create  the next generation of artists, how will this industry go forward? 

And all of us, including my own company, we're all guilty of it that, at times we find  shortcuts and do not invest in newer talent and just go for well-established or go for film [music]. While we do that, it's very important to go and nurture newer talent. Not everybody  is going to become super hit Badshah. But still [if] we need to get that one Badshah, we may  have to invest in hundreds of people, and hopefully, eventually, we are going to hit gold. 

Collectively, we have to fight piracy. I think the organization I'm representing today, which is  the apex body of music (IMI), are doing a commendable job right now in this space, whether  it's working out there with the Delhi High Court or working out there with MIPCU(  Maharashtra unit), they are ensuring that [something is done] if people are using content  without paying for it - and remember it affects not only labels, it affects the artists also - since  our ability to pay artists depends on how much money we are making. Nobody's in here for  charity. You are also in here right now because you want to learn something. We’re in this  business right now because eventually we need to go and drive profits, so that we can give  returns to our shareholders. While doing that, we want to do it in a fair and transparent  fashion, while helping the society. 

This entire point that people don't want to pay for public performance - I think we need to  find a solution. It’s a global practice. It’s the law of the land that when consumption of music  happens out here for any commercial purpose, in a public area, you need to take a separate  license. I'm not going to take sides. One side says the prices are high and the other side says  that they don't pay; we need to sit together on the table and resolve this problem. Then only there is growth, otherwise we are spending so much time fighting each other in the court and  outside, whereas the same time and energy can be channeled into, I think, more fruitful  things. 

Similar cause, there are lots of Indian platforms and channels who refuse to look at  publishing rights. I think that's very, very unfair. It's a government recognized right. It's an  internationally recognized right. Why shouldn't publishing rights be paid? When you're  paying for publishing rights, remember, a writer and composer are also getting paid for what  he is due. Hats off to the global platforms, almost every global platform has recognized the  rights and is paying for it, while many of the Indian platforms are fighting it out. 

These are some of the macro issues that we need to find a solution to. The good part is far  more conversation is happening in the industry and forums like these are great too, where we  can have open chats and resolve the problem. Brushing it under the carpet is not going to  work out, I’m telling you. The last part for all of you guys: learn to experiment. Not all  experiments are going to pay off. Just because something has not paid off, doesn't mean 

You're not going to go out and keep on doing this experimentation again and again. What  worked yesterday is definitely not going to work today. High probability is it will not work  today. What's working today, may not work tomorrow. 

And you need to be finding the next big trend. I'll give you a small example in the end.  Tarsame came to me six years ago when he was talking about All About Music, and with all  the gyan I am giving you now I was as cynical, refusing to experiment. I told Tarsame,  “kyun paisa barbad kar raha hai, izzat kharab kar raha hai. Kuch nahi chal nahi wala hai industry mein no conference has ever gone out there and worked, people come, people go,  you’ll just be blowing your money.” And who is laughing right now? Tarsame is laughing  and I'm hiding my face, because Tarsame absolutely got the most banging thing out here in  the music industry . Thank you, guys. Have a great time over the next three days. 

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