In conversation with very talented Entrepreneur,Shahir Muneer, Founder & Director of Divo digital media and music company

By Ojasvi Kapoor
December 21, 2022
In conversation with very talented Entrepreneur,Shahir Muneer, Founder & Director of Divo digital media and music company

Shahir Muneer, is the Founder & Director of Divo, one of India’s leading and well-established digital media and music company based out of South India. He started the company with, Vishu Ramaswamy in 2014 and in less than a decade has established Divo as one of India’s largest multi-platform online video networks (aka as Multi Channel Networks / MCNs) working as enterprise content partners with 50+ digital platforms like YouTube, Facebook, Amazon Prime Video, amongst other platforms, worldwide.

Later the entrepreneur bug bit him and he moved on to start his entrepreneurial journey in 2012 with Divo with a small project of consulting a global Internet major to onboard one of India's leading TV networks on their video platform. From this single consulting project, he built Divo into other areas across online video, music and digital content marketing.

Currently, Divo Music is one of the largest independent music distributors and publishers in South India and has been working with musicians, artists, labels, to help distribute and monetise their music across digital, radio, tv, etc.

In a freewheeling chat with,He talks about his digital media and music company Divo.

Tell us about the audio space in India and How it has evolved in recent times?

The audio space has been always primarily music, but this year we have seen strong emergence of non-music audio content and platforms. Namely podcasts, audiobooks, content, and apps driving its growth. What has surprised me is that while the Indian music platforms in India have not been able to crack the non-music space despite having a large user base, a few non-music apps now claim to have more than 1 million paid subscribers, which if true is a great feat, considering even video OTTs are not achieving the numbers they want to achieve for subscriptions. However, music consumption is way higher than non-music, but we see both co-existing. And a few platforms investing in non-music content as well. And of course, the biggest trend seems to be non-film music, especially in Hindi charting regularly in Indian and global charts, which is a great sign for the artist and label economy.

How has the podcast industry emerged and how has Divo adapted to the growth opportunities?

I have been very particularly following this space for the past few years in India and in the West. This year has truly been the inception of the podcast market's growth or the start of the boom. Platforms are investing in content and Content Creators are starting podcasts both audio and video, and there seems to be a good success and feedback.

And just like any content format, there seem to be various trends across languages on categories or genres people are interested in and engaged in. For example, in Hindi there seems to be a good demand for devotional/spiritual content, which we do not see in South or other regional languages as much. Crime/Motivation seems to be common areas across the board which are doing well. This will be a space to watch and we will definitely see this space grow with more creators.

We have been able to launch this division quite early and set up a team who have had experience in the digital creator economy and as well radio/audio content programming. This mix has helped us to launch podcasts and also engage in some exclusives and originals launch with Spotify. I am also seeing a lot of brands getting interested in the segment and using it to be thought leaders in their area.

How has digitisation changed the music industry?

Everything is digital, from a business model, and content management, to distribution, to royalty accounting and reporting, analytics, etc This is the norm and has been for a while now. The question is now archaic to the industry.

In recent times, how has Digital Music distribution/publishing become more simplified?

This is a very complex and expensive process in terms of the tech stacks involved in the backend of music distribution and publishing. The tech stacks are controlled by International companies globally and are an area where no Indian tech player has ventured into domestically or globally.

An opportunity lies here. However, it is very competitive and high cost. We had forayed into it to consider developing our own but considering the high costs and moving away from the core focus on content, we have not invested in it, but rather have global partners in place who help solve this.

Everybody has its ups and downs, what challenges divo has faced in this industry?

We disrupted the regional music industry by offering movie studios a music distribution model that did not exist until we came into the picture in 2014. This helped us reap the early mover benefits and focused on its growth and revenue improvements.

While now it has led to a good market presence, with global distribution and publishing network, the last year has seen the highest surge in prices of music labels offering record acquisition prices. Movie producers are calling it the golden year in terms of prices they are getting to sell IPs of their music rights, especially of A-list celeb movies from South.

We now have Hindi or India's top labels, plus a few international companies paying top Rupees, plus also from a few regional majors. As a primary distribution company, we are not competing in this price war. However, there are a few success cases where we have seen some of our label and artist clients see their revenue increase multifold with our superior distribution and publishing model that we have in place, where artists and labels see our boutique offering to be unique.

 So, what’s the future of the digital music industry/audio streaming market?

Challenging. Short video apps are taking very high eyeballs, driving music discovery, but the revenue from short video content is very minimal. There is a hope YouTube Shorts with monetisation eventually addresses this.

Music is an integral part of all short video user-generated content, but unlike regular AVOD content where the discovery of music further leads to more discovery of artist or repertoire songs, shorts may not be leading to that. This will be a challenge for labels in terms of we have got our 30-second short clip viral, but how do we make them hear the full song and build affinity with the artist or further with other repertoires of the label? As shorts consumption keeps increasing especially with Genz and beyond, today's Tech platforms will have an important say on how the music industry develops further for future generations.

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