Analysis

New music revenues in India, from sync to digital merch


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On the first day of the All About Music conference in Mumbai, IMI boss Blaise Fernandes cited an “underexploited” public performance market as one of the drivers of growth that will help steer India in its quest to become one of the world’s top ten biggest music markets by 2022.

On the second day, at a panel on ‘Revenue Beyond Live’, Rajat Kakar, the managing director and CEO of PPL India, expanded on Fernandes’ statement on the untapped potential for increasing public performance revenue.

At about Rs100 crore [$14m] in 2018, it was already “the second largest income stream for the recorded music industry” in India, said Kakar. That figure represented a 24 per cent year-on-year jump, “the highest in the world”, and it’s only set to grow.

“By a rough study that we did, we’re today touching only 5 per cent of the places that play recorded music,” he said. “If we reach 50 per cent, it’s a 10X growth, which means we’re looking at a Rs800-Rs1,000 crore market.” That would be between $111.8m and $139.9m.

The two musicians on the panel talked about increased opportunities from sync. Composer Clinton Cerejo, a veteran of the advertising scene who has over 5,000 jingles to his name, highlighted the importance of not signing away all the rights to a song.

“All the brand work I do, I only licence [it] so the brand can only use that sound recording in connection with promoting the product,” he said. “They can’t use it in a film, it’s not their property.” Cerejo added that he had licenced both excerpts and full versions of tracks he had composed to perform on television series CokeStudio@MTV to brands and movie producers.

Ankur Tewari mentioned how his duet with fellow singer-songwriter Prateek Kuhad, “Dil Beparvah”, originally created for the TV show The Dewarists, was subsequently used in a feature film, two advertisements and a documentary. “It’s a constant source of revenue,” he said.

Tewari, who served as the musical director and music supervisor for hip-hop movie Gully Boy’s 18-tune soundtrack, also told the audience that “80 per cent of the music used in the film already existed either as demos, scratches, scribbles on paper, notes on their phones or songs that were already released” and that “the same song that [had done] X did 10X after the film got released.”

Pawan Agarwal, the head of music partnerships in YouTube India and South Asia, said observations from the gaming industry show that there’s scope for artists to earn money on the platform directly from fans who purchase channel memberships that get them digital merchandise such as branded emojis.

Agarwal cited a recent report in The Economic Times that stated that popular game PUBG earned $7 million from selling “virtual goods” like clothing and weapons. “There is an opportunity to put fan engagement behind a paywall.”

On the subject of merchandise, Tewari explained how Gully Boy has been victim to a unique kind of piracy. Unofficial merch in the form of black T-shirts printed with the words “Apna Time Aayega (Our Time Will Come)” – the name of the biggest hit from the film and also its main catchphrase – have been seen on hip-hop fans across the country over the last six months. He hasn’t made a single rupee from them.

“I would have bought a few homes if I was getting money from those T-shirts,” he said. “Somebody’s making a lot of money in China.”

Amit Gurbaxani

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