| 01 Oct 2023
A saga of fulfilled promises and progress of IPRS in 2022 by CEO Rakesh Nigam 

MUMBAI: To wrap up 2022 Rakesh Nigam, CEO of IPRS gives insights of IPRS in 2022, challenges and their upcoming projects. 

Check the interview below: 

1. IPRS in 2022- A saga of fulfilled promises and progress

With a semblance of normalcy restored in 2022, it wasn’t long before life and its activities started brimming with enthusiasm and newfound zeal. While the Covid crisis had brought a sudden end to live shows, concerts, filming, and on-ground events, the year 2022 saw the public performance of music gearing up across public places, bars, restaurants, shopping malls, live events, concerts, music festivals as people thronged in large numbers to rid themselves of the blues triggered by the devastating pandemic. 

Going back to the previous year and the initial months of 2022, when income from public performance had taken a hit, thankfully, new income-generating opportunities emerged as digital music consumption went up, helping the IPRS grow revenues by 82% to INR300 crores in FY2020-21. Continuing with the growth spree, IPRS in the following months of 2022 till December 2022, IPRS has already garnered revenues of over 300 crores and is hopeful to close the year setting a new benchmark of 400 crores plus. 

Introducing a monthly royalty payment cycle against the earlier quarterly, the IPRS recorded its highest single-year royalty payout amounting to Rs.210 crores in the year ended March 2021, up 15% in 2020. In the current year, from April 2022 – December 2022 IPRS has already distributed royalties amounting to 200 crores and is gearing up for the next milestone. 

IPRS has made significant strides in the Technology and allied fields by embarking on multiple technology-led initiatives. As a part of this implementation, this year IPRS launched the next version of the BackOffice Members Portal with additional features. The launch of the Members portal is a milestone in terms of technology advancement and brings increased transparency to the overall system. The portal empowers the members to check and submit their data and work and share related queries from a one-point source. 

As an ongoing initiative, IPRS continues to focus on enhanced data registration ensuring complete and correct metadata to bring more value to creative works in the digital market and promote a fairer ecosystem for creators.

On the licensing front, IPRS continued to crack major deals with significant players in the industry to fuel the revenue surge. However, we learned from the pandemic that dependence on a single source of revenue is not conducive in the long run. Thus we are accelerating our efforts to increase the income from sources beyond digital, covering Public Performance, Television, broadcasting, etc., to a 30% - 40% share of our total revenue, to de-risk the flow of income. 

Triggered by the pandemic, technology precipitated rapid music industry growth. The growth also redefined the way music is created, distributed, and consumed, spurring a plethora of queries from the music creators and our members across India; answering which were sacrosanct for IPRS. The inevitable debate about the constant growth and evolving trends that gave wings to the industry soon set in.

Undertaking multiple beneficial initiatives for its members, IPRS conducted pan-India workshops, online training, and webinars, on the latest technology/trends shaping careers. Awareness-building initiatives for membership enrolment led to a 30% jump in new member registrations.

Various collaborations with sister societies around the world led to growth in IPRS’s global footprint. All the above is just a slice of the IPRS activities around the year.

2. What were the immediate challenges faced by the IPRS in 2022?

Despite strong collections growth, IPRS continues to face licensing challenges, with many major users, including domestic OTT players, major broadcasters, and radio stations refusing to pay the music creators including authors and composers of the music they use.  

While the digital boom has provided music creators access to an audience beyond geographies, it also brought in new challenges in copyright infringement and piracy. The Indian law was designed to include physical and digital spaces, and the terms of our copyright law apply to both digital and physical music. India is also a part of international copyright treaties like WIPO, and Internet Treaties like WCT and WPPT, which extend existing copyright to the digital space. No content can be assumed to be “copyright-free on the internet unless the owner specifically makes it available for free use.

The encouraging digital growth at IPRS also reflects a deep-rooted issue. 82% of the IPRS collections are digital, with major broadcasters, and radio stations, still refraining from paying for the music being used by them. Moreover, insufficient data provided by the Indian broadcast industry triggers inefficiencies blocking the collection and eventually the distribution of royalties. As the need of the hour, all relevant stakeholders, the industry, and the Government must intervene to ensure proper enforcement of the law and uphold the rights of music creators and the rightful owners of the music. Compliance with music copyright continues to be a major challenge for CMOs like IPRS. 

Ignorance and lack of awareness on relevant issues like music copyright and managing their own rights prevail amongst creators across the country. Very few creating music are conversant of the rights they wield over their works and the protection copyright law offers their works. As a society for its members, by its members, and of the members, IPRS is thus reaching out to its community of music creators to build the required awareness. As we believe that our nation can be compliant only when the importance of Music Copyright is realised and respected by music users and creators alike. 

3. How prepared is the IPRS for the emerging challenges?

One thing that the pandemic has taught us, is agility and rapid adaptability. The world shifted gears overnight increasing our reliance on the digital way of life. Post-2020 it was clear that our presence, digitally, needed to be solid and what we could do to help our members and partners during this rapid transformation. 

IPRS is the collective management organization (CMO) that manages the performing right and reproduction (mechanical) rights of musical and literary works in India. We represent over one million Indian works and tens of millions of international Works. The massive increase in streaming/OTT placed new demands on Copyright Societies like IPRS. Large volumes of data must be processed quickly, correctly, and transparently to map revenues and timely payout of royalties. We have been strengthening our business operations accordingly and modernizing our digital infrastructure. We are reaching out to our members with new tools and technologies to instill transparency and autonomy. We have been collaborating with industry partners to drive discussions on issues that shape the music industry.

As a representative body of its members, our key role will be ensuring that authors, composers, and music owners are duly credited whenever their musical compositions and songs are streamed, downloaded, broadcasted, performed, and played in public. We aim to increase our licensing footprint further and expand our global reach into new territories where Indian music is popular.  

Adhoc Regional Advisory Committees comprising prominent IPRS members have been set up across regions to troubleshoot the issues faced by our members, residing in different corners of the country for highlighting local issues, sharing recommendations basis market needs, and escalating and resolving members' queries. Making available easy accessibility to our members and helping them with practical solutions for their problems has been one of our key objectives.

Last but not least, to enable changes and manage the robust role IPRS is gearing up to play, we will continue to focus on knowledge enhancement and upskilling of our members and in-house talent pool, as we believe learning never stops at IPRS. 

Expecting the best but being ready for the worst is what was clearly the lesson from the pandemic. It has also made the IPRS much more proactive to take on any kind of challenges close at hand.

4. Any upcoming projects?

IPRS will continue to focus on technological advancements for efficiency and transparency. Major advancements to happen in the BackOffice Member Portal, with robust data ingestion, matching, and claiming. We are working to constantly improve the data management that helps drive collections. We are leaving no stone unturned to ensure that complete and accurate metadata is captured so that the rightful owners of music are duly compensated. 

Advocacy and education will have a key role too. We are working with our members and industry stakeholders to create a fair environment in music. Through awareness campaigns, negotiation, and, where needed, litigation, we are going all out to help improve rights and bring in the much-needed mindset shift toward music licensing and compliance.

We will continue with our pan-India outreach and engagement programmes reaching out to our members and all budding music creators, with knowledge and know-how to help build a flourishing career in music. We are also working on initiatives to discover and nurture new talents in song writing and music composition. 

We aim to make IPRS not only the most efficient and transparent Copyright Society but also the most coveted institution any music maker and music lover would long to associate with.