| 11 Dec 2023
Challenges faced by Regional Music Labels

MUMBAI: Regional music, contributes immensely to the culture and music industry of India. However, the regional music industry in itself has gone through multiple ups and downs over the years. The downfall of the physical music market i.e. cassettes and Compact Discs and time to align to the download and digital era took a toll on the regional music market. At the recently held Indian Music Convention by Indian Music Industry-apex body for recording industry, five top most regional music company heads- Sagarika Das, Sagarika Music-Marathi, Satvinder Singh, Speed Records-Punjabi, Aditya Gupta-Aditya Music-Tamil, Mahua Lahiri, Asha Music-Bengali and Swaroop Reddy, Think Music-Telegu, came together to share the challenges faced by them.

The moderator, Atul Churamani - a veteran in Music Industry business, opened the session saying India is a collection of countries, referring to the different culture of each state of India. Owing to this different culture, every state has different music and hence we have 29 music industries functioning. However, a cohesive functioning of all of the regional labels is still desired considering the problems of all of them are the same. Critical issues and solutions discussed at the panel were

- The culture of singles, as opposed to the previous culture of an album having minimum eight songs each, has lowered the Return on ROI. As Sagarika Das rightly pointed out, the amount invested and returns received have discrepancies. India is known to be primarily a film music market. However, to create an ancillary market, emergence and prosperity of independent music is essential. However, currently, the catalogue is low considering the artistes are just releasing one song instead of an album with eight-nine songs

- A fact claims that the 1000 crore industry, 31 years ago dominated by cassettes and CDs, has now come down to 850 crores in the digital era. Point to be pondered upon.

- Mahua Lahiri of Asha Music observed that despite Radio being the strongest medium, none of the Bengali Radio Channels play Bengali Music. The entire panel resonated with this problem. Aditya Gupta even recollected an incident of a leading radio channel demanding a ‘No Objection Certificate’ for playing certain songs. Sagarika also added that Mumbai radio channels only want Bollywood songs; tier two and three cities still play Marathi music.

- The wide gap between the functioning of IPRS and other bodies and regional labels is affecting their yearly turnovers said Sagarika Das.

- The dominance of corporate, over mid-size companies, is a hindrance and hence compromising on value, said Aditya Gupta.

- Another major challenge is that no news channel that uses their music pays them royalties, which if given, could be a major source of income.

- Major source of income for the labels is digital content. According to Aditya, Digital era has helped music market in some way however the bane of piracy continues.

- The only industry that seems to be unperturbed with the challenges is the Punjabi Music According to Satvinder Singh, the biggest reason for the same is the widespread reach of Punjabi music in Canada, UK, and USA. Hence the streaming is in foreign currency, making it comparatively profitable. Also, according to him, Punjab is a happy state and so is the music. He also claimed that the most money made in Punjabi Music Industry is by the artistes.

- The best solution derived was to eradicate the mindset of free music especially since this is the age of YouTube and iTunes, downloading of free content/music should not be encouraged.

- Another solution was a certain stipulation of percentage for the regional music industry is a must for it to grow.

- According to Swaroop, more involvement by the Government would play a vital role.

- Lastly, better functioning, monitoring by bodies like IPRS, PPL and other bodies is required. Currently, there are 272 members of PPL and out of which only seven are major labels.