| 29 Feb 2024
2014 will be a challenging year in the history of the music industry: Devraj Sanyal

Ancillary means of revenue is an option that helped Universal Music India maintain its growth story in the music business, when many others were affected last year. South Asia Universal Music Group and EMI Music MD Devraj Sanyal takes pride that their 360 degree business model was a life-saver, when traditional revenues failed. He still has high hopes in terms of growth for the music industry even though he predicts 2014 would be a challenging year. He further spoke about what lies ahead for Universal Music and the music industry in a conversation with's Jescilia Karayamparambil.


How was last year for Universal Music India?

It was a surprisingly great year, considering, that it would be a horrible one. Two of the major pipelines of business for any of us in the music world are the teleco business and Nokia- both dropped substantially. So we thought, we would be in deep trouble, but luckily it was our business model that saved us. We have a 360 business model. Traditional revenues took a beating, meanwhile, others out- performed.

How many new artistes do you plan to sign this year?

We have consistently signed 30 artistes every year, which has been the case for three years. We have worked with many serious non-film artistes. We had artistes like Euphoria, Adnan Sami, Sonu Nigam, Rabbi, Kavita Seth, Colonial Cousins, Hariharan and Leslie Lewis- individually and as a band in a massive roster. Every year newer artistes are coming in. So three years ago, there was no metal band, we publish metal bands now. We are publishing Shraddha Sharma, a Youtube sensation. It never happened before and now this content is now being consumed. People are going on iTunes and downloading Shraddha Sharma's songs and viewing her videos on Youtube. Her songs are streamed on Gaana, Saavn and Hungama, which obviously adds a new layer to the existing businesses and is growing rapidly. Channels like Pepsi MTV Indies speaks volumes about the strength of the genre, particularly because a serious FMCG brand like Pepsi believes in it.

What is your take on many new labels that are coming up?

No one dares to come into the space as a national player. The labels that come are all small independent labels that will come and go. Usually, they will perform well for a few projects and then they get acquired by big labels, and it is the standard traditional model all around the world. We have a monster label like T-series which is incredibly large and is doing some great work. Then, you have Saregama which also has a large catalogue. Then there is Sony Music, Warner Music represented by Sony Music and Universal/EMI, there is no space for anyone new. The question here is- what will they come and do? If it is Indies, then it is only us. If it is Bollywood then it is T-Series, Sony, Tips, Venus, so on and so forth. If it is great old content then it is Saregama. However, regional space also has many players that are dominating-Sony Music in Tamil Nadu, Aditya is ruling in Karnataka, Universal Music in Punjab, Kolkata (and east) and Maharashtra, there is no entry point for any new label companies that can change the world.

What is the predication for your company in terms of market share?

All of us are strapping on percentage points, but I do not really see a dramatic shift in the share. The shift will be in revenues and in value but not market share.

Tell us about your presence in the spiritual space?

We have sold about 10 million units worldwide of Saint Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singhji Insan. This is something that many have not been able to achieve. There are many big names that are in production right now. By the end of 2014, the cumulative figures will be close to 20 million.

Tell us about more about Priyanka Chopra who is an international artiste now?

99 per cent of her sales is digital. Her first single –'In My City' had quarter million downloads and her second single 'Exotic' had close to a million. By the time the album drops it will be have huge numbers. Her third single is doing phenomenally well. It tops iTunes charts too. In our world, there is only one fundamental- what you can see is what gets sold. Thus we ensure that all the artistes get the prime placement and spend serious amounts of money for them to be visible. We do that with the help of streaming sites, radio and television.

How is Priyanka's solo single doing?

The response is the same for her single 'I Can't Make You Love Me', like her other singles. There will be one more single or we will go directly to an album. We are slowly migrating towards her so there will be no more collaboration. It is now about her and will continue to be about her.

Which are the states that you plan to expand in?

We are already present in the east, north and west. We are staying away from the south, as it is an over-populated domain. Maharashtra is our market. We continue to acquire rights of Marathi film and non-film music. Audiences today want differentiated content so we are providing them that through our catalogue.

What is the coming year going to be like for Universal Music India?

2014 is probably going to be the most challenging year in the history of the music industry- any of my friends in the industry will tell you that. It is a terrible year as traditional revenues are taking the largest beating they have ever taken in a long time. That is one gigantic problem. But the ancillary businesses are picking up and this is the same reason Universal Music did well. For instance, one business was supposed to deliver 100 units, we sold 300 units and new business also did well. All these businesses are tied with content and there is fair chance that other businesses will fall if music consumption reduces. The next few years in the non-Bollywood space will be about ancillary businesses fully like live, intellectual properties, merchandise and others. For traditional business, some will be affected and others will do absolutely fine.