| 04 Oct 2023
Less noise by labels this Navratri

Music, undoubtedly, has been the most important drivers of Navratri - the nine day song and dance extravaganza - be it through live music or CDs.

The festival however no longer remains an occasion that music labels look to bank on. There have been very few Navratri releases this year, with most major labels having repackaged their older tracks for the annual event.

T-series has released around 12 albums this year. One of the interesting offerings includes Himesh Reshammiya's foot-tapping dandiya version of Karzzz. In addition to a compilation of ace Navratri singer Falguni Pathak's songs, Dholna, 41 Non-stop Gujarati Dhamal, Kesariya Dhola, devotional Gujarati album Jagone Albeli Ammba are some of the albums being released by the label.

"We expect sales in the Gujarat belt and also places like Hyderabad, Secunderabad where the Gujarati community exists in large numbers," says Super Cassettes Senior General Manager G Arun Kumar. Most of the albums released by T-series boast tracks that have traditional lyrics over popular Bollywood melodies, he says. As a novelty, T-series has also released a DVD video on the occasion. "Let's see how it does," he surmises 

The music business has shifted from the retail shops to larriwalas who sell pirated copies, another factor that is keeping the composer and the singer away from recording studios. "We are not investing in recording new material but repackaging old content," says Shruti Saudagar, Manager Content and Royalties, Saregama. One of the oldest music labels in the country, Saregama has released just a handful of albums – a mix of new and already existing content. One among them is Raas Garba sung by Praful Dave, while the other is 'Jhanjar' an album Saregama released a decade back on cassettes. In addition to this, the label has released an mp3 with 37 tracks of different aartis of various deities is what the label is counting on. Besides places like Ahmedabad, Rajkot, Baroda and Bhavnagar, where 60 per cent of the market is traditional music, we are also hoping for sales in regions like Nagpur,... she adds.

Times Music has released one devotional album called Mata Ki Bhetein sung by Pankaj Udhas, says Times Music COO Adarsh Gupta, "We have invested in fresh content,... he says. The demand for our Navratri releases will be more in North India," he adds. Times Music has also reintroduced close to 12 albums from their catalogue that fall in the devotional category.

Till about five years ago, close to 1.2 million Garba (the traditional Navratri dance) cassettes and CDs were sold in Gujarat alone. Now, with Navratri already having begun on 19 September, recording companies and distributors say that sales barely cross a few thousand. In addition to that, once Navratri starts, the sales gradually start declining, believe industry experts. In addition to the older trends, a majority of labels are also eyeing the sales generated from mobile ringtones and CRBTs.

50 per cent cut in live shows

In Mumbai, Navratri celebrations take a refreshing meaning when playback singer Falguni Pathak joins thousands of enthusiasts during the event organised by 'Sankalp', one of the biggest Dandiya events in the city. Every day, more than 35,000 people come to dance to Falguni's tunes – all, at least insured for Rs 4,00,000 each. According to media reports, last year, Falguni Pathak alone was insured for Rs 10 million. However, this time, the same amount has been invested in insuring the entire event – clearly hinting at much restricted spending.

Ironically, small organizers and housing societies that depended on cassettes, CDs or live performances have also cut back on their budgets this year. The dips in the recording business had proved to be extremely beneficial till last year for the Live Garba bands who charged Rs 1 -1.5 million per appearance. That's no more the scene now.

The Beaters, a popular Mumbai based live music group has faced 50 per cent cut in their shows this year. Says band leader Nikhil Shah, "Till last year, we were charging up to Rs 1.2 million for nine days of live music, but this year organisers are asking us to cut down our prices saying that they have no sponsors." Incidentally, the number of live garba shows overseas has also reduced, he says.

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