| 04 Mar 2024
Tips managing director Kumar Taurani - Organised music retail sector will help industry

Tips managing director Kumar Taurani was recently elected chairman of the Indian Music Industry, under which the two royalty collection bodies - PPL and IPRS operate. Taurani, a veteran of the Indian music industry, says he will soon draw up plans to get the entire industry on one platform, and fight piracy head on.

Excerpts from a chat with editor Aparna Joshi.

What is your agenda for the IMI in the year ahead?

There are two points on my increase revenues for the PPL and two, to keep a check on piracy or do something to control piracy at least.

However, since the elections were held in December, I am yet to come to grips with the problems facing us, and it might take me a couple of months to figure out ways to deal with the various issues.

How do you plan to tackle piracy, particularly mobile chip piracy that's the current scourge of the industry?

Raids are being carried out, but the problem is that such piracy is mainly happening in the B and C class towns, so it is difficult to control that. You need huge infrastructure for that. In the licensing department of the PPL, we have 70 to 80 people working to ensure that there is increased awareness for procuring the right licenses for playing music in public. But that staff strength is inadequate if you consider the size of our country. To control piracy, I think we need to liason more with the government. Special cells to help the IPRS need to be set up, and we would also need more help from the judiciary to tackle the kind of problems we are facing.

What is the current extent of piracy affecting the music industry in India?

Five years ago, we were a Rs 12 billion industry, today we are a Rs four billion industry. Two thirds of the industry has been wiped out due to piracy. If there had been no piracy, there would have been a 25 per cent growth, but combined with the changing nature of physical sales, piracy has eroded nearly 75 per cent of the industry in the country.

80 per cent of the country's labels are affiliated to the IMI. But a few significant players still prefer to be non-aligned. Would you be looking at bringing the entire industry under the IMI umbrella during your tenure?

Naturally, that's on our agenda for long. But as players in  the same sector, we have our personal agendaas as well. We are competitors in the same arena. while many of the new players have stayed away from the IMI so far, T Series too has joined us last year only on the public performance royalty collection aspect. It would be better if T-Series joined hands with the IMI on all issues. So, yes, we plan to talk to all the labels soon, so that the industry can speak with one voice on all issues.

Will the IMI also be looking at resolving the ongoing dispute with radio stations?

We would like to see a resolution of this long pending issue. While the Copyright Board has decided the rates according to which the stations should be paying us, it is sad that many stations do not even bother to pay us the royalties. I could call it open piracy. That is why we have started seeking legal succour against these companies.

Could you trace the evolution of Tips till now?

We started Tips in the early 80s, with a repertoire of regional and devotional titles. We were quite successful till 1987-88, but then we decided that if we need to grow further, we needed to get into mainstream Bollywood music. In  1988, we acquired a slew of Hindi film music titles. By 1992-93, we became a very aggressive player, and I would like to believe we were leaders at that time. But in 2001-02, we had a bad run with nearly 25 to 30 of our films doing badly. Despite our IPO in 2001, we lost huge monies, and slowed down subsequently. We decided to take up films only on royalty basis, but that model does not work in India.

We then decided to focus on our home film productions, and decided to market the music of only the films that we produced, apart from select non film albums of artistes like Jazzy B, Stereo Nation, Atif Aslam and Mika. While we were successful with these, we have now decided to focus on our own film music. Last year's Race and Naqab earlier have been good. Now we have three films coming up. On the film side, we are doing very well.

On the music side, we have a strong old repertoire, plus two or three new releases - so you could say we are doing reasonably well.

The bigger pie is the new releases, of course. The new releases are adding to both topline and bottomline revenues, but our music and film catalogue continues to give us a steady income. So, both films and music are reasonably balanced in our kitty as of now.

You also have a cassette manufacturing plant. Are you planning to stop that now?

We branched out into cassette manufacturing when physical music sales were at the peak, and we have earned well there. Except in the last few years, when the sudden growth in piracy and number of radio stations meant that very few people opted for the music cassette. We produced 48 million tapes in a year in 2001, but today, we barely produce two million cassettes, which is a negligible number.

Since we have a factory, we will continue manufacturing the cassettes, but that's no longer part of our core business. Now, we are focusing on creating more of software - content.

A lot of labels are now offering artistes 360 degree deals. Has Tips been following the same model?

We have been doing that with select artistes. But it's a huge investment. You have to produce an album, bring out two music videos at least, and you have to promote the artiste - all of which may cost you anywhere between Rs eight to 10 million. There are no short term returns on this kind of investment.

There has been a lot of debate over Pakistani artistes being promoted in India. What is your take on the issue?

The issue has been politicised, probably with the coming elections in mind. I feel the creative business should be kept away from politics. We do have some Pakistani artistes on our roster, and if the industry decides on a course of action, we might have to rework our strategy. I personally feel creative people can bridge differences between countries.

Tips' last film Race did Rs 60 million business in Pakistan. If we were to snap cultural ties, everyone would suffer.

It took us 50 years to establish a creative link with that country. It should not be snapped in a hurry.

As for the music of Race, we sold 4,00,000 physical units only, but digitally, it's done very well.

Are you looking at the regional markets too?

You have to be very selective, to see what kind of repertoire you want and the market you are targeting. I think Punjabi and south Indian music is catching on fast - non film Punjabi music and south Indian film music that's selling the fastest.

What are Tips' plans on the digital front?

We have our own website, but I do not plan to make it a 'sales' website. But I am planning to digitise our entire library. Within a year or two, I will enable it so that whoever is interested in retailing Tips' copyrighted music, will have to approach me through my site. My plan is to create a wholesale store of Tips music - around 40,000 songs and around 32 films. I don't want to get into retail distribution, however, my focus is on creating of software - not its distribution.

How do you see digital music growing vis a vis physical music sales in the near future?

Currently, digital and physical sales are contributing in equal measure to our revenues. But the future lies in the non physical sales format - public performance, broadcasting, digital - everything put together which will be what drives revenues in the future.

However, the organised retail music store sector that's coming up in India, should settle in about five years and also give a push to the physical sales - stores like Planet M, Big Bazaar, Music World and their like will help the music industry too.

Which are the forthcoming Tips films and who is composing the music?

We have Prince, Ajab Prem ki gajab kahani and Baat pakki  coming up this year. Sachin Gupta has composed for Prince, while Pritam has scored for the other two films. We have a very good equation with Pritam, who has done Race and Kismat konnection for us earlier.

What are targets for the current fiscal?

Last year, we clocked Rs 1.5 billion, with Race, our topline was huge. This year, my target is Rs 500 to 650 million,  we had only Kismat konnection. We will maintain bottomline though at around Rs  17 million. Music will contribute 50 per cent of revenues this year too.

Currently, within Tips, I look after music, and am looking at Prince. Ramesh Taurani (Kumar's brother) is looking at the other two films. We are still one company, so tehre should be no speculation.