Film Music Business - Recession or downward correction?

By Faridoon Shahryar and Suleman Mobhani, Bollywood Hungama News Network

In the past few months recession has hit the world economy in a big way. Almost all the sectors have been badly affected in India as well, including the Film Industry. Multiple film deals amounting to obscene crores have either been slashed big time or scrapped completely. Big stars are willingly taking a pay cut and this effect has trickled down to the other departments like direction, technicians, foreign locations etc. The question that we at Bollywood Hungama are asking is how recession has badly affected the Film Music Industry too.

"Recession has affected without a doubt. There's a difference of 30-40% in the prices that are being offered now than what was being offered six months back," says Adarsh Gupta, CEO, Junglee Music. "Recession is affecting the overall consumer buying. In music business things are getting back to reality. There has to be a relation between content and revenue," adds CEO, Big Music & Home Entertainment, Kulmeet Makkar. In other words, the general perception within the industry is that music buying-selling scenario needs to be changed and the producers have to be more realistic while quoting their prices.

"Corporates came in and they started throwing money. They started buying world rights and keeping the music for themselves. Some Corporates even opened their own music labels. They thought they will become big because they will buy all the rights but they didn't know that without a running catalogue you can't sell new music at any platform whether you go on mobile or radio, you again need a catalogue," says Bhushan Kumar, Managing Director, T Series.

A consensus sentiment within the industry is that the realistic pricing for music became a necessity after the exorbitant cost of the overall music rights of Singh is Kinng (which reportedly went for Rs 13 crores). "The music rights of Singh is Kinng were purchased at around Rs 10 crores and not Rs 13 crores as stated by certain sources," clarifies Adarsh Gupta of Junglee Music, the newly formed record label that purchased the music. We combated some sharp reactions to this deal.

"The price at which Singh is Kinng music rights were sold is an absurd figure. One can never make money on that cost. Maybe they had other business compulsions," says Kulmeet Makkar. "It was a wrong deal... I don't know what was the strategy," adds Kumar Taurani, Chairman and Managing Director, Tips Industries. It can now be clearly said that the price at which Singh is Kinng music was sold was totally unrealistic. Junglee Music stopped buying rights for the next six months testifying to the fact that they have lost money and the film that they have in hand currently (Horn Ok Pleassss) isn't a big one from any standards.

"We bought Horn Ok Pleassss because we always wanted to be associated with happening music and Horn Ok music is extremely good. Our definition of good music isn't necessarily belonging to the biggest film. Good music can come from a big film. It can also come from a small film," justifies Adarsh Gupta. The fact of the matter is that in spite of the promos having hit the air for quite a while none of its songs have really caught people's fancy yet. Yes, music of a small film can be popular too even if a film tanks at the Box Office. A case in point in recent times is Sorry Bhai which has extraordinary melodies and will be heard for a while.

"Price correction is coming in for artist prices, production, director, heroines, everything. Everybody's price is reducing. Everybody is coming to a realistic level. The corporate or distributors will buy films at a lower rate so obviously the music prices also have to come down. If everybody is coming down to 50% so music also has to come down at 50%," reasons Bhushan Kumar.

"Even if there's Shahrukh Khan in a film, I'll still say I want to listen to the music first. You must know what you're buying. Shahrukh can add 300% to a project provided the content is good," adds Kulmeet Makkar.

It is obvious that the general feeling within the music industry is one of caution. Having burnt their fingers and still coming to terms with an evolving industry, risk taking has been put on hold. Till the dust of uncertainty settles down, cost cutting is the highest priority on agenda. To give you a more precise idea, we give you a low down on the maximum limit the biggest players in the music industry are willing to stretch themselves for projects starring some of the most saleable stars like Shahrukh Khan, Aamir Khan and Akshay Kumar:

* Adarsh Gupta, Junglee Music: Rs 3.5 - Rs 4 crores.

* Kulmeet Makkar, Big Music: Rs 1 - 5 crores

* Kumar Taurani, Tips Music: Rs 3 - 4 crores.

* Bhushan Kumar, T-Series: Rs 3 - 5 crores

Year 2008 saw some of the most hyped and highly priced films like Love Story 2050 and Drona biting the dust resulting in colossal losses. If a film does well, it automatically results in the music doing well in the larger context. But if it doesn't, then the best of music fails to create that big an impact. A classic example is Rock On!! Music helped the film before its release and when the film was liked, music sales shot up. The songs of the film achieved a unique distinction of topping not only the Indian but even the world charts.

Kulmeet Makkar of Big Music suggests a new business model which according to him is the need of the day and would help everyone. "A new business model is emerging where producers are looking at music labels as partners. Revenue can be shared. It has to be a win-win model. There can't be a situation where one party makes money while the other loses," he says. "Partnership model isn't a workable model. Accounting is a very big problem. It may happen after 2 years. Reporting structure is not in place. So many radio stations and television channels, how will you monitor each one of them," counters Kumar Taurani of Tips Music.

Taurani is of the view that the music industry has been under recession for the last three or four years. "Huge piracy is happening. Entry of radio has also killed our business. Physical sales are not encouraging." Piracy is a scourge that's eating the music industry like termites on a rampage. Unlike, 1990s, the physical sale of music has slimmed remarkably. Today if a Race sells 3.5 lakh or a Rock On!! 3 lakh copies in physical sales it is considered to be the upper limit. Of course there are other factors like multiple television channels, radio stations, internet (more illegitimate than legitimate), mobile downloads etc which are generating revenue.

A decade ago Subhash Ghai's Taal did record business. "Around 1.6 million CDs of Taal were sold and it still continues to be highly downloaded music," informs Subhash Ghai. There were other films like Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge, Hum Aapke Hain Kaun and Raja Hindustani which sold around 15 million copies (mostly cassettes). Such a figure is unimaginable today.

Piracy is a crisis that seems to be having no answers. Around fifty to fifty five percent revenue of the music industry goes into piracy. If a Pirate is caught, he gets bail in two days as the laws are very weak. In USA, one has to pay to download music on IPods whereas there's no such case here. There are many illegal sites offering free music. Such sites are a roadblock to the growth of the Online face of the music industry and it's very difficult to wipe them out in entirety.

In times when physical sales are gradually dying down and the piracy is rampant, one of the most potent vehicles for doing legitimate profitable music business is the Digital platform. The common viewpoint of everyone within and outside the music industry is that it is the future of the music industry. Mobile downloads are on an all time high. Ringtones and Caller back tones of popular film hits are echoing in each and every corner of the country. It's very apparent that the Digital wing of music business will gain huge strength in the coming days as it benefits everyone.

There's no dearth of talent in the country and new forms of experimentations are happening. Both the new age filmmakers as well as the musicians promise to cull out chartbusting melodies for generations to cherish. And hopefully their music will be priced correctly so that the Music Mughals continue to stretch the benchmark for quality entertainment.

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