Making music, and money

DQW Bureau
New Update


The music industry should be doing very well. India has plenty of talent.

Just look at the number of 'song and dance' shows on television. The interest is

there. Movie songs often determine a film's box office performance. And even

before a movie makes it to the cineplex, the music can becomes a nation's


So why is it that a media report by PwC states that the music industry will

grow by 1 percent per annum till 2010?

The India music industry estimates that the extent of piracy is Rs 6.5

billion each year. Our industry is largely made up of film songs-about 40

percent of the total industry size, according to IMI. If I want to download a

new movie song for free, I can do it easily. Many sites let me stream it or

download it to a place on my laptop where I can't find it easily. Some others

let me download and store it happily. I can burn a CD and give it to my friends

as well. The Internet, P2P networks, CD writers, plunging costs of media and

storage space,

ripper software...piracy never had it easier, better, or cheaper.


That is where the problem lies. These are incredibly more efficient methods

of procuring, organizing, listening to, and sharing music. To listen to one

song, I don't have to buy the entire album or a movie's soundtrack, I can just

buy that song. I don't have to step out of my door to buy it. It's right there

as I work, and chat with people halfway across the world. And I don't have to go

near my music system to play it. I can listen to it as I jog, or do anything

else inside or outside home!

And the industry has been trying to fight them. That will simply not work.

Sales of audiocassettes and CDs are stagnant at best. There is no doubt that

they will remain under pressure. Even in an Internet-sparse country like India.

The industry has to evolve new models to navigate the Net. It has to use the

technology and make people pay for it. And, sadly, one does not seem to be

seeing too much happening in India. The online medium is being used to an

extent-to sell CDs. It is like a racing car being transported on a bullock cart.

There are some small efforts by individuals or small organizations. But money

and technology muscle is still to be deployed.


There is more action happening at the international level. Digital rights

management (DRM) was touted as a good model, but that has now changed. People

don't want to be  locked into subscription services that offer limited

flexibility or choice. Early last year, EMI unlocked its digital music catalog

from the DRM mode because they found that only one out of ten users preferred to

go the DRM way. Amazon MP3, which is available to only US users, has DRM-free

tracks from all the biggest labels. The iTunes model has gone down very well

with listeners. SpiralFrog runs a free music download service riding on ads.

Qtrax claims to serve you free music through ad-supported P2P networks. Artists

are experimenting with ways of using 'digital' to their advantage. Some allow

the download of a song or two to give listeners a taste of their latest album.

Last year, the band Radiohead launched their latest album In Rainbows online and

asked listeners to pay the price they liked. By some reports, 38 percent of

downloaders paid an average of $6.

We have not yet seen such experiments. Clearly the music industry in India

has to stop protecting the past revenues. It also has to define the future

revenue streams.

Shyam Malhotra author is Editor-in-Chief of CyberMedia