Business of Music in India

…exploring the future…

Can there ever be a musician “star” in India?

We know of many international music icons. But are there any in India?

There is enough musical talent today in our country to match the level of international musicians. We have composers churning out big hits, good melodies, etc. But sadly the layman does not bother to acknowledge the musician.

All of us hum tunes of newly released songs. But we don’t even remember who has scored the music or written the lyrics for our favourite film. Nor do we bother to find out. But we surely remember who the hero was, even after years.

There are many music launch pictures in the newspapers every month – taken at the event held for the same. But in most cases, the press also fails to even mention names of the music directors, (forget putting pictures)… and that too in a “music launch”!

When will a musician be truly recognised in our country?

Will there be a “music star” in India, ever? Your thoughts please…

Are you losing out on your fan-base?

By not bothering about online music sales, are you losing out….?

As you will read in the previous discussions on this blog, there have been quite a lot of ideas, points and views exchanged on musicians using pirated softwares; and music lovers downloading mp3 songs from pirate sites.

Just see how the global markets are warming up to online music sales:

But has it occurred to anyone than an artiste / band is also responsible if his / their song is being pirated??!

How, you may ask?

I was speaking to a USA-based fan of a well-known Indian composer/singer. He said that he has been looking online for a bhajan (song) of this person for a while now. The album in question is still not available on any popular online store. Being habituated with buying from online music shops, he ended up getting the song from a pirate site.

And this fan blames (partly) the artiste for it!!!

His rationale…:

1. a music label should make all their albums available on stores on the Net for sale. So what if results don’t show up instantly, we fans are likely to purchase.

2. every artist/band should cater to fans all over the world. So they must ensure that their songs are put up on stores for sale. they should even release singles exclusively for his fans!

3. most international musicians ensure that their website remains updated; and we fans are glued to their sites / RSS feeds. Unfortunately, many musicians from India have not understood the real potential of the net yet. And many of them don’t have websites either!

So here was a brief encounter of a die-hard fan who was in a way ‘forced’ to download a song illegally, when he intended to buy it…

Now let’s talk numbers:

Online music sales account for 15 percent of the global market. Compared to other industries, music is second only to games in its transition to digital revenues. For newspapers, it is 7 percent, for films it is 3 percent, and for books only 2 percent. (All of these are global figures).
Governments are starting to accept that Internet Service Providers (ISPs) should take a far bigger role in protecting music on the internet, but urgent action is needed to translate this into reality, a new report from the international music industry says today.

Some more facts on digital music sales:

  • The first-ever global music download sales chart is topped by Avril Lavigne, who sold 7.3 million track downloads of her song Girlfriend across the world in 2007
  • Single track downloads, the most popular digital music format, grew by 53% to 1.7 billion (including those on digital albums)
  • The music industry is more advanced in terms of digital revenues than any other creative or entertainment industry except games. Its digital share is more than twice that of newspapers (7%), films (3%) and books (2%)
  • There are more than 500 legitimate digital music services worldwide, offering over 6 million tracks – over four times the stock of a music megastore
  • Progress in the digital music market is being hampered by lack of interoperability between services and devices, and lack of investment in marketing of new services
  • Research by IFPI debunks a myth about illegal P2P services: in fact, fans get better choice on legal sites. IFPI conducted research with a sample of 70 acts on the legal site iTunes and on the copyright infringing service Limewire. In 95 per cent of searches the artists requested had more songs available on iTunes than on the leading P2P service.

Are musicians in India taking notes?

 * IFPI Digital Music Report 2008

Music Copyrights

It is a good practice to protect your Music by applying for a copyright. To do this, go to this link to download the Application Form, fill in the details and mail it to the following address with a Bank DD of Rs. 400/- per song:
The Registrar of Copyrights
Government of India
Ministry of Human Resources Department,
Dept. Of Education, BP & Copyrights Division,
B2/W3 Curzon Road, Barracka, K. G. Marg,
New Delhi – 110 001.

All details are given in the Application Form for your reference.

To know further about Copyright Laws in India, visit:

Piracy of music software – Part 2:

IMSTA Survey 2008 (International Music Software Trade Association)

(3708 respondents from 83 countries across 5 continents)

“Piracy is a social disease.
We are working towards a cure.”

IMSTA’s “Let’s Talk Piracy” survey was designed to gain a better understanding of what music software users think about the subject of “software piracy,” and how IMSTA can best respond to help reduce piracy rates.

IMSTA’s goal was to open the line of communication between music software users and music software companies. Since IMSTA’s efforts are educational, music software users had the opportunity to say what was on their minds, without the fear of prosecution.

CONCLUSIONS from the survey were as under:

1. In general, most respondents expressed a dislike for using pirated music software,even some of the respondents who admitted to using them.

2. Price, copy-protection, try before buy, and bad customer service were the most common reasons the respondents used pirated music software.

3. Many respondents (legitimate and illegitimate users) feel that copy protection is an inconvenience and many use pirated versions to avoid the “hassles” (as they say)
involved with certain copy protection methods.

4. Many people feel that if they are not making money from music, they should not have to pay the same prices as the professionals who do make money from making music.

5. Bad treatment of legitimate customers by certain software companies is yet another reason some have chosen pirated versions of the products they had bought. Most of these customer service issues had to do with the hassles involved in replacing lost or damaged dongles, CDs, and other copy protection problems.

6. For the most part, many people agree that pirated versions are a good way for potential users to get to know a software product and to see whether they would like to purchase
it or not. They feel that limited functionality of demo and lite versions of software products do not allow them to get a full understanding of the product. They feel
that they are well served by pirated versions before they make an investment in a product that they can’t return if it proves to be useless to them.

7. There is wide acceptance of IMSTA’s education approach to facing piracy with a majority of respondents voicing strong adversity to aggressive methods. A majority remain sympathetic to the notion that people should buy the software they use.


If the consumption of any product increases, the price automatically comes down.

In many cases, Indian distributors of software find it difficult to bring down prices significantly because the number of units sold are negligible.

So buying originals is for the benefit of all. Also in terms of prices.

Technical Jig Part 1

Has anyone noticed improvement from just analog bus summing without level changing or master compression?

Piracy of Music Software – part 1:

Piracy of Music Production Software:

This is an area very very close to my heart… and stomach!

Because this is what keeps my fuel at home burning. And let me also add that it does not give me the luxury of dining at a 5* hotel (a big myth that the software industry chaps have all the money).

After leaving my cushy coporate career (much before it could take off), I joined hands with Mariano of Swar Systems, Switzerland. With Ranjan from Delhi and some other programmers in Pune, we built the world’s first (and perhaps the only) Indian music software called SWARSHALA.

When I hit the market way back in 2005 with version 3, responses from consumers shook the daylights out of me. The SwarShala “standard” version which is useful to learn basics of Indian music, gives 3 built-in instruments (in both North and South editions) for practice, and lets one compose music costs Rs. 1,500. A physical (electronic) instrument set would cost Rs. 15,000 for the same practice purpose.

Common response from consumers (music lovers, students of music, parents, even teachers): “I’ll get it from my computer guy. I’m sure he has this wonderful product. And it will be for free.”

4 years of hard-work on developing a unique software built by a dedicated team (started in 2001), who left their jobs for a dream to give Indian muic to the world. With a price range of Rs. 500 (beginners) to Rs. 9,000 (for professionals).

And in 2009, there are hard core “professionals” in India who still pirate music production software, and use it in their ‘hit’ songs!

Software companies ask us distributors to pick up atleast 50-100 units in every order to be at par on discounts with other distributors across the world. More on this in part 2…

Forget CD sales and music track downloads by the layman. Many musicians who are in the business of music production don’t buy original software – based on which they earn their bread (and other things). Thankfully, we have a few good musicians who do buy. (And such sincerity shows in their work also.)

But how long can things go on like this?

Next: How music software sells worldwide versus India.

Music Sales – part 3:


The digital world of buying “singles” (any track/s from an album) online has opened up opportunities for the music industry globally. It’s just that we in India are not yet accustomed to doing so or have experienced the whole thing yet, as most stores like iTunes don’t operate here as of now.

But all mobile phone users are familiar with buying “welcome tunes” on our phones. And these revenues are helping phone companies offer amazing deals on talktime rates to their consumers.

From sources, I came to know that the song “Pappu can’t dance…” by A R Rahman got 7 million official downloads in India (on phones). Which makes the total revenue Rs. 7 crores. And that too for just one song: just 25-40 seconds of it!

This does imply that there are strong hopes of making money for the music industry with today’s technology too. And lots of it. We need not follow the model adopted by Coldplay and give away songs for free.

Tapas and Prashant gave some counter-points in the previous part. But there sure can be a middle path somewhere. Especially in terms of increasing confidence of using credit cards online, plenty of local digital stores, and the pleasure of quick downloads.

If we have ease of access, government control, secure payment methods and ofcourse some moral ethics left in us, we will go and buy a song online to be heard again and again.

Or will we?


Music sales – Part 2:

Is Digital Sales the answer?

Based on some responses from the previous part, I researched prospects of digital music sales in the world.

Sometimes government support does help reduce certain activities for the benefit of a nation. Like piracy raids, more control on ISPs like Tapas suggested.

Making money from music sales in any form today – be it CD sales, ringtones, jingles, singles, or whatever is good. But Alok’s point of royalties being pocketed by music companies in all forms – physical and digital – is indeed a worry. Have they not been doing that in India for the last 30 years?

Most musicians also seem to have given up on all this and just continue to make music instead of getting into legal details. The more informed ones are asking for revenue sharing now. But the new ones get away by saying, “when i become big, i will discuss all that with the music companies.” Right now, its “Jo mil raha hai, le le… aur nikal le.”

Today, value for money has entered in almost everything we buy. It always existed; but has become more apparent in our daily lives – recession or not. Be it going to watch movies and spending Rs. 1,000 by a family on tickets and then another Rs. 1,000 on food (…which wife would want to cook after a movie outing… i’d like to salute one if i find one).

Value for money is seen in music CD purchasing also. We virtually end up listening to 2 or maybe 3 tracks which appeal to us individually. Provided there are others in the family who like the rest of the songs, the CD turns out to be a waste of ‘investment’. Plus FM radio stations play a hit song so many times in a day, that the urge to buy a CD also vanishes.

And whoever said that a CD lasts for 50 years. I think people took more care of their LP records than CDs! Check homes with kids around and you’ll know what I mean.


Part 3: Some facts on digital sales in India!

Music sales – part 1:

I asked a music lover: when was it the last time he walked into a music store to buy a CD; he said “hmm…. Let me think. Maybe 2 years back?”

So does that mean he stopped listening to music after that? “Ofcourse not”, he said.
The Net came to his rescue… Better bandwidths, cheaper offers from ISPs have made it affordable for downloading ‘my kind of stuff’. Good.

But did he pay for the songs / albums he downloaded? “Ofcourse not!”, he said.

And why not? “Because there are some websites which allow me to download full songs at good quality. I listen to them on my PC, copy them to my phone also.”

So I asked him if he did not think this action of his was hurting the music industry as a whole. “Ofcourse not! They’re charging lakhs per song, earning from live shows, etc. So my spending or not spending Rs. 150 for a CD will not affect them in any way. They have no right to complain.”

Before I could wonder why people bother about who earns how much, he went on…. “And once I had to travel to a music shop in a mall to buy a CD (maybe he could not find online), I so desperately wanted . This cost me Rs. 40 by auto to the nearest mall. And then I ended up finding that the store did not have the CD I went there for. This was frustrating, plus a complete waste of time and money.”

So I finally asked him if he would ever buy an original disc? I think you know the answer.


Next topic: Is digital sales a better solution?