Why is Bollywood constantly rehashing music?
There is more to the viability of old hits as a marketing option than just instant recall value
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New Delhi: The two big Republic Day releases last week, Shah Rukh Khan’s Raees and Hrithik Roshan’s Kaabil, may have little in common otherwise but both big-ticket films banked on the same marketing tool to create buzz—a repurposed version of an old, iconic song. While Raees had actor Sunny Leone in a rehash of Laila O Laila from the 1980 hit Qurbani, Kaabil music director Rajesh Roshan redid his own old compositions Kisi Se Pyar Ho Jaye and Saara Zamaana for the film.
The trend of refurbishing old superhit music for new films is not novel to the industry where music labels thrive on rich inventories and seek opportunities to encash them.
“When you create a new song, it could be amazing but it’s an unknown entity. If you take an older hit song, you know it’s a guaranteed success. So your risk goes down considerably,” said Vikram Mehra, managing director of the music company Saregama India.
But there is more to the viability of old hits as a marketing option than just instant recall value—even in cases where the rehash is not happening intra-label.
“Legally, usually the case is that the artiste—band, troupe or singer—has already assigned the copyright of the song to a music label in perpetuity and allowed them to commercially exploit it,” said Ankit Sahni, a lawyer practising at the Delhi high court, who specializes in intellectual property rights. “Producers enter a license agreement with the label, agreeing either on a one-time payment or a royalty-based arrangement where a certain percentage of the turnover is paid to them. It’s fairly easy to do, contractual, and there is no other regulatory aspect to it, it’s a private arrangement.”
The acquisition fee, in the rare cases that it happens, is between Rs25 lakh and Rs1 crore, said people aware of the process, who declined to be named. While the song itself may have to be redone and involve a playback singer and arrangement costs, it is part of the package that the film’s music composer offers for the entire album. A top composer could charge up to Rs5 crore for the album. In most instances, however, money doesn’t exchange hands to acquire songs. For Aisa Mauka Phir Kahan Milega that Saregama gave to Karan Johar’s Ae Dil Hai Mushkil or Jaata Kahan Hai Deewane to Anurag Kashyap’s Bombay Velvet, it charged no fee but acquired the audio and video rights to the new song.
“Everyone needs each other in the music industry. There is so much happening in that space that it’s an IOU,” said a person familiar with the modalities, who declined to be named.
And the deal is pretty much worth it. Sanujeet Bhujabal, marketing director, Sony Music India, said that the very fact that a song is being re-created proves that it will find an audience. The objective for the music label is to amplify the impact across all digital platforms, radio and television to reach out to newer audiences who may not be familiar with the original song. In case of a new song, there is some sort of a cooling period required to check if there is some buzz around it. But in case of rehashed versions of songs, which the audience may already be familiar with, no such period is required as they may find it easier to climb up the charts, explained Tapas Sen, chief programming officer at Radio Mirchi, the FM station of the Times Group. Har Kisi Ko Nahi Milta from Akshay Kumar-starrer Boss and more recently, Ok Jaanu ‘s The Humma Song have topped its charts. “So it’s a safe bet,” he added.