Crunch time for Indian music

The Indian music business is all set for an unprecedented boom. But what does that mean for the musician?


Only 1-2% of music in India is bought legally, according to a KPMG report.
Only 1-2% of music in India is bought legally, according to a KPMG report.

Examining data about the music business does not come easy either to the practitioner of music or to music lovers and consumers. But if one were to make the effort, there would be no dearth of surprises. For example, did you know that India is currently ranked 20th among the world’s biggest music markets in terms of value? And that it stands a good chance of moving up to 10th place if business forecasts prove right?

According to the “India Media And Entertainment Industry Report”, compiled in 2015 by the consultancy firm KPMG and the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (Ficci), and based on information provided by sources in the Indian music business, the value of the music business in the country inched up steadily from Rs.740 crore in 2008 to Rs.980 crore in 2014, showing a growth of 2.3% from 2013. If this isn’t exciting enough, wait till you hear the reported projections for the Indian music industry—by 2019, the value of the music business here will burgeon to Rs.1,890 crore, up by 14% from 2014.

This is not the only report of its kind that predicts sunshine in the coming years for the music business. The International Federation of the Phonographic Industry’s (Ifpi’s) “Global Music Report 2016” quotes its chief executive, Frances Moore, as having stated that “after two decades of almost uninterrupted decline, 2015 witnessed key milestones for recorded music: measurable revenue growth globally; consumption of music exploding everywhere; and digital revenues overtaking income from physical formats for the first time.”

Ifpi, though, placed the value of the music business in India at a more conservative Rs.610 crore in 2014, against KPMG’s Rs.980 crore for the same year.

Despite detailing a by-and-large positive trend towards growth, the KPMG report points to a massive drop of 30-35% in physical sales of music, and a similar drop in sales of ringtones and caller tunes. It also states, quite unequivocally: “In India, only 1-2 per cent of music is consumed by way of legal purchase whereas 99 per cent of the music consumption is still illegal i.e. pirated.”

One can only imagine then how revenue would soar if Indians started purchasing their music legally.

But amid the mention of all the crores that music seems to be raking in, the constant question for the practitioner of music remains the same—how is all this growth and abundance going to affect the lives of artistes in India? Is their lot going to become any better? The KPMG report states that the sale of music rights for films continues to be a strong area, with Category A films selling music rights for Rs.10-15 crore. Category B films reportedly end up selling music rights for Rs.3-5 crore. One cannot help but wonder what portion of this pie benefits the content creators—the composers, singers, musicians, lyricists, audio engineers and others. There does not seem to be any data about this. Perhaps the artiste community still echoes what songwriters Ray Evans and Jay Livingston wrote and published in 1956: “The future’s not ours to see, que sera, sera, whatever will be, will be.” And yet, growth in the true sense of the word cannot and must not be measured without assessing the impact of these figures and projections on the lives of the people who make music in India.

Shubha Mudgal tweets at @smudgal and posts on Instagram as shubhamudgal.

Also Read: Shubha’s previous Lounge columns

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