Mumbai: Sony/ATV Music Publishing, the world’s largest music publisher with around two million music titles, co-owned by Sony Corp. of Japan and The Michael Jackson Family Trust, announced its entry into the Indian music industry last year. Sony/ATV Music Publishing is in a strategic alliance with Sony Music Entertainment India, which has published albums by artists like Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan and Elvis Presley.

Guy Henderson, executive vice-president–international, at Sony/ATV, was in Mumbai recently to start the music publishing operations. He spoke in an interview on India’s market potential, amendment to the Indian Copyright Act and the problem of piracy. Edited excerpts:

After acquiring EMI Music Publishing this year, Sony/ATV has become one of the largest music publishing companies in the world…

Sony/ATV, before the EMI acquisition, was one of the biggest and credible music publishers in the world. We had about 750,000 copyrights with the likes of Bob Dylan, Beatles…and EMI, with its 1.2 million copyrights, is now part of our family, making us the biggest music publisher in the world. It is two big companies coming together to form a bigger company...and as a combined entity we are well placed to grow the business in India.

How does Sony/ATV plan to exploit the strategic alliance with Sony Music Entertainment in India?

Of all the copyrights we’ve spoken about…we have songwriters from every part of the world except India which has been a crazy situation to be in given the size of the country, given that music is so integral to everybody’s daily life and the fact that movies don’t get made in this country without music. So what Sony/ATV would like to do now is to participate in the Indian market, develop and have creators of Indian song artistes.

Once the Copyrights set in place we would like to work very closely with our Indian partner Sony Music to develop songwriters to ensure that the publishing piece in the music industry is maintained and grown. The other manner how we can help is by providing international exploitation of these (Indian) rights…because that has also been lacking. We have an arrangement with Sony Music India wherein we administer their local copyright outside of India, in rest of the world. It has proved to be very successful. With the focus now of having a presence in India as well…we think it will work well for the Indian songwriters.

How significant will India’s contribution to the overall revenue of Sony/ATV be?

It is going to be small initially. It is going to take a while for people to realize that it is serious business and that there are far smaller, less interesting countries in the world where you haven’t established copyright environment. India, being far more interesting and having far more potential, should have been there long time ago. It is difficult to give out percentages…but if we can start off quickly I think we can have India as a quite a serious percentage of our business.

What are the challenges you face in India as a global music publishing company?

One major overriding challenge that the whole industry faces everywhere is that of piracy and it is no different in India. The fact that the country has a huge population is one thing, but how many people can afford to buy music, is another. We need to find a way to work with stakeholders in a manner that works for all, to be able to monetize and make it affordable for people…and also benefit song writers. Consumption patterns are evolving in India with the emergence of digital platforms. We do make little money here from CD sales but it is very small. If we look at our global business the biggest growth area is digital and it’s going to be the same (in the case of) of India. Mobile is how people will continue to consume music.

The biggest portion of our revenue—and the same goes for other (music) publishers— is performance income, earning from play on radio and television, and India should be no different. Add that to me in terms of the future is what we as an industry must secure.

Do you foresee (music) synchronization developing as an important source of revenue in the India market?

The history of the Indian market is that all the rights have been bundled into the producer’s camp and now (we are) hopeful the copyright law will change that. In the United States, for example, these rights are all different… you will sync a song into a movie and if there is a soundtrack you will earn from it separately. So you have soundtrack sales, and if that record gets played on the radio or television, then you will earn again on the performance side. So the sound tracks sales, synchronization and performance rights are all separate.

A (song) writer can have the potential of earning on all these bits and pieces for his entire career. That is the model we hope to bring to India. So in terms of the Bollywood film area, in time what is going to happen is…you will have songwriters who will have the ability to write for sound track, and they will do it under the banner of their own publishing entity and there will be a separate discussion for synchronization, and so on.

It is not going to happen immediately but what we are finding with our sub-publishing arrangement with Sony Music (in India) that they have licensed international songs into Bollywood films for us (Sony/ATV). So it has already begun.

Is it correct to say that Sony/ATV is riding on the wave of new talent rather than looking at companies that have an existing portfolio of music titles?

As (music) publishers you do both. Sony/ATV develops its own songwriters and at the same time it bought EMI. I think that is the ultimate in focusing on a big catalogue and in terms of doing our own thing with new writers. Developing new talent as they come will be the obvious thing, that’s why we go into a new territory. Once we get to know the market better, and with Sony Music’s expertise in the area, if there are older catalogues and songwriters who haven’t got their works dealt with properly and want to do business with us and we can help them…we will absolutely do that.