Home / Companies / Music labels plan to float agency to promote, lock in artistes

Mumbai: Two of India’s biggest record labels are poised to sign talent management deals with domestic partners, a move that could bring some structure to a largely unorganized but lucrative market.

Universal Music India Pvt. Ltd has agreed to start a venture with film production and distribution company Eros International Plc. to find, launch and promote local music talent globally. The two firms will create a talent management agency, which will leverage the film and television platforms of Eros to find and promote talent, who will then sign a deal with Universal.

Grooming talent: Pakistani singer Ali Zafar.Talent agency Carving Dreams, which manages him, will be signing a deal to manage the music talent of a big music company in India. Manoj Verma / Hindustan Times

Afsar Zaidi, founder and managing director of Carving Dreams, said the move to forge links with the music industry was aimed at capitalizing on revenue opportunities from locking in talent and benefiting from economies of scale of signing an entire roster of artistes, as opposed to managing just a few A-list individuals.

“The more artistes we sign, the more subdivisions we can get into," said Zaidi. “We will be representing the talent for arguably the biggest music company in the country and we will be responsible for marketing and promoting them and generating money."

Carving Dreams, which already manages Ali Zafar, a Pakistani singer, said managing the spectrum from so-called retail artistes all the way to top-rated A-list names, offered “huge" opportunities.

In addition to cashing in on the brand value of an artiste, and leveraging their film base, Kishore Lulla, chief executive of Eros International, said the appeal of talent management for the production house lies in the fact that when Bollywood is recognized on a par with Hollywood, the company will be well positioned to take advantage of the global need for home-grown Indian talent.

“Bollywood as a category has arrived internationally, and international musicians want to work in India," said Lulla. “So Universal and Eros have come together, and in the next five years with the amalgamation of Bollywood and Hollywood, it is important to get our joint ventures in place."

The deal underscores Lulla’s plan to prime Eros as a global player in the entertainment sector, fuelled by his conviction that the future of the industry will be the product of “cross-pollination" between Hollywood and Bollywood.

It follows partnerships with Sony Pictures Entertainment Inc., and Lions Gate Entertainment Corp., an independent film production house, as part of its strategy to secure a host of joint ventures and agreements to give it scale and reach into diverse segments.

Lulla said the venture would scout for talent which has some “cross" appeal to strike a chord with international as well as domestic audiences, adding that potential revenues from the joint venture would depend on the artistes who sign up. The joint venture would launch its first artiste early next year, with names in the frame including some top-rated actors as well as complete unknowns.

“We are looking at homegrown talent, and at capitalizing on everything that goes with it," said Lulla. “We will be scouting across the board. We want to identify the Rolling Stones or Beatles of India."

Rajat Kakar, managing director of Universal Music India, who will chair the joint venture with Eros International, said the objective was to find raw talent, and then groom and promote it through Bollywood films and on television. “We want to start a completely new stream which does not exist," said Kakar.

“There is so much untapped talent and what you see on television is driven by ratings. People are finding talent, but they are then moving on to the next person, leaving the artiste in the lurch after one album or show. It is not a branded approach," he added. “We want to find people across the spectrum and then market their careers."

The need for professional management of musicians and artistes has also been accelerated by broader industry shifts, according to analysts and observers, as it moves in line with the practice in Europe and North America. The trend away from a one-off, upfront fixed payment, to a profit or revenue-sharing model of remuneration, has thrown new light on issues such as ownership of intellectual property and how to determine thresholds, creating the need for formal management.

“The idea (behind talent management) is that you lock in talent and exploit it," said Smita Jha, associate director of the media and entertainment practice at consultancy PricewaterhouseCoopers, “but in terms of revenues, it is not only about sales of physical albums any more. There is a lot more that you can do, including branding, merchandising and live shows. As a result, contracts are also undergoing a significant change. Now the talent participates in future profits and shares the losses to that extent too."

Emanuelle Dedecker, head of marketing at Blue Frog, the live music venue that signed six artists to the record label it launched earlier this year, said the company wants to help give independent musicians a platform.

“Bollywood and Indian classical music dominate maybe 98% of the music industry in India and we launched the label to give musicians who don’t play that music a platform... Artistes need management because they cannot always promote themselves."

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