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Varun Grover in ‘Credit De Do Yaar’ music video
Varun Grover in ‘Credit De Do Yaar’ music video

Bollywood lyricists come together to fight for credit on digital platforms

Videos of songs on Spotify, Gaana, JioSaavn, YouTube and others come with names of actors that feature in them and at best, the music composer and singers but not the lyricists, they have argued

NEW DELHI : A bunch of Bollywood lyricists have come together to fight what has been a long-standing system of not naming lyricists in the description that accompanies popular songs across digital and audio streaming platforms.

In a three-and-a-half minute music video called ‘Credit De Do Yaar’ released this week, prominent lyricists including Swanand Kirkire, Varun Grover, Kausar Munir, Amitabh Bhattacharya, Neelesh Misra, Manoj Muntashir, Mayur Puri, Shelle, Puneet Sharma, Abhiruchi Chand, Hussain Haidry, Sameer Anjaan, Raj Shekhar and Anvita Dutt, said it is unfair and rude that people behind words, that form the basis of any composition, are not known for their work.

Videos of songs on these services such as Spotify, Gaana, JioSaavn, YouTube and others come with names of actors that feature in them and at best, the music composer and singers but not the lyricists, they argue.

While the overall music segment in India is valued at Rs, 1,068 crore, having grown 24.5% in 2018, over-the-top (OTT) audio streaming services contribute about 70% of it, according to the Economic Impact of the Recorded Music Industry in India, a report brought out by the Indian Music Industry along with consulting company Deloitte in September 2019.

The storm kicked off on Twitter earlier this month when Kirkire, known for songs such as Behti Hawa Sa (3 Idiots) and Piyu Bole (Parineeta) pointed out that the Dil Bechara album on Spotify featured names of composer AR Rahman and the singers of individual songs but not lyricist Amitabh Bhattacharya.

“Because I am also a singer and composer, I know how much information we get about our own song streaming globally. It’s the beauty of digital that the data available can change all perceptions of hits and flops. Why exclude lyricists?" Kirkire tweeted to say that the algorithm of most platforms does not account for searches made on the basis of the lyricist’s name. Sharing screenshots of albums of films such as Rockstar, Kal Ho Na Ho and Gangs of Wasseypur, Kirkire said the services “do not consider lyricists as artistes."

Contemporaries joined in soon after to echo his sentiments with Neelesh Misra pointing out, “Music launches have been held without the lyricist getting prominence. For years, lyric writers have got no mention on most radio stations or TV reality shows playing songs. And now, OTT platforms have taken the same route. The lyric writer stands at the end of the line."

The audio streaming interface that favours the singer-composer format popular in the West is representative of the broader film industry practice that ordinarily neglects technicians, but that is slowly being challenged. Last year, the Indian Performing Rights Society (IPRS) had filed an FIR against Yash Raj Films for failure to pay an estimated 100 crore in royalty to several music composers and writers since 2012. Earlier this month, IPRS reached an agreement with social media giant Facebook to license its music repertoire for video and other social experiences across Facebook and Instagram, a move that is expected to help artistes.

To be sure, audio streaming services point out that credit lists on their platforms are based on the metadata provided by the music labels who own the film album and license it to them. For example, Kirkire is credited for penning Aal Izz Well from 3 Idiots on Spotify, possibly because the information was shared with the platform.

“Beginning today, Spotify users around the world can view songwriter and producer credits for tracks on the desktop platform,"a 2018 blog on the Spotify for Artists website says. Users can simply right-click on a track and select “Show Credits" from the menu of options to view information on performers, songwriters, and producers.

“At launch, we’re showing information we have from record label-provided metadata, and we’ll also display the source of the credits. We realize some of this may be incomplete or may contain inaccuracies, but this is just a first step: the feature will continually evolve to provide better functionality, and incorporate more information from industry partners," the blog adds.

The services themselves do not have the bandwidth to incorporate all names, if the music label does not share them, but they are open to updating their lists as and when possible. JioSaavn, Gaana and YouTube did not respond to Mint’s queries.

“Saregama shares metadata for every song. This includes names of singers, lyricists and composers," said Vikram Mehra, managing director of the company. Labels such as T-Series, Tips Industries and Zee Music Company did not respond to Mint’s queries.

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