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Short video apps to invest up to Rs200 crore annually in music licensing deals

Homegrown apps were never interested in acquiring music licenses and the general belief was the user is responsible for whatever he chooses to lip sync or dance toPremium
Homegrown apps were never interested in acquiring music licenses and the general belief was the user is responsible for whatever he chooses to lip sync or dance to

  • The video platforms were completely lax till the ban on TikTok threw open the Indian ecosystem for them and labels such as T-Series realized they had no intention to respect the copyright of owners

India’s homegrown short video app market is making the most of the Make in India wave that has gained ground since the ban on Chinese apps such as TikTok earlier this year. A bunch of players, including ShareChat, Chingari, Rizzle, and MX Taka Tak, plan to invest up to Rs200 crore each per year in licensing catalogues of popular music labels such as T-Series, Zee Music, Sony and Times Music, media and entertainment industry experts say.

ShareChat and its short-video platform Moj have recently signed up with T-Series, Times Music and Zee Music, while Chingari has inked a deal with T-Series, months after the Bhushan Kumar-owned company sent copyright infringement notices to content sharing mobile applications such as Roposo, Triller, Taka Tak, Josh, Mitron and Snack Video for using its music without permission.

To be sure, while the video services themselves say they have always been cognizant of the need for legitimate music libraries, industry experts point out they were completely lax till the ban on TikTok threw open the Indian ecosystem for them and labels such as T-Series realized they had no intention to respect the copyright of owners.

“This is a direct result of the ban. Before that, homegrown apps were never interested in acquiring music licenses and the general belief was the user is responsible for whatever he chooses to lip sync or dance to. But post the TikTok ban, they realized the huge user base they could access and the fact that labels like T-Series were starting to come after them," said a music copyright expert, who declined to be named.

To be sure, the latest deals make sense for everyone. Shahir Munir, founder and director at Divo Music, a south Indian music label said this is not just a new stream of revenue for music labels but also a way to promote their content and to help new users discover it. In a statement to announce the deal with Chingari, Bhushan Kumar, managing director, T-Series, said that this mutually beneficial agreement amalgamates social media and music, while promoting business ethics. It sets the right precedent for social media platforms and music right owners to work and evolve together.

Berges Y. Malu, director at ShareChat, said the company has always been aware of the need for legitimate music libraries under the public performance criteria of the Copyright Act and fully believes in going all out to partner with music labels to create the best social experiences possible for its users. Besides T-Series, the company has signed up with Saregama, Yash Raj Music and south Indian label Lahari Music and is closing deals with Tips Music, Sony and Hungama.

“The Chinese apps had distorted the market with huge, disproportionate sums of money. Now that they are not there, it has created a more level-playing field for everyone," Malu said.

Lakshminath Dondeti, co-founder of Rizzle, added that while some music labels are quoting very large sums to license their libraries, the idea is to look at affordable partners. “In the US, the deals are made based on the monthly active users on the video platform and the label may charge a variable later. But that is not happening in India at the moment though we will soon reach a point where we realize we have to co-exist and there is money to be made for everyone," Dondeti said, adding that the platform is also trying to acquire rights for music libraries to be utilized by users across countries and markets and not just India.

“During the TikTok phase, there was no singular recognition for any local player. This (the ban) has made us sharper and given us an opportunity to aspire to become number one," Dondeti added.

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