Meet the people tutoring indie musicians about their rights

More than a handful of people are turning tutors to educate young music makers on the intricacies of the laws and other nuances of the independent music scene

Mahalakshmi Prabhakaran
First Published14 Jun 2024, 05:30 PM IST
Members of folk-fusion band Swarathma and IPRS interacting with participants at the IPRS X Swarathma Creators Adda held in Pune.
Members of folk-fusion band Swarathma and IPRS interacting with participants at the IPRS X Swarathma Creators Adda held in Pune.

Music composer Ilaiyaraaja has been one miffed man since 2017 when he began sending legal notices to film producers, music directors and performers, citing copyright infringement of songs he’s composed. His notices to producers of Malayalam film Manjummel Boys and yet-to-be-released Tamil film Coolie, are only the latest in his ongoing, mostly isolated, fight for copyrights. While the issue of unfair use of music continues to be a hairy subject in Indian films, the country’s independent music industry is busy taking notes on the subject and looking closely at the legal aspects of the business.

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“Today, somebody who’s really young and has barely taken steps into the industry can get a sync opportunity (where a piece of composed music is used along with moving images such as films, OTT series, video games or an advertisement). This is when the individual realises that they need to figure out what their music is worth,” explains Mumbai-based singer-songwriter Tejas Menon, adding that the democratic nature of the music business is responsible for this new curiosity.

Luckily there are more than a handful of people who are turning tutors and mentors to educate youngsters on the intricacies of the laws and other nuances of the independent scene.

Sandhya Surendran, an independent media and entertainment lawyer in Bengaluru, began conducting workshops in 2018 to educate musicians about understanding contracts, copyrights, royalties and licenses, among other subjects. “I decided to hold workshops when I realised that I had too many musicians reaching out to me with doubts on these topics, and barely anyone else was doing this,” she says. In the six years since she started, there have been changes in the attitude of her attendees, Surendran says. “In 2018, no one had a clue about anything and you had to convince people to fight for their music’s monetary worth. Today, young musicians don’t want to miss out on any opportunity to earn revenues from their compositions,” she says. 

Neon Culture's Prarthana Sen and Vishruti Bindal (seated third and fourth from left) with participants at an early Catalyst Sessions workshop.

For Prarthana Sen and Vishruti Bindal, founders of music business consultancy Neon Culture in Bengaluru, “music education and capacity building” is at the heart of what they do. Since late 2023, the pair have been conducting monthly online workshops, called Catalyst Sessions, that cover a range of topics from rights and royalties to strategies for live sets, assets needed for a musician to build a (personal) brand and more. The fee for the workshops is 200 to ensure greater accessibility, says Sen, adding that their 2-hour-long workshops tend to attract aspiring and experienced musicians and other professionals in the business, like music managers, label executives and agents. The workshops get between 10-30 participants. “To build a healthy ecosystem in the industry, you don’t just need educated musicians, you also need informed music managers, engineers and promoters,” Bindal reasons.

Dennis Dayal, an artist manager with BToS Productions, Mumbai, attended a 6-hour Lexic Bootcamp that Surendran organised in 2020. Talking about how it helped, Dayal says, “People from the entertainment industry were puzzled when the first IPRS article came out regarding licences during the virtual era. The boot camp helped us understand how music rights worked and how we could nurture our art better.”

In February, the non-profit Indian Performing Rights Society Ltd (IPRS) launched the My Music, My Rights campaign to “raise awareness and provide support to music creators across the nation”. More recently, as part of the campaign, the organisation tied up with folk-fusion band Swarathma on a multicity collaboration to engage with the music creator community through informal sessions called Creators Adda. Starting in Bengaluru on 1 June, the sessions have been held in Pune with Hyderabad, Indore, Delhi and Jaipur as the remaining pit stops.

Rumpa Banerjee, IPRS’s head of corporate communications and member relations, says, “These are intimate sessions where the agenda is to sit down and chat with musicians. I want them to share their problems with us and ask questions. The idea is to build a trustworthy bond where they know that they can call us when they need any help or advice,” says Banerjee.

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First Published:14 Jun 2024, 05:30 PM IST
HomeLoungeart and cultureMeet the people tutoring indie musicians about their rights

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