In the last couple of decades, the Indian music industry has gone through a series of changes – from remixes, remakes, rehashes to reprises due to the democratization of music making technologies. However despite this and possibly because of it music keeps evolving into new shapes. Also the music industry is changing faster than ever and every year new mediums & platforms shoot up to prominence and reshape the way audiences connect with artists. At the same time, these new technologies have also put creative tools in the hands of people who earlier couldn’t access them.
Forecasting the future of the music industry in this fast growing landscape is tricky. We’ve had the chance to discuss it & identify seven trends that could re-shape the music industry:
- Educate everyone about copyright. It’s time the audience, creators, masses, musicians, producers, technicians, publishers and writers get to know about copyright, right to royalty and the correct functioning of the various bodies like IPRS (Indian Performing Rights Society), ISRA (Indian Singers Rights society), SAI (Singers Association of India), MCAI (Music Composers Association India), FWICE (Federation of Western India Cine Employees), FWA (Film Writers Association) etc. It should be made very easy for an amateur to know which bodies can protect their basic rights with regards to ownership of song, transfer of rights to producers/publishers and how moral rights and right to royalty etc., cannot be taken away from a creator of original works under the garb of “works for hire” as per the latest amendment in the copyright act even if the creator themselves want to sign and give it away.
- Stop making Bollywood the benchmark for all music in the country. The fact that Bollywood has ingrained it in to the mindset of every Indian that if your song is not part of a film then it is not good enough is itself hideous. This is not true anymore and has to be abolished for good. A song or a song writer should have its own merit and not necessarily be part of a film to work. Just the audio on its own should be able to carve its own painting. Today one can be a creator, arranger, producer, publisher and broadcaster of your own talent &take control over how one is perceived and sold. Playback singing is a dated concept and Bollywood films are looking at songs from music composers as OSTs (Original Soundtracks) only. The older generation of film makers and music composers who have left a mark in the Indian film industry using these traditional methods has come to an end and now is the time for a fresh batch of ideas. Perhaps it may make sense to continue aping the west like in the past just one more time!
- Ban & penalize all covers. Be strict on this for 10 years and the industry will automatically stop churning the clutter due to which genuine artists who release anything honest are not getting heard. This will stop the weekly churning and force everyone to respect someone else’s property and take plagiarism seriously. This would encourage all the singers who have trained themselves all their lives to not look at Bollywood only as the be all and end all of their career and create the need for writing their own material.
- Release only original content. Encourage writers with an honest piece of writing than writers who are merely copying old songs and making remixes or reprise versions. This can encourage the creators to write an album such that their sonic signature is defined over a span of 60 minutes rather than a single 3 minute song. This will also help them visualize how those 60 minutes are going to affect an audience and curate their songs and graph the playlist accordingly. When it becomes, survival of the fittest, these songs would be made for a wider canvas and with the intent and understanding of how it can best be represented in different environments if need be, like on a traditional stage with a full blown band and concert audience, perhaps an intimate dinner environment with an acoustic instrument, living room jam sessions with a couple of drunk musicians or maybe a banger club track with sub frequencies meant to be played loud. The song if produced and made with these environments in mind would stand a stronger chance of working and the artist would then have a wider scope of presenting the same song increasing the chances of its survival and thriving it to suit the occasion. In short they would be produced to perform.
- Create a committee to register for public performance. This could be a licensing body like PPL, which encourages all the performers to pay a subscription fee which in turn monitors the entire fraternity and gets special licensing fees from artists and organizers who would like to do a cover and perform someone else’s song. This will encourage artists to perform their own material & give revenue to the ones whose songs are being covered.
- Flourishing of booking agent industries in our country. Make people understand the difference between a booking agent and management in the country. Get them to be part of a union, create legitimized touring routes for all to see with accountability and support the ones who put together concerts and constantly bring out fresh talent to support giant established acts. This would create jobs for everyone related to the music industry. The audience who has come for the main act would be a great litmus test for the rookie’s song writing and stage handling capabilities which would go a long way in teaching them what not to do and most importantly how to talk on stage! This would also encourage them to learn all the important aspects of the music industry and when the time arrives, it would be very easy to hand over an idiot proof concept of an artist to a great management who can then be easily monitored by the artist themselves, leaving them time to focus on their craft.
- Create, curate, design and grow your own channel. If all artists were to look at themselves like a manufacturer, study a bit of management & figure out how to best market & display their products (read songs) then it would level the playing field. Releasing 4 songs in a year with 2 songs back to back with decent videos either produced by themselves or with professional production houses can help them grow leaps and bounds. Using social media like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to point out to content delivery network like YouTube, Vimeo, Daily Motion can create a revenue model which is independent of other partnerships and from the internet alone. A business id like Google AdSense can be created to monetize one’s content. Artist’s should make it a point to study the ecosystem of such environments or be part of MCNs (Multi Channel Networks) whose job it would be to maintain, monitor and monetize their channel and either flag any discrepancies or give permissions to any other artist to make a UGC (User Generated Content).
These trends if implicated, could force radio and television to return towards meritorious running of songs and imitate what’s trending on the internet which has a more level playing field rather than the current buyout models of air space by Bollywood, currently deteriorating radio, television & print in our country.