As part of the generation that grew up with gems like “Mama Mia Pom Pom” and “Padosan Apni Murgi”, I truly appreciate the generally high quality of music being created these days. We have a lot more artistes these days than we have ever had. With the variety of FM stations, TV channels and shows dedicated to music and of course, the internet, we can listen to almost any music we want, any time we want it. (Instant gratification comes at a cost though – the current generation will never know the pleasure of the heightened anticipation leading up to the weekly Chitrahaar, Rangoli or Binaca Geetmala.) Despite these developments in the music scene, Indian music is a promise that is yet to be delivered. Here are a few symptoms of what’s wrong:
- Limited choice of music – There are about 1 million artistes and music labels affiliated to the three American performing rights organizations (PROs) BMI, ASCAP and SESAC. By contrast, there are less than 3000 members affiliated to the two Indian PROs, IPRS and PPL. (Note:- 1. I could get BMI and ASCAP numbers from their websites but the SESAC number is based on an old post in a music forum. Since the SESAC number is small anyway, the analysis still holds good. 2. This is not an apples-to-apples comparison but the difference is so large that a rationalized comparison is irrelevant).
- Limited delivery channels –
- Digital music forms about 35% of the total sales in the US. I am unable get this information for India but given the absence of a robust music download service like iTunes or even Amazon I am certain, it is very small (I can’t imagine a lot of people hopping across websites of T-series, Saregama, Sony BMG, etc, every time they want to download music).
- There is no music service in India that offers anything close to what Pandora, Rdio or Spotify offer in the Western markets.
- About 6000+ concerts are scheduled in New York city in November versus less than 100 concerts in Mumbai.
- Limited consumption – The US music industry revenue for 2009 was $7.7 billion, which roughly translates to 7.7 billion tracks. Indian music industry revenues were hard to get to but according to at least one news report they were Rs 750 crores. Assuming an approximate price of Rs 10 per song (this is closer to a cassette price, we are looking at a sales number of 0.75 billion tracks. If we account for 60% piracy (I have seen various estimates ranging between 30 and 65%), we are still looking at a total consumption of about 1.9 billion tracks or 25% of what US consumes.
- Indians have an extremely limited choice of music
- We have limited ways of consuming music
- We don’t consume or listen to a lot of music
I wonder why this is so. Do we consume less music because of limited choice in delivery channels? Or, are there limited delivery channels because our limited consumption renders their business models invalid? Is the choice in music limited because new talent finds no audience in a market that seems quite content with what’s available? Or is consumption stifled because what’s available does not stimulate our interest? I don’t know the answer to all these questions but I am convinced that some fundamental changes (such a these) need to take place in the Indian music scene. Yes, I believe Indian music could use a kick in the butt. The genesis of Mavrix is based on the belief that I might be able to deliver at least a little nudge.