Marching to a Different Beat | Facilitating Music Industry Advancement in the US and India

Marching to a Different Beat | Facilitating Music Industry Advancement in the US and India

On music industry advancement in the USA and India.

After more than a decade of decline, the global music industry is once again growing, with revenues at $19.1 billion1 (Figure 1) – almost 10% greater than the year before. The US market has grown 12% to $9.8 billion2 . India grew by nearly 25% to $156 million3 . But this begs the question; for how much longer can this growth be sustained? Physical sales have been on a steady decline in light of streaming, which is already maturing quickly.

That said, the US and India need to learn from each other in two aspects of increased popularity – synch and performance – in order to continue growing in the competitive, digitally-revolutionized music industry.

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Mandar Thakur, COO of Times Music – a large Indian record label, says, “No music industry can scale without stars or music that isn’t necessarily part of a film.” 4 The US music industry has developed and maintained its success due to its large talent pool of singers, songwriters, and producers; each, brands in their own right.

India, however, has found its success on the backing of Bollywood, where artists’ songs are either picked up or created specifically for the film. While Thakur correctly identifies this as a problem, herein also lies the opportunity – for both the US and India.

The US and the music industry overall is beginning to make larger plays in “synch” – a licensing technique in which music produced is placed in movies, advertisements, games, and more. But the practice is still relatively nascent.

India, since the dawn of Bollywood, has incorporated music into its very fabric. Big-name Bollywood production houses like Zee produce their own movies and have artists signed to their imprint to sing in those movies as well. By combining movie and music production under one house, leading producers like Zee, T-Series, or Times Music are able to build monopolistic power over the music industry.5

Understanding this structure can help the US music industry capitalize on synch properly. In their current format, the music industry and the film industry in the US are two very separate entities with only some crossover for key sequences in movies. And US music and artists, while able to trend globally, do not gain as much traction around the world as do US movies – it’s a visual and more impactful medium.6

That said, given the onset of artists getting more involved in film, record labels need to make use of the creative powerhouses they have in their artists to add to the value of existing television shows and films or to make new ones with their in-house talent as the sound behind the on-screen display.7 This not only boosts synch-related revenue opportunities by monopolizing the power of an artist and his/her label but also creates an additional stream of revenue for the label by being a key player in the production of television and film content rather than being just a one-time value-add. Through this structure, synch even becomes second nature while experience – the key success factor – remains high.

But what can India do? As illustrated earlier, the industry there is much smaller than the US and is overshadowed by Bollywood. While the answer for the US was synch in the style of India, for India, the answer is performance in the style of the US.

Music festivals have become a staple for today’s youth. In the US, big-ticket events like Coachella, Burning Man, Lollapalooza, and ULTRA attract hundreds of thousands of people each year. These festivals have become so popular that many of them now have events abroad as well, with the same scale. And not only do they bring in a large audience from the local market, but the digital reach can be just as large.

Coachella in 2018 had roughly 500,000 physical attendees. Beyonce’s headline performance alone garnered close to 500,000 live views through YouTube. In aggregate, Coachella received over 40 million YouTube views. This type of exposure is huge, for artists and labels alike. And for up-and-coming artists, making it on to a festival lineup can be an artist’s big break.8 For a country like India, which is struggling to have their own breakout artists, this type of live performance is just the fix required.

While India has a come a long way in its approach to festivals, with the likes of Sunburn Goa and Vh1 Supersonic, the country still needs to give its own talent the opportunity to grow. The large festivals in India are still headlined by international artists, or Indian artists with songs in popular movies. 9 With only those artists being showcased, many Indian independent artists are left out, fighting for visibility on the streets or in small cafés.

Developing a stronger A&R function– both label- and public-driven, to seek out top talent and to place them in leading festivals as opening acts, is an initiative that can help boost Indian talent, and as a result, the global appeal of the Indian music industry. And for those who argue that language will restrict the industry’s growth, Latin9 and K-Pop (Korean Pop)10 music are the perfect examples stating otherwise. At the end of the day, it’s “an active community of artists and attendees who are equally invested in the growth of the music circuit [that will drive] talent and experiences that aren’t Bollywood driven.”

While both the US and India, individually, may look like markets that have reached a saturation point in their respective music industries, upon looking at both nations as a collective, there is still ample opportunity for growth and success. But where does one country’s future success lie?

In the past successes of the other country. It’s now up to the US and India to take a long look at each other, understand the gaps, collaborate to fill those gaps, enrich audience and artist experiences, and set an example for the advancement of the global music industry.

  1. International Federation of the Phonographic Industry
  2. Recording Industry Association of America
  3. LiveMint
  4. Rolling Stone
  5. Forbes
  6. Foreign Policy
  7. Raindance
  8. Sound charts
  9. Billboard
  10. Forbes

Know about the young artists in the block. These upcoming music artists are surely making the right noise.

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