RadioandMusic
| 22 Oct 2020
Saregama to launch cloud-based service enabling advertisers easy search of entire catalogue

Moving from DTH service-Tata Sky to music label Saregama is a leap that Vikram Mehra took. The move has a lot to do with his preference for retro music, and his wish to put one of the oldest and largest label companies in the forefront. Mehra, who is Saregama’s MD, feels that music has great potential to grow. However, finding ways to monetise it is a challenge.

Prior to joining Tata Sky, he was with Star TV as VP and also with Tata Motors.

Excerpts:

What challenges did you face when you moved from Tata Sky to Saregama?

There are three verticals in the entertainment value chain: on one side there are pay platforms like Tata Sky, which have a direct relationship with customers, and hence are best placed to monetise content; second is the custodian of the content, like TV channels, which in turn run on these pay platforms, and third is people like us (Saregama), who are involved in the creation process of this content. The third vertical includes music labels, movie producers, TV content producers and many others. I started my media journey in the second vertical, at Star TV. Then I moved to the first vertical at Tata Sky, and now to the third vertical. I agree there is a change. However, the fundamental still remains the same. 

Saregama hired known faces of TV industry. Why focus on TV?

For Saregama, 65 per cent of its revenue comes from music, and the remaining 35 per cent from TV content production, which is a less known part of Saregama.

Today, there are seven shows produced by Saregama. Out of those, four are aired on Sun TV, and the other three are broadcasted on Hindi GECs. In a couple of months’ time, there will be three more shows on Hindi channels. This will make us one of the biggest TV content producers in the country.

We have made up our mind about strengthening our hold in the space we are present in. With seven shows already under our belt, we plan to take things to another level altogether. We have brought on board two industry veterans-Rajesh Beri and Siddharth Anand. Veteran Manish Popat is heading the television business for Saregama for a while now. Then, we have yet another veteran BR Vijayalakshmi who has been handling our southern space for more than a decade.

We are looking at integrating the TV and music arms. There will be a lot of cross fertilisation, where our music will be used in our shows. We might also rope in TV show creators to make music videos for us. This will help us evolve as a very strong entertainment arm. 

Did your TATA Sky experience help strengthen the television arm of Saregama? 

Being close to customers teaches you that it is difficult to get even a rupee from them unless they really appreciate your concept. It is the fundamental which I have learnt during my 14-year career in the TV industry. Customers will only pay you if they believe that you will bring value to the table. That is the learning that I am trying to use right now. I want to create content that, in the end, will make consumers happy; if they are happy then everyone in the process will be happy. 

Right now, is Saregama shifting its focus from music to television?

We are equally strong on the music side. I do not think the equation is going to change, as I think two-thirds of our revenue will come from music and the rest from TV. 

What kind of initiatives are on for the music division? 

On the music front, we need to do things that are in sync with the needs of customers; we are initiating a lot of projects. For instance, there is a huge outcry about piracy in the music industry. The funny thing is that the industry is doing very little about it. People still prefer free content over paid content. The most important factor that the music industry needs to understand is that we are fighting piracy, and to do that we need to offer consumers something that pirate sites cannot. 

Most pirate sites give you MP3 versions, which is one big area that we have identified in the region. If you have a high-end music system, there is no point in playing MP3s. Thus, Saregama has released its 100 thousand plus catalogue in lossless WAV files, and has made them available on our website. It includes an array of genres in various languages, sung and composed by various artistes.

Some consumers are ready to pay; however, they want us to make the whole process convenient and fuss-free. When you buy a song from Saregama, you can download it ten times on any device but the email id used to login should be the same. This is a way to fight piracy for which you need to make things as convenient and affordable as possible. This is the knowledge that I received from my TV experience; there we were fighting movie piracy with pay per view phenomenon.

Will your digital product, in a way, compete with other streaming services?

No, it will not. We are proud to be partners with those curated services. Those are streaming services and Saregama is offering a download service. 

How has online radio fared over the last few years? 

Online radio is primarily an OTT service, which runs on a broadband connection. And it has massive growth potential. Three years ago, there was not much in this space; however, today there are so many players. We see a large number of people coming in, and with data becoming cheaper, more accessible, and faster, more OTT services will be launched. The challenge is to offer enough value to customers, so that you can charge for this service.

At the same time, there are many broadcast radio stations being launched. Phase III of FM radio stations are round the corner and we are hoping that consumers will find new ways to enjoy music. 

Recently, Saregama partnered with World Sufi Spirit Festival. Will we see Saregama enter that space?

The love for Sufi music is growing leaps and bounds, not just in India, but around the world. We at Saregama have some great collection of Sufi Music which is available on our Youtube channel or on our website. We do plan to invest further on this genre. 

Saregama has not being acquiring music content for a while. Comment

There will be more aggression from our side in the days to come. Recently, we acquired a lot of Sufi music, and we are planning a proper launch of it soon. We will chose our niches and dominate them. 

Consumer research validates that good music adds a lot to an ad or a program. With our strength of catalogue, which has some of the best music ever made in India, we are very keen to partner with various brands, creative agencies and TV channels so that they can use our music in their content. Very soon we will launch a cloud based utility through which an advertiser can go through our entire catalogue, search based on various parameters, and then get rights cleared through a single window at Saregama.  

What is your take on the competition in the music streaming business?

The more number of services, the more content will get disseminated, offering more monetisation models. We are happy that marketing giants, who have huge customer relations are entering the market, be it Apple, Google, Facebook, MixRadio or Microsoft. Existing services like Saavn, Hungama, Gaana and Eros are becoming bigger. It is an amazing time right now. The industry has to believe that if you have the right product, then consumers are ready to pay. There are other ways to connect with consumers; everything does not have to be given for free. 

How much revenue does Saregama generate through streaming business? 

Streaming is a large source of revenue right now for all labels. Definitely for people with our kind of catalogue; it is a source of immense revenue. 

Are you bringing in Bollywoood names to popularise your existing catalogue? 

We will do anything and everything to popularise our content among the newer generation. It would be a sad state if we are not able to display the legacy we hold. We do not want people to forget artists and musicians of yesteryears. We will do a lot to promote this music. We also want to discover newer, budding artistes in the country, so they become the greats of tomorrow. 

What is the target set for the company?

For a company with Saregama’s content strength, sky is the limit.

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