RadioandMusic
| 11 Dec 2018
Sony/ATV India head Vinit Thakkar: 'Publishing is the most important facet of music business'

At a time when the Indian music industry is juggling with the copyright bill, vexatious royalty issues and rampant online piracy, what would be the most desirable path for the industry to rake in the moolah ? Well, in this rapidly evolving ecosystem where such grim issues are rattling the music industry, Sony ATV/Music senior general manager digital & Publishing Vinit Thakkar suggests that publishing is a blooming business and a major revenue stream for the music industry in India.

With over five years at Sony Music, Thakkar has been an integral part in the growth of digital and publishing business of the company. He was also responsible for the marketing and distribution of Sony Music’s co-production film projects and prior to that was involved in the Alliances and Talent Management business. He has over twelve years of experience across entertainment, semi-durables, banking and business outsourcing.

In an interview with Radioandmusic.com, Thakkar reveals the importance of publishing in the music business,  value of a cue sheet and metadata for an artiste, Sony/ATV’s contribution to the growth of publishing business in the country and the future plans of the company for the year ahead.

Excerpts:

How important is a publisher for an artiste to exploit and spread his work globally?

A publisher is a corporate face of an artiste. An artistes’ job is to create and it’s the publisher’s responsibility to get him his true worth in money and benefits. As a corporate, a publisher has a global reach and the infrastructure to do this effectively. So the artiste does what he is best at i.e. being creative and the publishers do what they are best at i.e. registering, monitoring, generating revenues and reporting.

Why do we need a publisher in a country like India where record labels shoulder all the major functions and responsibilities of a publisher?

With the proposed amendments and changes to the existing Copyright Act in India, the music business in India is at the cusp of change. There will be recognition of the writers and composers rights which will stop the currently existing copyright assignment practices. Publishers and copyright societies will play a very vital role in protecting and administering these rights.   With the separation of rights which is an established practice in the West, the music rights are likely to be split between the records labels and publishers. The monetization opportunities that exist for Master Recording works and the publishing works differs. Whilst the music labels will continue to focus on developing and monetizing the original recordings, the publishers core focus will remain towards opportunities like licensing, synchronization, lyric reprint, live performances, etc.

How is Sony/ATV contributing to the growth of publishing business in India?

Publishing is probably the most important facet of music business. Sony/ATV being the biggest music publishing company (after acquiring EMI Music Publishing) brings tremendous experience and insight to the yet nascent publishing business in India. Through the company’s widespread global network and trained professionals, Sony/ATV is focusing on the important elements of the business i.e.  proper registrations of the works of Indian authors and composers, monetization and reporting of income for Indian works from territories across the world and actively promoting authors, composers and their works through the company’s widespread global network.

How many Indian and international artiste (both new and established) are signed by Sony/ATV?

Sony/ATV internationally controls about a million copyright works with classic ones from writers like Paul McCartney,  John Lennon, Bob Dylan to the very popular contemporary ones including Stefani Germanotta (Lady Gaga), Shakira, Taylor Swift and many more. In India, we have been active in publishing for about 14 months now. We’ve signed Sandeep Chowta and other independent artistes and also taking up administration assignments of works from various aggregators and Indian artistes.

Sony/ATV India recently granted the license to music director Pritam for adding Boney M’s evergreen melody ‘Rasputin’ in the song ‘I’ll do the talking’ from Agent Vinod. How far do you think has the music publishing industry picked up its pace in the country?

Talking about adaptations, like “I’ll do the talking tonight”, it’s great that music producers and corporates are recognizing the rights of the original authors and composers and taking proper licenses from their publishers and giving them due credits. Indian audience musically, is increasingly becoming a worldly aware audience and there is definitely a growing consciousness amongst music and film producers in respect of procuring licenses etc. To a large extent this has been possible due to music publishers actively and aggressively working towards protecting the rights of their authors and composers as their corporate face. We at Sony/ATV get numerous licensing requests every day which clearly points towards its fast pace and the awareness around it. The other license which we issued last year was for the blockbuster track ‘Dildara’ from RA.ONE. The original song being ‘Stand By Me’ by Ben E King.

Is it true that music publishing structure is extremely complicated and a very big responsibility in the west?

It is a sensitive business as it’s based on human intellect, either in the west or at home. Like I said, publishing is the most important aspect of the music business; it is its very core. It does entail tremendous responsibility because the publishers are entrusted with a writer’s most important property, his copyrights, which is the true genius of an individual and cannot be manufactured in factories. It’s also complicated since one song can have more than one publisher and there is a lot that goes in its identification for proper disbursement of revenues.

How successful has Sony/ATV been in administering Sony Music India works from Bollywood, Tamil and non-film across International markets?

We have been very successful in registering all of Sony Music India’s works across various copyright societies across the globe. Proper registration of works is the key step towards the entire publishing business and therefore this has been done on a priority. Of course, it also helps that we have the support system of the entire Sony/ATV Global network to keep a track on our registrations. Another important aspect of administration is reporting, and we have a very transparent and effective reporting system in place, which helps us track the publishing revenues for each work registered by us from all parts of the world. We also closely monitor / track incomes from multiple publishing revenue streams like television broadcast, online download and streaming, lyric reprint and synchronization.

What is the importance of a cue sheet and metadata to rake in the moolah?

Correct meta-data is the foundation of the publishing business,  it’s very important. Cue-sheets and the Song Meta-data help identify where the works have been used, how they have been used and the duration. It is imperative to prepare and register cue sheets to identify and track the income whenever a song is used in any audio-visual medium, which is a big source of revenue for the artiste. It also helps to identify various publishers and artistes revenue shares in a particular audio and audio-visuals.

What are the future plans of Sony/ATV for year ahead?

We will aggressively focus across all pillars (registration, monitoring and monetization) and will also be actively pitching administration publishing deals for Indian artistes.