RadioandMusic
| 29 Oct 2020
"I see no challenges; only opportunities:" IMI president & CEO Blaise Fernandes

On 1 June 2017 Blaise Fernandes – an entertainment industry veteran – quietly and unceremoniously was appointed as president & CEO of the Indian Music Industry (IMI).  This was a position that had been occupied by a giant of the Indian music business – Mr Vijay Lazarus – for what seems like decades.

Since Fernandes has stepped into Lazarus’ big shoes all eyes are focused on him to see in which direction he will steer the industry association which represents the interests of local and international music labels operating in India.

The music industry after many years of grappling with the digital evolution and loss of ringtone revenues, finally seems to be turning the corner. But it has some way to go before it reaches the glory days of the nineties when physical distribution of music netted thousands of crores for the labels.

And it is in this scenario that the labels have entrusted Fernandes with the charge of the IMI.

Hence, Radioandmusic’s Kavita Yadav reached out to Fernandes to get his perspectives and the way forward. In an exclusive interview he spoke about re-strengthening ties with stakeholders, developing a live entertainment segment, fighting piracy and the myths around IMI.

Excerpts:

What are the challenges that you see as you take over IMI?

 No challenges but huge opportunities. A very fast evolving digital ecosystem -- broadband, smart phone penetration, 4 G roll out--  a government that is championing the digital economy, willing to support  listen and engage, expansion of digital payment gateways. 2016 globally has been a good year for the music industry, but the glass is half full.

Is there pressure of fitting into Vijay Lazarus boots? 

 Mr Lazarus is a very tall leader we wish him well in his future endeavours.

What challenges is the music industry facing?

Mainly legislative. It can be best summed up as FAIR PAY FAIR PLAY and VALUE GAP. Piracy also is a challenge. 

Efforts are on with the various stakeholders to put IMI’s point of view across and strive hard to bridge the chasms.  

As the president and CEO of IMI what are the changes that you're planning to bring in?

 At the outset re-strengthen our ties with all internal stakeholders, namely the music labels.  Engage with non members. Reach out to various ministries / departments at the central and state government level.  Gear up for the new eco-system. Constant engagement with external stakeholders.  

Engage with multiple stakeholders to develop a vibrant LIVE ENTERTAINMENT SEGMENT. The LIVE segment of the music industry has seen huge growth globally.

As part of the India SMART CITY roll out plans we will engage with multiple stakeholders to encourage setting up of permanent venues via AMPITHEATERS, ARENAS for live performances.

London has O2, New York City has MSG, Los Angeles has the STAPLES CENTER, and Singapore has the Singapore Opera House.  India will be an attractive investment destination for the global majors like LIVE NATION, AER.  

IMI is known to be an association for the big labels. Will IMI make an effort to move away from that image and reach out to the smaller labels too?

 It’s a myth, hopefully over a period of time this myth will not exist.

Some labels have chosen to stay away from IMI. In fact, the southern music industry is associated with the South Indian Music Companies Association (SIMCA). Do you plan to bring it all under one roof?

Not true, I just attended a southern regional meeting last week; every major player from the four regional states was represented along with national and international labels. What was really refreshing, in a few cases was that we had two generations from the same labels attending the southern regional meeting. I was disappointed to see no representation from my home state Goa. I must work on engaging with the Konkani labels.

What are your medium term and long term goals?

It’s work in progress. Rest assured we will give you a detailed presentation but as a preview Indian music across genres and eras has the potential of being India’s Biggest Soft Power. We will strive hard to leverage this potential. Music is also easy to permeate.

Are you looking at strengthening the IMI secretariat?

 Great team in place will cross the bridge as and when the need arises.

Will there be any knowledge exchanges with IFPI (International Federation of the Phonographic Industry)?

You can expect to see greater participation and engagement with the IFPI. India ranks amongst the Top 20 markets, we will use the IFPI’s rich resources – knowledge, management, global experience, best practices via webinars, round tables and conferences for internal and external stakeholders.  

How does IMI view the telcos and music streaming services? Will IMI work out new ways of working with them?

Telcos and music streaming  they are also monetizing music content and ARPUs (average revenue per user) are very crucial to their P&L services today. They are important stakeholders. We will directly engage with them at various levels

Piracy is one of the major concerns of music labels across the globe with music streaming being the major source of music sale. What is IMI doing to stop this?

PIRACY is a global nightmare. A  multi-pronged strategy has to be deployed to curb this menace, there is no silver bullet.

What are the loopholes in the legal sale of music at present according to you?

 Expect a whitepaper from the IMI in a few months covering a number of aspects including the legal sale of music

How much time does IMI take to act upon a piracy complaint?

 As I said earlier, there is no silver bullet neither are there quick fixes. We will work with all our internal stakeholders namely  members and see what’s the best way forward. But yes, we will also engage with all other stakeholders who are monetizing music content and try and form a larger task force as piracy also affects their business model. 

Some music labels like T-Series and Yash Raj films have their own collection mechanism. What are IMI's plans for them?

That question is best answered by the collection societies. IMI is the apex trade body that represents the business and trade interest of music labels and, yes, we will reach out to all labels big and small - those who are members and we will welcome even new members.