| 05 Oct 2023
Composers sound out industry for rights

Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy worked on a relatively humble budgeted Johny Gaddar after scheming music for a slate of big banner films. However, the deal was in their favour as the Neil Nitin Mukesh starrer film fetched the trio a plum 50 per cent share of the music rights.

The composer trio will now revel in the royalties, profits and other opportunities of monetizing the property. The rules of the music game have begun to modify and this has encouraged 100 odd similarly creative minds in the industry to demand their rights. The rules within the industry are changing, if slowly.

No longer are the creative talents - lyricists and composers included - willing to let go after allegations of mistreatment by film producers and music labels.

The size of the music industry in India is estimated at over Rs one billion.In 1997, the business that had climbed to a whopping Rs 1.2 billiion, slid back over the last few years, and the profits that accrued after piracy was accounted for, have been bypassing the creative talent that makes the music possible, allege composers.
"I am getting a share of publishing for 90 per cent of the projects" - A R Rahman

Are music labels and producers really to be blamed? Music directors choose to demand their rights depending on the banner they are signing. Big monies make way for recognition when composers agree to score tracks for big banners like Yash Raj and Dharma Productions. Salim and Sulaiman Merchant who shot to fame with Chak De India's music are working on a number of projects which include Madhur Bhandarkar's Fashion and Yashraj's Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi and animation film Roadside Romeo. "We are not getting any share for these two projects. When it comes to YRF, working with them is a big thing, so we are not looking at anything beyond that," confirms the duo.

The physical sales of music may be on the downswing, but digital sales (read ringtones and caller ringback tones) are more than making up.

"Nearly four to five crore rupees are earned through the download of one song's ringtones. The whole amount goes to the music label, I as a musician get nothing except the money paid to me at the time of composition," says Lalit Sen, who composes songs for Falguni Pathak and a few other pop artistes. He also points out that internationally, pop stars mint money when their created music is played at concerts, shows, ringtones and much more.

The right to fight!

This issue has been hogging the limelight since top-notch musician A R Rahman turned down Farah Khan's Om Shanti Om after he was denied a share in the music rights. Duo Vishal-Shekhar bagged the plum project soon after.

Says Rahman, "I am getting a share of publishing for 90 per cent of the projects." However, he refuses to divulge the percentage share of the individual films. His forthcoming projects are London Dreams, Lajjo, Satyagrahi, Rockstar, Dilli 6, Ghajini and Yuvraaj. "I am sure this contract arrangement will bring about a lot of changes in the music industry" - Shekhar Ravijani

Music duo Salim-Sulaiman too have wisened up. They recently tied up with Percept Picture Company (PPC) for a share of music royalties. They will be getting a fair share of the music rights for their films with the company, which include Aashayein and Bemisaal.

Shekhar Ravijani of the Vishal-Shekhar duo echoes Salim's viewpoint. According to Ravijani, it is the music composers who should have the ownership of the music since they create it. Also, he adds, they are in a better position to monetize the music property. "If I was international, I would have been rolling in money. However, the situation in India is changing now."

Vishal Shekhar will be getting a handsome share of music royalties for their upcoming projects. He stresses on the fact that big banners pay in a way that there is no need to trot for music royalties. He warns music labels in a subtle way. "It is better that they (music companies) start transforming their system. I am sure this contract arrangement will bring about a lot of changes in the music industry," sums up Shekhar.

Mixed reactions!
Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy signed Johny Gadaar for a royalty share of 50 percent

It is certainly a hard hit on the music labels who have been basking in the moolah that has been coming in. T Series, one of the topmost music labels which has the maximum number of current Hindi film music rights, doesn't agree with the idea of granting music rights shares to the creators. "Music companies are built for a reason and it's our job to take care of the music rights. The whole marketing and distribution of music is done in a systematic process which is indeed important. We know the legalities very well, how will the composers monetize the property in the due course of time?" questions Vinod Bhanushali, President, Marketing, Media and Publishing, T Series.

While T Series is firm on its decision, new player in the scenario, Reliance Entertainment's Big Music has a thought about initiative in place. The music company will now partner with the music composers and let them earn their share of profit. This is a commercial deal with every composer and film producer they work with. The label has already partnered with trio Shankar, Ehsaan, Loy for Johny Gaddar wherein the music creators got 50 per cent share of the royalties. "What they want is the mechanical share of the rights. They deserve it and there are no arguments about it. I guess we are the only company following a pattern like this, but very soon every music label and producer will give in because there will be no other option," says Big Music CEO Kulmeet Makkar. Big Music has also sealed a deal with A R Rahman for forthcoming film Ada.

Out of the closet!

Very recently, the music of Rakesh Roshan's Krazzy 4 was in the news for all the wrong reasons. Music composer Ram Sampath filed a lawsuit against the Roshans for using his tunes for their songs and earned his dues, albeit the hard, legal way.

It's no longer a composer and producer affair. The matter has reportedly reached the government, with the creative community asking for changes to be made in the music copyright system. Sources say lyricist Javed Akhtar, along with a few other musicians met Human Resource Development Minister Arjun Singh recently to discuss the issue recently. The matter is now being looked into. Akhtar says, "There's too much happening right now, I am not clear about the situation myself."