| 27 Nov 2022
Singers muted by composers, lyricists on royalty issue

MUMBAI: Melody seems to have been replaced with rage in the music industry with  playback singers tuned out of the ongoing debtate over the proposed copyright amendments.

The music composers and lyricists have raised a buzz this week by forming an informal consortium to applaud the amendment of the Copyright Act of 1957 and to express their grievances over nonpayment of royalty by the licensing bodies. Strangely, the playback singers in the industry have distanced themselves from these gatherings of the composers and lyricists although the amendment includes a share for them too.

On 25 December, the Union Cabinet approved a legislation to amend the Copyright Act 1957, allowing authors and creative artistes including lyricists, playback singers, composers, film directors, dialogue writers to retain the right to royalties and benefits enjoyed through the copyright societies.

When contacted some legendary singers from the industry, many were unaware of the amendment while some expressed uncertainty over their non-involvement in the movement 

As veteran ghazal singer Pankaj Udhas states, Singers have strangely not been informed about the meetings initiated by Javed Akhtar saahab. This has reduced the movement to only a 'composers and lyricists initiative' and I doubt the association has any interest in singers....

Strangely, the music industry doesn't consider singers a part of the creative team but just an instrument in the making of the song,... opines another industry veteran, Roop Kumar Rathod. Singers reflect the composer's imagination so, we have  composers roping in Lataji to render tracks, which might have gone unnoticed had she not sung them....

Lack of unity

Singers see a disparity in points of view as a reason for the lack of unity in the singing fraternity. Some mention the efforts put in two years ago for forming a singers association, where almost all the singers paid Rs 10,000 towards membership registration. But because of differences in opinions, the cause was diluted and there have been no talks of forming a singers association since then.

What stops the singers from forming an association is the fear that composers might ostracise them from their projects, this insecurity restricts them from claiming their own rights.

Kumar Sanu echoes the thought adding, There is a need for an association to collectively fight for our rights but unfortunately, the singers are not united on this front. The Indian Performing Rights Society (IPRS) cannot help if we do not form any associations and this is worrying the singers as our rightful dues are not coming our way. The producers and music companies are eating away our revenues....

Talking about the sorry state of affairs, Sanu further explains, I have crooned around 15,000-16,000 songs in my career and I get cheques ranging from Rs 500 to 1000 twice a year from the Cine Singers association. Imagine when we should be getting crores of rupees for our work; we end up with a few thousands!...

Wellknown playback singer Abhijeet Bhattacharya says, Playback singers are used to rendering voices from behind for actors and even in real life, they do not wish to be in the forefront but express their grievances from behind. Singers in the industry are suffering heavy losses and associations who have no claim are minting money with no share to the creators....

Bhattacharya says he would like to spearhead a movement on behalf of the singers provided he gets support from the singers fraternity. These licensing bodies are no one to give us a royalty share as it rightfully belongs to us. We should form an association and urge the hotels to stop paying license fee to PPL and IPRS and we are not the benefactors....

"This amendment would be a boon for new singers as they are desperate for assignments and would sign contracts blindly. This might leave the experienced singers out of work as they would prefer favourable contracts," foresees Bhattacharya.

Following news of the amendment, music personalities including Pt. Shivkumar Sharma, Pt. Hariprasad Chaurasia, Javed Akhtar, Jagjit Singh, Sameer, Adesh Shrivastav, Lalit Pandit, Suleiman, Viju Shah, Raju Singh and Sanjay Tandon addressed a press conference this week in Mumbai and Delhi 

Speaking against the licensing bodies, Javed Akhtar says, The IPRS has not conducted any Annual General Meetings in the past five years and we have not received any royalty form the music companies. IPRS has hijacked the music companies, who in turn conduct AGMs without informing the creators and conduct business, thereby eating away our dues....

IPRS CEO Rakesh Nigam defends, "We have been conducting AGMs from the past three years according to the  
new Memorandum where registered owners can attend the meetings annually  
and IPRS has no discretion in deciding who the owner is."

Former IPRS director Sanjay Tandon says he was glad to receive the news of the proposed amendment. He states, I thank the government that they have considering the longstanding issue of the artists and composers. The year 2010 is going to be a year of freedom and liberation for composers and song writers....

Apart from the Cine Music directors Association headed by Ravi Shankar, the informal consortium of composers and song writers formed after the proposed amendment has applauded the government's move and has resolved to push the government to step in and repeal rights of IPRS 

The fraternity has expressed a united stand that the users of the music must pay creators to acquire music rights of usage or broadcast rather than licensing body IPRS. Time and again, the body had questioned the transparency in IPRS.

Amid these allegations, Nigam affirms, This amendment  doesn't make any changes in our way of functioning. We have been paying  
millions of rupees to 900 plus authors and composers registered under us. This  
amendment would in turn increase the revenues of IPRS as more authors and  
composers would be entitled to receive royalties."