| 28 Sep 2021
Regional collaborations are the way of the future: Devvraj Sanyal on EVC foray into Bollywood music, live IPs and the merchandise business

MUMBAI: Ever since Universal Music Group partnered with Twisted Entertainment, the annual music  elebration Enchanted Valley Carnival has been gradually dipping its toes into sounds and formats that have huge commercial and popular value.

Continuing with the effort, the 2016 edition of the festival will foray into Bollywood music, apart from extending its consistent focus on other genres of music. EVC loyalists might wonder about the strategy behind opening the doors for mainstream Bollywood musicians, and its ability to justify EVC's motives. However, the managing director and CEO of Universal Music India, Devraj Sanyal defended the festival's idea of experimenting with a formula that has witnessed effective outcome across the country. Sanyal’s vision to turn the record label into an entertainment business has witnessed some early progress through association with a music festival, collaboration with digital outlets like Qyuki, talent acquisition platform through EMI Records India and the regular record label business driven purely by instinct coupled with the experience in the market that makes UMI a highly hedged entertainment business.

Speaking to, Devraj Sanyal elaborated on these latest developments

The effort to go multi-genre by EVC has been appreciated. Do you think the decision to let Bollywood music be a part of EVC will receive similar appreciation?

Bollywood is a big part of the music consumption in our country. We’ve announced the Bollywood stage just a few days ago and already seen a spike on all our digital platforms, so I’d say that we’re headed in the right direction. Adding to that, we’ve opened up the festival to everyone, making it a family friendly experience. Our audiences are loving the fact that they can watch some of the biggest names in the industry perform live; and have an incredible weekend getaway with their family at the same time.

How does the association with a music festival help - apart from the sheer on-ground presence and offline activities - a record label like Universal Music India in terms of marketing and growth?

UMG globally has always had a diversified portfolio and approach to business- Music branded content, merchandise allied businesses have always been in our mainstream offering of the music business. Having
been part of the founding team of one of the biggest festivals in the country and having been in every other business mentioned above for the past many years this step was logical. Festival business is an intellectual property and an asset building business, one which is of a long term nature we are in it for the long haul. Our joint venture with our partners, Sunil Shah and Shoven Shah, gives us the unique advantage of operating this seamlessly alongside our main businesses.

What made EVC - compared to other existing festivals - a lucrative factor for Universal Music India? And for someone who finds root in the independent music scene, would you be consciously looking for partnerships at gigs as a concept (and not festivals)? Let's say for example - Red Bull Tour  Bus, Roots, Deathfest, etc?

The festival business is not a lucrative business in the short term or the mid-term but it is in the long periods of gestation; hence you need to have a vision that is incredibly long term. Our reason for going multi genre and opening it up to all age groups has been specifically done to allow for a differentiated festival - a one of its kind Glastonbury-esque kind of festival in the region. EVC is our our foray in the business and you can see many such collaborations; self-standing IPs emerge in the next six to 18 months.

You have been successfully attempting collaborations with label-tied musicians from India and abroad, the latest example being Monica-Resh. The effort is limited to singles. Is the label working on a similar effort for the release of a collaborative album?

Collaborations thus far have always been limited to local artistes with other local artistes. With ‘Trouble’ we had managed to create a true blue collaboration of regions. Monica is undoubtedly one of India’s top Indie stars and Resh Monu is South East Asia’s. The coming of these two through this single being marketed heavily across both South Asia and South East Asia is the first step towards regional collaborations which are the way of the future. For the current moment we’re looking at more collaboration via singles with artists from India and other regions.

It has been over two months since Universal Music India launched its international music merchandise in the Indian market. How has the business fared so far for the organisation?

Must be noted here that we are the only record label in India to launch an official music merchandise business thus there are no precedents in place. Having said that, the initial response has been fabulous! Feedback from our trade partners – which is most critical - has been great and has encouraged us tremendously. We are in it for the long run and thus its early days to measure it business wise. However, we are convinced on the potential that this business has in the Indian market. Pricing is a huge factor and we have managed in some way to bring price parity into the game and that’s helping us kill piracy and exponentially grow this business.

Would UMI sell merchandise related to its Indian musicians as well (if it hasn't yet)?

I don’t think our market is ready for it yet. Take the example of our flourishing Bollywood industry…we have multiple superstars yet there’s no real merchandising business to show for it. Similarly, with Indian musicians, there’s nothing that excites our audiences yet in terms of `merchandise’. However, whenever the time comes, I assure you we will be the first ones out there supporting it.

Finally, the emphasis on acquiring talent and content from neighbouring countries is increasing. What are the key areas and procedure you are following in order to do the same?

We’ve been acquiring talent and providing platforms over the last few years now and our most recent endeavor is EMI RECORDS INDIA which we have launched with Mohit Suri. It’s purely to acquire fresh talent and to give them an opportunity to even cross over into Bollywood play back. You will hear some amazing news from this quarter very soon with some massive announcements forthcoming