| 21 Jun 2024
Indian music industry is less than $200 mn, fraction of global music industry: Neeraj Kalyan

Ever-growing Indian label, T-Series, has been very aggressive in acquiring Bollywood music. However, there is little known about other ancillary activities of the label to support musicians. In an interview with's Jescilia Karayamparambil, T-Series President Neeraj Kalyan revealed the company’s plans in the regional space, and its new found love for artist management. He also spoke about the Copyright (Amendment) Act 2012.

Kalyan, who has been in the industry for about two decades, shares his knowledge and experience in the music industry with ease. He also talks about the problem of piracy and other irregularities that are eating up a big share of the Indian music industry.


Talking about the regional space, especially Punjabi music, how has the traction and music consumption been in this space?

India is a diverse country and every state or region has its own identity, language, customs and of course music as well. Regional and folk music is our cultural legacy and in fact, Bollywood owes some of its greatest artists, writers, directors to Punjab. Music, Bhangra and beats are in every Punjabi’s DNA and with high per capita income in Punjab, the traction and consumption ought to be looking northwards. Punjabi music is no longer seen only in the regional space and is slowly becoming a fixture in every other mainstream Bollywood film as well.

How has the growth in the Punjabi space been since T-Series entered the market?

T-Series is not new to the Punjabi music space. In fact, T-Series was the first to support Punjabi Folk / Pop with big budget videos in the mid 90s. T-Series’ Punjabi catalogue is full of works by legendary Punjabi artists like Gurdass Maan, Kuldeep Manak, Hans Raj Hans, Harbhajan Mann, Surjit Bindrakhiya, Sardool Sikandar, Babbu Maan and Manmohan Waris. T-Series has and will always continue to support the Punjabi music industry. Our passion for developing and promoting quality music has led us to discover really good young talent in Punjab, from singers to writers, composers to cinematographers. After Bollywood, Punjabi Folk / Pop music is the second largest segment for independent artists. T-Series has gained sizeable market share in the past six months and is currently at top of the ladder in the Punjabi segment. At the last PTC Music Awards 2015 (considered the Grammys of Punjabi Music), our content won nine awards in top/popular categories.

Many labels have entered the Punjabi music industry. What are the challenges in the space?

There are more than 50 music labels in the Punjabi music space, but it still remains largely unorganised. Lack of an organised structure for artist management and contracts adds to industry woes. Live shows are a big motivation and revenue drivers for the artist, but these remain in the unorganised domain as well.

How many artistes has T-Series signed and how many more do you plan to sign across the country? Could you name a few regional artists?

We have been working with a very wide spectrum of artists in different genres, within the Punjabi music category be it Folk, Urban, Dance, Sufi or Romance, and are catering to discerning Punjabi audiences worldwide. Harjeet Harman, Nachattar Gill, Roshan Prince, Ranjeet Bawa, Preet Harpal, Geeta Zaildar, Satinder Sartaj, Sukhshinder Shinda, Ammy Virk, Hardy Sandhu, Ashok Mastie, Jaz Dhami, Nooran Sisters, Aarif Lohar, Deep Money, Jenny Johal, Sippy Gill, Kulwinder Billa, Kaler Kanth and Rupinder Handa are some of our established stars. Additionally, we are working closely with upcoming talents like Kuwar Virk, Harsimran, Jashan Singh, Jassimran Keer, Guru Randhawa, Sukhe (Muzical Doctorz), Vattan Sandhu, Karan Benipal, Amrinder Bobby, Harjot Singh and Gitaz Bindrakhiya, to name a few.

We are further encouraging new talent and have given breaks to many such promising artists like Jordan Sandhu, Harleen, Namar Gill, Hasan Veer Chahal in the recent past.

August 2015 will see a stupendously romantic track with an equally emotional video titled ‘Guzarishaan’ from Roshan Prince in addition to a dance track titled ‘Number Delete’ by Deep Money.

Will we see you venture into any other regional space?

We are already a major player in the Bhojpuri genre, and equally active in the Gujarati and Marathi industries, in addition to having a wide catalogue across Indian languages like Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, Malayalam, Bangla etc. We are keen on the southern space as well, and the coming months will see T-Series working actively in mainstream film music in Telugu and Tamil.

How has venturing into Artist Management been? How many artists has T-Series signed under that particular arm? Do you have a new team that exclusively handles Artist Management?

India has a vast talent pool and the real task is to pick, train and promote the most promising. T-Series has always endeavoured to bring in and promote new talent, and being one of the leading music labels in the country, our responsibility becomes many folds to channelise the energy in the right direction these young talents are bringing to the table.  We have recently augmented our already existing professional team to discover, position, and promote talent. We are currently managing close to 15 artists, including new and established stars.

Today, how much percent of your revenue comes from digital and CRBT?

CRBT, WAP, IVR, video search platforms, streaming and download services continue to act as major contributors to industry revenue.

How well does releasing music on platforms like Hungama and YouTube help the label?

T-Series pioneered the digital revenue stream by aligning itself to the new media way back in 2005, and since then has been a trendsetter for the Indian music industry, being the first Indian music label to set up the right foundation for content digitisation and meta tags, innovating digital distribution models and striking a right balance between content and consumer preferences. T-Series, today, has the biggest network of channels on YouTube with 9.8 million subscribers and is ranked among top 15 networks globally on YouTube across different genres in terms of views and subscribers. It is also ranked number one in India on YouTube.

T-Series’ content is distributed across services and platforms like video search platforms YouTube and Dailymotion; music download services like iTunes, Hungama, Amazon; music streaming Apps like Hungama, Wynk, Saavn, Gaana, Rdio and Guvera. Our feature films are distributed globally through Netflix, iTunes, Amazon, Google Play Store, Hotstar, MGo, Vimeo, BskyB, Dish etc.

What is your take on music streaming and the growing consumption of music in that space?

Music streaming services are actually acting as the knight in shining armour for the music industry as they have helped gain some lost ground by moving consumers towards legit music and contributing to music industry revenues. Music streaming, through paid subscriptions and ad supported models, is playing a pivotal role in the revenue growth and soon video streaming will be the new frontier for growth. However bandwidth, micro payments and unfair revenue shares being retained by Telcos controlling the payment gateway will continue to pose challenges in the near future.

Online piracy continues to hamper the growth story because taking down file-sharing sites, many of which operate off-shore, is like playing a game of whack-a-mole, and infringing site operators do not care about music, they only care about eye-balls. Giant search engines like Google, Yahoo etc. need to align with the music industry globally to remove links of infringing sites from their search engines. Recently, a Canadian appeals court upheld injunctions mandating that Google remove certain pirate sites from its search engine on a worldwide basis, we need to see more of this happening in India as well.

How has the consumption of T-Series content been globally?

Indian content, especially Bollywood and Punjabi music, has a tremendous fan following not only among the Indian diaspora, but mainstream westerners as well. Our distribution strategy is aligned with the needs and preferences of our global consumers and we are witnessing growing demand for our content globally with peaks in territories like North America, UK, Middle East and Australia.  

How do think the music industry will grow in the coming years?

The current estimated revenues of the Indian music industry is less than 200 million dollars (approx INR 1100 - 1200 crores), a mere fraction of the global music industry revenues. Thanks to the Copyright Act amendments placing unprecedented fetters on the content owners to negotiate a fair value for their content, TRAI guidelines hampering marketability of Mobile VAS content and skyrocketing content acquisition costs, this business has never been so risk prone than it is today. The silver lining is that India is still at the primary level of the digital revolution and the growth curve is actually yet to arrive. With proliferation of smart devices and internet penetration, the digital and online consumption is steadily increasing and India, today, has the second largest internet user base in the world. Digital economy with focus on CRBT, music and video streaming subscription and download revenues will continue to act as the driver of the music economy in the future followed closely by sync and performance revenues. The real task at hand for the Indian music industry is how to grow the revenue pie and set a real goal of a billion dollar in annual revenues for the entire music industry that we can achieve in next five years.