| 29 Jan 2022
Times Music COO Adarsh Gupta - Entertainment is something people need more in times of recession

Since its inception in the late 1990s, Times Music, the music production, promotion and distribution arm of The Times Group, has stayed a class apart, preferring to create a path of its own. The intent of the music label was to create albums tailored to appeal to the discerning audience, which resulted in Times Music pioneering the concepts of spiritual, world and remix music in India. Some of the biggest names in the music scene rendered their voices to produce some of the best known albums for Times Music -The Golden Raaga Collection, Gayatri Mantra, Himalayan Chants and Hanuman Chalisa.With the advent of digital music, Times Music, now under the stewardship of Adarsh Gupta, launched its independent Hindi and regional film music label, Junglee Music, to capitalise on the raging popularity of commercial film music.Junglee Music took off in late 2007 with Welcome and followed it up with titles like Singh is Kinng, Horn OK Please and Dasvidaniya, as well as southern film titles. Gupta says the parent company Times Music has increased its revenue by 75 per cent by 2008 end. The Times Music COO in conversation with's Anita Iyer, talks about the label venturing in niche genres, regional markets and the titles in its kitty for 2009.Excerpts-How has 2008 been for Times Music?It has been a fulfilling year for us at Times Music; we grew our business by 75 per cent, which is the highest growth percentage in the history of the company. Through our flagship brand Junglee Music, we had a successful start in Bollywood mainstream music with Welcome and Singh is Kinng and four successful Tamil films down south, including Aa aa ee ee, Saroja etc. We could say every property that we have touched so far with Junglee has been successful.What were the factors that made Times Music stand out in the competition?We picked up the right projects for cinema and even for the non-film category. We also worked towards consolidating our position this year and it's been a great year for us.Has the global slowdown affected the industry and Times Music as a label?If you look at the current context, in the organised retail sector like Planet M, Music world, Landmark, there is a slowdown in physical sales but digital sales are still holding strong. Overall, the market is very positive and we believe if the products are good they would always sell. And entertainment is something people need more in terms of recession.There were speculations around the high acquisition price of Singh is Kinng. Have music acquisition prices fallen due to the industry slowdown after that?Given the current prices, the acquisition prices in the market have plummeted. So, there are no huge deals even for bigger projects, where you pay half the money you paid in the past. Deals like Singh is Kinng will not happen in today's time and that is the big fallout of the recession. It was probably required because those were unrealistic numbers and in today's context, the market is going to correct itself and get back to old times.Do you view recession as an advantage or a disadvantage as a music label?I believe it is a good time to invest, as the market is self-corrected and is going to be great for all of us. Also, it is an appropriate time to acquire rights at lower rates and enjoy the profits once the slowdown subsides.Is the spiritual genre picking up in these times of recession?The spiritual genre has always been an important genre in the Indian landscape of music. Times Music has been banking on this genre always as there are takers. Also, it is when you are at the rock bottom that you think of spirituality, so the spiritual genre is picking up during this slowdown.Do you have many takers abroad for the spiritual genre?There is a good chunk of takers for spiritual music abroad. We also personalise our CDs - like, we added value to our CDs by adding holy ash from Shirdi and packing it along with the CDs. In a similar way, we packed sindur (vermillion) from Siddhi vinayak to other CDs. This is specially a value add for our takers abroad who can feel a spiritual connect virtually.What has been the strategy for Junglee music?The main motive was to change the perception in the minds of the film community that we are as good as or better than anybody in the market to handle large scale films. Also, it was important that we set ourselves a track record particularly entering the market for doing the right kind of films. We have been successful in creating the perception down south that whatever Junglee acquires works in the market and we would like to carry this perception forward.Are you very choosy when it comes to zeroing on a project?We listen to the music and depending on what we believe is the best, acquire the rights. We do not touch a product at Junglee when we are not sure that it would work. Until now, Junglee was a young, trendsetting brand where we wanted youth to relate to it and every music we acquired, be it Welcome or Singh is Kinng was in that genre, except Dasvidaniya, but still the music stood out.You had collaborated with �Infected Mushrooms'. Are you planning to induct any more international artists?We are doing a lot of work internationally - like the entire DJ Tiesto series, Infected Mushrooms or artistes like Laura Critchley, the biggest artist on the VH1 platform. For us to be a part of the biggest platform on the international music channel, VH1 meant that we had picked up the right act. Again, after we launched her album, Laura was given more than a fair share of push and publicity across the country. Apart from international, most of our work in the non film category like Akbar Sami's Jalwa, non-stop party shots also fared well in the market.What is the biggest property you have lined up for the year?We are now going to come with our biggest product, Raga Symphony,that is going to change the complexion of classical music in India. For the first time, Pt Jasraj is conducting a live orchestra of 80- 100 musicians and has recorded live for our album. If you talk to music labels, they would complain that classical is not a profitable genre!If that's true, why is Times Music venturing into it?Classical music is a restricted market and occupies a small pie in the music market. But because it is not perceived as a paid genre, it is wrong to stop promoting it just because you are a commercial organisation. It is strategically important for us because with this album we have gone back to our roots; classical music is the basis of all music that happens in India. Raga symphony is going to reintegrate the classical category and other labels would be interested in experimenting more in the classical genre. We believe every label would be interested in the classical genre as we would be reinventing it.You had four projects down south? What has been your strategy there?We invested in the south because of the commercial lucrativeness of the market there. If you get the right product at the right price, you can make good money. The acquisition rates are less compared to Bollywood but it is relative to the commerce possibility over there. Physical sales are dwindling but there is a healthy market for digital sales. Our acquisition last year, �Kadalil Vizhundhen' fared well as a movie and the audio was the best soundtrack of the year, one track, �Naak Muka' digitally earned over Rs 10 million to the business. We are in talks for two films in the south. Also, I believe we have the right experts to choose the films who understand the market well. Times Music has a good distribution network that caters to entire south India covering Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Kerala etc.Are you also focusing on other regional markets?We should be doing our first Bhojpuri product pretty soon, we have been skirting opportunities in the Bhojpuri market from a long time and this would be our first venture. We are also actively looking at other regional markets like Punjab, Bengali. Our biggest blockbuster last year was a Kannada movie, �Buddhivanta'. Junglee Music has been fortunate enough in the regional markets as the projects we have worked have worked in our favour. In Bengali, we have signed the biggest bands like Bhoomi.With dwindling sales, do you believe music companies are exploiting the digital platform appropriately?I don't think everybody is but the way we are planning, we believe we would be garnering revenues by digital sales. In the present scenario, digital music comprises about 30 per cent and physical sales about 70 per cent but it would change and digital would occupy about 70 per cent.How was the year 2008 for the music industry in general?The industry didn't enjoy much mileage this year because digital was rumoured to be a huge number but the actual ground reality was we were talking about meager 200 crores to the content owner. On the physical front, there was a major slip, so overall it was not a robust growing category for the film music.Visibility is important, but still you haven't hammered on the visibility factor when it comes to Junglee?I believe our products will speak for our brand and we had some good projects this year to talk for us. We pick up projects only when we believe in it and they are marketed in a huge way as marketing is important for promoting a film.What would Times Music focus on in the coming year?We as a company always love to innovate. The fundamental here is we are a bunch of people who enjoy music and launch only those projects we believe in. We believe in bringing path breaking music that redefines, recreates, redraws boundaries within the industry and unless we do that, there is no point being here. Also we are negotiating our next big release lined up for April or May, but it is too early to talk about it now.