| 18 Apr 2024
Record labels are a work in progress business today and streaming services are critical to the music ecosystem

MUMBAI: The second edition of the ‘The Exchange’ produced by UK Trade & Investment and Submerge witnessed deep and insightful discussions on various aspects of the Indian music industry. With an aim to collaborate and create a favourable working `environment in the music industry between UK and India, The Exchange comprised of a highly acclaimed panel moderating and discussing the current scenario of the industry. One such panel discussion focussed on the role of record labels, distribution and streaming services in today’s music industry. Moderated by Trunkey Music MD Atul Churamani, the discussion threw some very pertinent questions at the panel consisting of Times Music COO Mandar Thakur; Horus Music business development manager Nina Condron; The Orchard’s director of South Asia Clint Cabral; and Saavn co-founder Paramdeep Singh.

With all the traditional forms of music consumption almost non-existent, the record labels seem to revamp business models and look at alternate revenue streams. Thakur believes that there was a time when record labels were trying to understand technology, but now that era has passed. Record labels have tied up with distribution companies and streaming services to spread their music both in India and overseas. Music publishing is of key focus now and there is a need to build to the required infrastructure and content.

“The entire record label business today is work in progress without anyone having a stable business model,” said Thakur. With regards to the distribution business, there is a feeling that record labels would want to do their own distribution, but, by and large, labels are still dependent on music distribution companies. It is important to have a mixed catalogue covering almost all genres of music due to the diverse audience in the country.

Streaming services are critical for the music industry, so much so, that in the next few years, 100 percent music may be consumed only by streaming. As a result it is inevitable for record labels and distribution companies to work with streaming services. Before streaming services hit India, the market was driven either by the caller, or ring tunes, or piracy. “Piracy is an indicator of demand” said Saavn’s Singh, “which clearly means that there was a need for online music consumption, with free streaming which is ad supported and with paid subscription model services like Saavn that cater to listeners both willing and unwilling to pay.”

Singh revealed that initially it was difficult convincing record labels to collaborate with Saavn as it offered the music for free but was ad supported.

“Our streaming was 100 percent Bollywood, but over the past five years there is strong demand for English and independent music. Affordable data plans have also positively impacted the streaming business as we see more hours spent on streaming.” This also indicated the demand for non-film music and the prominence of streaming services said Singh.

The consensus was that cordial relationships between labels, distribution and streaming must exist for the industry to flourish. Right from licensing, marketing to revenue sharing, as all these aspects intertwined with the stakeholders, in order to co-exist. Content is key, thus the dependency on labels who have the content, distribution services that provide the content to streaming services, and finally the streaming services to bring content to the public.