| 02 Dec 2021
Music industry losses revenue as short video apps bypass payments

MUMBAI: The music industry in India is losing about Rs200 crore in revenues annually as short-video apps bypass payments and access libraries of music labels illegally. Services such as Moj, owned by ShareChat, and Chingari have signed deals with music labels such as T-Series and Zee Music. However, there are those who flout copyright rules.

Domestic players earned Rs1,068 crore in revenues, according to the Digital Music Study 2019 brought out by the Indian Music Industry (IMI).

IMI is the apex body that represents the interest of music companies or record labels on a pan-India basis. India’s homegrown short-video app market has been trying to make the most of the Make in India wave that has gained ground since the ban on Chinese apps such as TikTok last year as they cater to a young, primarily small-town base of users.

“The usual explanation would be that the platform showcases only user-generated content and the user is responsible for whatever they’re putting up," said Blaise Fernandes, president and chief executive officer, IMI. Using music illegally, however, is par for the course in India, Fernandes said. Inaction against most apps can be attributed to a combination of expensive legal aid and the lack of infrastructure to pull down the content, he said.

Bhushan Kumar-owned T-Series had sent copyright infringement notices to content sharing mobile applications such as Roposo, Triller, Taka Tak, Josh, Mitron, and Snack Video for using the label's music without permission last year. However, litigation is not easy, said Fernandes.

Mint had reported about T-Series sending notices last August with president Neeraj Kalyan then saying these apps were "taking advantage of TikTok’s ban in India and to gain immediate success are using popular music, most of which belongs to T- Series, without our permission". T-Series did not respond to Mint's queries.

However, it is difficult for short platforms to license content from the hundreds of labels across India, more than 200 according to industry estimates, and most limit themselves to the top five or seven national and regional language majors, said Shahir Muneer, founder and director of Divo, a south-Indian music label.

“There is no unified mechanism for licensing music content. In mature markets, rates are dependent on the monthly active user base of the short video app, but in India, they can be negotiated on the basis of the market share of the music label," Muneer said.
Moreover, homegrown apps have not attained the popularity that TikTok had, most industry experts feel.

“It was an effective promotional platform for us. You knew your song would gain hits and views once it went on board. That impact hasn’t happened with local apps yet," a senior executive at a music label said, choosing not to be named.

Most platforms had started conversations on legitimate music acquisitions only after sensing the opportunity on expanding user base that came with the TikTok ban.

A senior executive at a short video platform said most music labels do not take apps seriously unless they have a certain amount of funding backing them. Once they see the app has gained some recognition, in this case, the traction that came after the TikTok ban, they start asking for their share.