| 15 Apr 2024
Times Music's Mandar Thakur hopes for more understanding about music publishing in next few years

It was interesting to see Times Music COO Mandar Thakur give lessons to budding musician and artists on the importance of understanding the publishing business, at the recently held Music Matters Academy. The academy is part of All That Matters held in Singapore. Thakur addressed queries by artists present there. Based on which’s Jescilia Karayamparambil, spoke to him to get insights into the publishing business and challenges that exist in the Indian market.

Where does India stand when it comes to publishing?

There is scope of publishing in any country where there is art of creation. Publishing can be related to music or any other art form. I strongly believe that in that essence, India or any other country stands at its threshold when it comes to any form of publishing. Problems arise when there are no systems to execute, protect and monetise creative work. This is exactly what has been happening for years. The art of creation happened but the ability to recognise, protect and monetise was lacking uniformity. It takes regulation, entry of global players and basic music creation structure of a country, to get aligned with certain types of thinking and sharing, about generating income.

Is there a lack of understanding Publishing in India?

A few popular writers understand music publishing. However, across the indie space there is a very serious lack of understanding, not about the creativity but about the song-writing process and the rights involved in a song, role of a music publisher, role of collection societies and ways to exploit a song without the artist being on stage. There is certainly a lack of understanding of rights/publishing, and hopefully it will change over the next few years as music businesses evolve and auxiliary rights get monetised via non-retail usage.

How many publishers will Times Music partner with in the near future?

For us, it is not about how many publishers we plan to sign. It is a creative process, not a scientific one. It is about who has great songs. For instance, if million people have great songs, we have the ambition and the aspiration of getting those million songs and its respective songwriters signed on to us but in reality, it does not happen. We will work with any musician or publisher who works with musicians that have great songs. We will work with them as long as we have the capacity to.

Can you name a few?

In India, we work with our own writers a lot; for example, a prolific band like Indian Ocean, who writes its own music. We work with them and we administer their publishing on their behalf. We have the infrastructure, understanding, systems to be able to monetise and pay these writers, so we are open to working with anyone. Times Music is the only company to have implemented the Counterpoint/ Vistex royalty management system for both, master and publishing rights for India.

Culturally, in India most of the artists have been their own writers. In non-film business, you know who the writers are and you end up doing publishing for their tracks.

Did you get any request for syncs for ‘Winds of Samsara’ by Ricky Kej and Wouter Kellerman after their Grammy win?

We only have a record distribution deal with Ricky, and the publishing is with him or some other organisation. We have not been approached as yet, but I do believe that there was a spurt in overseas digital sales. Outside the country, Ricky handles his work on his own.

Times Music has a mix of genres and artists, how does that work for the label?

There are various aspects to these questions. Firstly, in my personal view most of us in the recording industry in India function similarly to trading. It is a vicious cycle and it is pathetic in a way, because it is bought from one entity (film producer) and sold to another entity (in most cases a digital service) for high minimum grant to recover cost.

However, I believe that real creativity comes with experimenting of songs, artists and writers, and building the stars of the future, will remain our core, as a music record label and publisher. We have begun to play heavily in films and will continue to invest more into the film music as well as other popular genres. This also means that we will not ignore the art of creativity which is a fundamental for any label. A record label and music publisher finds and moulds talent which is later monetised and we will continue doing that.

In the case of different sounds, we would like to think more evolved and scientific, but that is not the case. We sign artists/ record deals based on our gut feeling and we hope that the music works.

Do you listen to most of the artists before signing them?

I do listen to various genres of music and lot of new and other artists.

From which countries are you getting enquiries for sync?

Sync is a really evolved process in the US and other western countries. Bollywood is a drop in the ocean where licensing of tracks is concerned. Enquiries from UK and US are certainly on a rise for Bollywood music and in parallel, a lot of local sync enquiries are on the rise.

Do you think having music supervisors in the Indian market changes things?

Definitely, it will change things here. The sync business and sound scaping is all about the ability to place music on any visual or otherwise, and it is rapidly evolving in India at the moment. The evolution in the music industry is taking place as consumers are evolving along with consumption patterns. This necessitated a new level of thinking. Going forward, the industry will evolve and there will be a very high growth rate.

There is a constant talk of metadata. How do you think it has evolved over years?

Metadata is the life blood of the digital industry. Secondly, song titles hold no relevance, except for in special cases of popular tracks, if there is no data attached to it. The tracks that get recognised by consumers in bits and pieces are due to metadata. It allows consumers to select, search and discover songs, which is why it is important. Metadata has a tracking and analytical view for someone to find certain songs. It also helps trace income from societies that are collecting income from any popular track. It was very easy to have metadata in download and physical formats. In an ever changing world, it is important that metadata is updated frequently.

Different services use different metadata. A digital service can report back to a label or an artist only if the metadata is clean. If the service does not recognise who it has to pay, then it will not pay.

Artists should have access to data, but at the same time there is a lot of data available, and there is very little that they can do with it. There are two types of data: hard-core technical business data and analytical data. I assume that it is important for an artist to know and translate analytical data. Then, they will know the areas that they should focus on, and I strongly believe that artists should have access to analytical data.

In India, there are very few managers and publishers who understand metadata as not many want to spend their time making the effort.

Is there any digital partnership that you can talk about?

We are among the few labels in the country to actively invest in digital infrastructure, back-end and eco-system. As I mentioned before, we are the only label in the country to implement and use Counterpoint/ Vistex, which is highly advanced royalty management software.

Any new Bollywood films Times Music plans to acquire?

We acquired a whole bunch of films last year from ‘Haider’ to ‘Raja Natwarlal’ and many more. We are aggressive in the Tamil and Telugu markets. We just acquired ‘Kick 2’ which is a big-budget Telugu film. We are active players and we will be fairly aggressive in that area.

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