| 06 Feb 2023
After 2013- 2014 decline, industry will grow drastically in the next five-six years, says Shridhar Subramaniam

Sony Music Entertainment (India and Middle East) president Shridhar Subramaniam


Currently, our market share in India is 20-22 per cent; we aspire to be a minimum of 25 – 30 per cent of market share. We used to be at 10 per cent four years ago. We believe the market is going to grow drastically in the next five-six years.

The year on year growth has been two to two and a half per cent. We will of course expand but we are going at it slowly. 2013-2014 showed a decline for the music industry as a whole, not just Sony Music. It was an aberration. Firstly, it was because of the TRAI regulations on the ring-back tone business. Three years ago, 90 million people used ring-back tones, now it is only 30 million. The second aberration was the decline in Nokia music players, especially with the advent of Samsung.

Sony’s partnerships with Warner and Zee

Warner Music has never had an office here in India; their music was always licensed here. They were earlier represented by EMI, and EMI later was folded into Universal Music. So, Warner was just left hanging without knowing what to do. Then, they decided to put out a tender and many companies approached them for partnerships. We decided to aggressively look at partnering with Warner Music for licensing, marketing and distributing their content here in India.

When Zee Music approached us, they were new in the Bollywood music game, and wanted us to be their digital marketers.

Music streaming services

There are two forms of music consumption. The first is ownership economy. You go out and you buy the cassette or the CD and hear it while driving, or play it on your music system; you have a physical copy of the product. The second is rental economy. This is where you do not own any music, but you have hundreds of channels to choose from. The first difference is ownership versus rental. The second is on the basis of the device. Before the advent of mobile smartphones, there were static devices through which you could listen to music. But, now you have your mobile phones through which you can constantly carry your music and update it along the way.

There has been a behavioural change in people. Now people say, “Hey, I do not want to own any music, but I will pay a monthly fee to get access to the music as and when I want it.” The beauty of music streaming in a country like India is that we have 800 million people who have phones through which they can stream. Earlier, we only had 40 million CD players and 60 million radio players and 70 cassette players. It is a very exciting time, and I am very bullish about where streaming is going to go. But, in the long run, I feel that consumers will want to rent rather than own.

Sony Music’s role in music streaming

Firstly, we have supportive streaming services. Whoever new comes in, we are very supportive of the artist and get their licensing done. We have not put any severe constraints on the business models that they need to have. We aspire to have people move from music pirate sites to ad-supported music streaming sites. It is fair to assume that 25-30 million people have moved to music streaming sites out of the total handset penetration that we have of 100 million. When this number increases to 300 million, we expect the earlier one to move to 70-80 million.

We also have stand-alone streaming services like Gaana, Saavn and Guvera, which are self-funded; and then we have operator companies like Airtel and Vodafone which have started their own streaming of music via the Telco. Then, we have device companies that have their own inbuilt services like Nokia’s MixRadio and Apple’s iRadio. We have also started our own music service, ‘Sony Music Jive’ which allows Sony Xperia consumers to download and stream music. The service is free for the first six months from the date of purchase and consumers can then opt to subscribe to it after the initial free period.

Right now, Sony Music Jive ranks No.5 among the top music streaming services in India. The service is created by Sony Music India’s technology partner, Indent (Infibeam Digital Entertainment Private Limited), and started production for the same in 2004. The Sony Music Jive app is the second mobile application with the first one being Sony Liv, the television content application. Now, the Sony Music Jive application is also embedded in Sony Vaio laptops and tablets. After rolling out Sony Music Jive in India, we have rolled it out in Indonesia and the Middle East, and in the next six months we plan to roll it out in the rest of the South East Asian countries.

Sony Music India has six different repertoire groups or sectors in India. First is international music which includes our partnership with Warner Music, then is Bollywood music. The third is Tamil film soundtracks, after which is followed by Punjabi music and then non-film music and the last repertoire groups is children’s music.

Artistes signed by Sony

The first is Badshah; I strongly feel Badshah is going to do great. The second one is Sanam Puri, who is currently working with international songwriters in Sweden, and will be released next year. The third is a Bangalore-based rapper called Brodha V who we have just signed on. He is an amazing talent.

Then, we have signed on India’s first known acapella group Voctonica and are currently working with them. For the kids section, we have Rob from Pogo’s MAD who we are currently working with on some exciting stuff.

Future Live Event IPs

In addition to our own IPs like ‘Live at the Console’, we are building IPs for other brands that we then execute for them. We worked with Ray Ban for their Ray Ban Never Hide Sounds 2014 project with selects bands that are mentored by music maestros of the respective genres in the Never Hide Sounds Studio.

We also created the IP for the Micromax Unite Anthem called ‘Roobaroo’ from the film ‘Rang De Basanti’ originally composed by AR Rahman featuring 10 popular artists singing the iconic song in nine languages. The other IP we created was for Sony headphones for Project Resound.

We are a digital marketing agency for other brands when we create their IPs.

We have no intentions to be a live act company like NH7 or OML. Our job is to commit to an artiste, not just book them. We aspire to take nobodies and turn them into heroes. And, then, we sell copyrights.

Since 1996, Subramaniam has been associated with Sony Music, first as the marketing director and was later elevated to the post of MD in the company. Now, he looks after India and Middle East region and has Oscar winning artiste like A R Rahman signed under the label. In his extensive career spanning 25 plus years, he has been associated with the label for most part of it. His additional responsibility lies with Indian Music Industry (IMI) as the chairman of the society.