Music sells again but it is not the same (Column: B-Town)

Music sells again but it is not the same (Column: B-Town)


Indian music is selling again and it is earning in crores. Seems like you don't need a full album anymore, a single number suffices to make millions. Despite huge numbers in sales, a filmgoer may not identify these songs with any film! Simply because, these songs which are raking in crores, are not film songs and not likely to fit into any film situation either.

Music has always been very much a part of our films, in that one could not even imagine a film without songs. But, music filled with melody that earned its place in a story situation is a thing of the past. India is rich in its musical traditions with a range of musical instruments, music maestros called Pandit or Ustad and its musical gharanas. However, described as classical music, it was not and is not for everybody. It has its own following of the discerning few.

It was film music that instantly appealed to people and started playing on their minds. That was the magic of film music. It was rare for a film with poor or mediocre music to be accepted by the filmgoer. But, then, a film with all super hit songs did not always work. And, that was when the film's content was rejected, not the music. The proof lies in the fact that even those songs are today as evergreen as the ones from a hit movie.

If one wants further proof of how music from films of yesteryears is alive even today and sells in millions, the proof lies in the music company, Saregama India Limited's (erstwhile HMV as it was popularly known) Carvaan, a compact radio-like device available in various versions, packed with songs from old films which has been selling in huge numbers and reviving the company.

If Saregama has such a rich repertoire of hit songs from films, it is thanks to the virtual monopoly it enjoyed in the music market till mid-1970s. That is when Polydor, a Germany-based music company entered India with a local collaboration. Polydor (later turned Music India to be eventually taken over by Univeral Music) started offering advance to filmmakers to lure them and break the decades-old monopoly of Saregama which paid royalties to the music rights owner as per sales. But, word spread that music and films go together in the world's biggest film producing country, India. More companies like CBS, Oriental, Magnasound, Virgin Records and a few others entered the Indian music scene.

Saleable music compositions were getting scarcer but that did not deter more players entering. While the traditional music market lasted, the first one to come and change the way the music industry worked was late Gulshan Kumar's T-Series. Gulshan Kumar was an adventurous entrepreneur and started the trend of buying film soundtracks outright; profit or loss, it was all his. No accountability or royalties to be paid thereafter as was the practice so far.

Seeing the success of T-Series, many new music labels entered the market, Venus and Tips being the prominent ones. They could not match T-Series which had an exemplary marketing network and, with change of guard at the helm, with Bhushan Kumar taking over, also the knack to change with time.

From among the old players, only T-Series remains active in the market. Music as one knew it, which was identified with films, exists only in name today and there are no more music records cut nor prerecorded cassettes. That era is long gone.

Now, all the music you want is on the Net, mobile and FM radio networks.

So, how do companies like Zee, Times, Sony, Music Today, Eros still sustain themselves? Not only these companies, but many new companies are springing up. Some new players getting active now are Desi Melodies, Jjust Music, composer duo Sachin-Jigar's company, Kumar Mangat's Panorama Music besides Vinod Bhanushali, who has spent 26 years with T-Series, launching his Bhanushali Studios.

Why are these new labels springing up on the music scene as if there is gold to be found especially when the era of records, cassettes or CDs is over? That's because music now makes its way to people via the Internet through audio visual, not through films.

The definition of music production has changed. You don't just compose music, you produce a musical video and launch it on any one or more of the mediums available on the net like YouTube, Gaana, Spotify, Hungama, iTunes or such. When your music video catches up with the netizens, you have made it. While, vinyl records sold in units and earned the composer Silver or Gold Disc, here it is counted on Hits, meaning how many watchers it scored. No trophies like silver or gold discs, the hits mean hard cash because, these online music streaming platforms pay you by hits.

Looks like this latest phenomenon has become another branch of entertainment. Another industry run by prospect hunters. Yes, since some filmmakers are very active in these video productions, they involve popular film stars to get maximum mileage. A star's reel life image does not matter on these music videos, just their presence does.

Take for example, Filhaal, a music video with Akshay Kumar as the performer, launched by Desi Music. The number of hits this video got beats all guestimates. It has 106 crore views while Filhaal2 Mohabbat views stand at 43.5 crore! Now those are breathtaking numbers.

Jjust Music launched a video with actor Tiger Shroff (at least he is a great dancer) on the eve of Independence Day this year and has earned 2.9 crore hits so far. T-Series' Kutti Mohabbat, with Emraan Hashmi has to its credit 93 crore views. Unlike earlier and as one would expect, music videos are not the sole domain of romantic songs or film heroes, even antiheroes like Nawazuddin Siddiqui (Baarish ki jaaye, Desi Music: 44 crore hits) and Sonu Sood (Remix of Saath kya nibhaoge, Desi Music: 3.5 crore), videos get a huge number of viewers.

Music videos are not a new concept; they were made even earlier during the 1980s onwards but their reach was limited to the few television channels that were emerging besides the Doordarshan channel. They were made from remixed version of old film hits or to promote the audio album of a performer like Falguni. There was no YouTube (the pioneer debuted in 2006) and other such online platforms then. Now, they abound.

But, the definition of music has changed. Now, it has to be audio visual. The music industry as such is thriving thanks to the Internet but, it is divorced from film music. It has become a parallel source of entertainment. Sadly, these songs sound monotonous lack in peppy, happy numbers and, most of all are far from melody.

These music video tracks are hot now and a lasting value looks unlikely. So, this kind of boost in the music industry may just be a passing phase, at least, when it comes to expecting million and billion hits. For that, one just needs to check the hits as in views on various tracks, classified in a variety of compilations, of Saregama's Carvaan comprising old time hits. Hundreds of music tracks, all with hits in millions and counting.

(Vinod Mirani is a veteran film writer and box office analyst. The views expressed are personal)