Full obituaries continue to pour in for the legendary Lata Mangeshkar, highlighting her enviable repertoire of songs and various aspects of her personality.
This post is a take-off from her pioneering role as a champion of singers’ rights to receive proper royalty in a commercial world where others profit from their singing talent.
Here’s an attempt to highlight copyright and music licensing issues.
There can be no reliable estimate of the total number of person-hours spent listening to or watching music, but crude industry estimates indicate that over 70% of music is streamed movie songs. through various channels (cassettes, CDs, online video/audio, streaming apps, radio and TV) — some paid, some pirated.
Recorded music is a work of art created by a team – singer, lyricist, musical director, junior artist coach and post-production technicians. Legal copyright is secured by the producer of the film and the music company marketing the music. The rights of individual artists are not explicitly legislated. These remain matters of contractual arrangements between them and the copyright owner.
Filmmakers risk the success and failure of films, and there are different compensation models for actors, singers and studio support staff. Most of the time, this is a flat fee model. As authors expect royalties from the sale of books, singers also expect royalties if record companies make a profit from the sale of music. It’s quite a complicated business because music piracy, although on the decline, has been a major problem for us.
It is estimated that the music industry loses around Rs 1,000 crore per year due to piracy, which according to 2019 ‘Digital Music Study’ – sponsored by the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry and the Indian Music Industry – accounts for 67% of the market — the world average being 27 percent.
Instead of buying a CD, one would get the best songs recorded on blank tapes/CDs or downloaded to a mobile/laptop using illegal P2P (peer-to-peer) apps, streaming apps , feed mining websites or infringing websites. Short-form video sharing apps are the music industry’s newest pet peeve, as many of them are unlicensed by music companies.
Radio is the most popular way of consuming music. Since the days of Binaca Geetmala, Vividh Bharati, Jawanon Ke Liye, radio has been a popular medium for delivering music. [Remember Jhoomari Talaiya Se Farmaish?] Talkative RJs continue to enjoy celebrity status.
Akashvaani has given way to private channels.
In 2000, FM radio waves were first offered to the private sector. 108 FM radio channels were auctioned in 40 cities. In 2001 Phonographic Performance Limited was formed as a copyright company to administer the radio broadcast rights for the majority of sound recordings. PPL sought to set the tariff at Rs 2,400 per needle hour. FM radio stations approached the Copyright Board for a compulsory license under Section 31 of the Copyright Act.
A copyright holder can deny access to copyrighted content unless they get the asking price, but the law allows the government to force copyright holders to compulsorily license broadcasters in the public interest [poor man’s entertainment, infancy of the radio industry, limited access to music for people in remote areas].
In 2002, the Copyright Board asked music companies to allow broadcasters to play music under a compulsory license. It set a provisional rate – Rs 1,200 for peak hours with a formula-based deduction for other times and also for category “B” and “C” cities (smaller and less populated).
The council’s order remained in protracted litigation until the Supreme Court upheld (2008) the council’s right to grant a compulsory license to several radio stations subject to fixing the fees license on the appropriate database.
In 2010, the Copyright Board passed a final tariff order requiring broadcasters to pay 2% of net advertising revenue (NAR) as a mandatory license fee to sound recording copyright owners during next 10 years.
This fee was due to be reviewed in 2020, but the Intellectual Property Appeal Board (IPAB), which took over this function from the Copyright Board in 2012, decided to maintain status quo ante. Section 31D added to the Copyright Act 1957 in 2012 empowers the IPAB to set royalty rates for radio or television performances or broadcasts of literary and musical works and sound recordings . Whether the authority extends to internet broadcasts within its scope remains controversial.
Protectionist policies are often adopted to protect infant industries. In 2010, the radio industry was relatively at a nascent stage. In 2020, its annual revenue is said to have soared to around Rs 3,100 crore, almost three times that of the recorded music industry. Some governments spend heavily on radio advertising thanks to the popularity of FM radio channels.
The music industry therefore demanded an increase in licensing fees. However, in a setback for them, the IPAB was abolished on April 4, 2021 as part of the restructuring of various courts and the functions of the IPAB were transferred to the high courts. This delays the license fee review process.
As radio music remains mired in the revenue-sharing impasse, music delivered via radio faces increasing competition from streaming services and apps associated with mobile phone subscriptions. Two of the top three local streaming services, JioSaavn and Wynk Music, are owned by telecommunications companies [Reliance Jio and Airtel, respectively.] The third is Gaana.
Spotify, YouTube Music and Apple Music have also entered the Indian market, said to be the fastest growing music market in the world. It doesn’t have much to do with the young age profile, as music, especially digitally streamed music, now reaches all age groups very broadly. Video-rich YouTube continues to be the favorite music streaming channel for the amateur explorer.
Private audio/video albums and regional music are also growing rapidly and the overall market is much larger than when Lataji first raised his voice to assert singers’ right to obtain a fair fee.
With over 45 crores of smartphones and cheap data packs, online music streaming is growing rapidly, as are over-the-top (OTT) video streaming players. Streaming is on the rise as working from home gains traction. “Watching” music seems more popular than “listening to it”, as the audience statistics show. YouTube has now banned TikTok even after cutting traffic from paid agents.
YouTube is free, visual and easily accessible, but it cannot fully replace streaming services as music is also consumed off-screen and on the go.
Streaming services offer three paid music models: ad-free, HD quality, and unlimited downloads.
According to industry estimates, only around 1% of all streaming users pay for premium subscriptions directly. Apparently, in addition to the 1% direct premium subscribers, there are now 14% paying music streaming users and telecom service provider “bundle app” subscribers. These 15% of “paid users account for nearly 55% of all streaming revenue.”
India’s recorded music industry is ranked 15th in the Global Music Report 2019. According to a report by EY, India’s media and entertainment industry was valued at Rs 138,000 crore in 2020 and is estimated at Rs 179,000 crore rupees in 2021, and is expected to reach 223,000 crore rupees by 2023 due to accelerating digital adoption among users across geographies.
The Indian film industry is a major component and music is an important part of movies. The regional film industry is growing rapidly. Advertising revenue in India is expected to reach Rs 91,500 crore by 2023 from Rs 59,600 crore in 2020. Subscription revenue is expected to reach Rs 94,000 crore by 2023 from Rs 63,100 crore in 2020. music is expected to reach Rs 2,300 crore by 2023 from Rs 1,500 crore in 2020.
Streaming subscription prices are low compared to what users would have paid if they had to buy CDs/cassettes. Plus, the enormous convenience that comes with digital consumption.
There is a need to make a substantial dent in music piracy. It’s time to say a resounding no to piracy. It’s the irritating white noise we need to get rid of. It would be a deserved tribute to the legendary singer whose melodious voice raised the issue of singers’ rights as early as the 1960s. Neither the Copyright Board nor the IPAB had attempted a public consultation on revenue sharing between the various stakeholders involved in the creation of recorded music.
This article has been first post on the author’s Facebook page.