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A look at the current state of the Indian music industry – Firstpost

Amit Gurbaxani finds out why India might grow as a music market but won’t thrive and break into the world’s top ten
How closely does the music industry guard its trade secrets? Well, if you want the entire Global Music Report (GMR), published by the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI), which represents the record industry worldwide, you’d have to shell out £15,000, or almost Rs15 lakh. This prized document details how over 50 countries performed in terms of music revenues over the past year.
The free-to-download version of the GMR gives us global and regional data but no country-wide figures. Fortunately, for those of us in India, Devraj Sanyal, the MD and CEO of the Universal Music Group in India and South Asia was among the suits who were part of the press conference held by the IFPI to announce the release of this year’s report. Sanyal was among those who shared how their market fared and because of this we know that the nation’s recorded music market grew by 20.3% to $219 million or approximately Rs 1,620 crore (using the average exchange rate for the year).
This made us the 17th largest market in the world, the same rank as in 2020. We didn’t move up because, in 2021, the revenues of every single country tracked by the IFPI rose as they recovered from the pandemic-induced slowdown of the year before.
The India data for the GMR is submitted by national trade body the Indian Music Industry (IMI), which has, thankfully, published at least some of the information used in that report in the public domain. Of the Rs 1,620 crore, the IMI has shared, 86.9% came from streaming (and other 2.6% from other digital sources of income), 5.3% from synchronisation, 3.8% from performance rights and 1.4% from physical products.
While more than nine out of every ten rupees banked by the recorded music business is through streaming, at the press conference, Sanyal said that only .4% of us are paying users. This means, by his own estimation of our population amounting to 1.4 billion, the number of subscribers nationwide is a mere 5.6 million.
Around the same time, the IFPI puts out the GMR, accounting firm Ernst & Young (EY) and the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) publish their annual Media and Entertainment Report, which provides us with an alternative take on the health of India’s music industry. According to them, labels earned Rs1,600 crore in 2021, which is fairly close to the IFPI/IMI’s official figure.
EY and FICCI distinguish between the income generated by labels and the money tallied by the music industry, which they consider to be the consumer-facing platforms that pay those record companies a share of their revenues. Overall, they place the current value of our music business at Rs1,870 crore or roughly $245 million.
Segment-wise, 90% of this came from digital (read ‘streaming’), 6% from synchronisation and 4% from performance rights with sales from physical products pretty much wiped out. Other key stats in their report are the pegging of the number of monthly active users (MAUs) of audio-streaming services at a mere 197 million, data attributed to Comscore.
This was actually a fall from 2020 when there were 205 million MAUs. The total subscribers are just 3 million, almost half the figure given by Sanyal. As a result of this, 80% of the revenue from streaming is generated from advertising.
Among the sources cited by EY-FICCI is IMI’s Digital Music Study 2021. That study, executed as part of a worldwide survey executed in association with the IFPI, interviewed 4,000 internet users between the ages of 16 of 64 last June and July. Notably, 67% of those who participated said they had used a paid tier of a streaming service, which given how few of us actually subscribe, indicates that the sample was perhaps not representative of the average Indian music consumer.
Despite this, a recurring theme in the IMI study is the dominance of YouTube in India. A substantial 58% of respondents said it was their favourite way to stream music, and 23% said it’s where they discovered new music, making it the top spot for finding out about fresh releases. Moreover, almost half of those in the 16 to 24 age bracket revealed they didn’t pay for music because YouTube had everything they wanted, and 39% of Bollywood music fans said they would pick the video-streaming service if they had to choose a single way to listen.
Yet, the IMI tells us, revenues from YouTube make up less than a third of labels’ income, highlighting the industry’s decade-old bugbear that is the “value gap”. In other words, as much as India might grow as a market, it won’t quite thrive and break into the world’s top ten until we fix the conundrum of YouTube, for which in terms of users, we’re possibly the top territory on the planet.
Amit Gurbaxani is a Mumbai-based journalist who has been writing about music, specifically the country’s independent scene, for nearly two decades. He tweets @TheGroovebox.
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