All About Music Conference Brings Together Indian Music Industry

Photo by Rob Schwartz
Ed Peto talks at the 2017 All About Music conference in Mumbai

The Indian music industry gathered at the Taj Lands End Hotel in Mumbai Sept. 19-20 for the All About Music Conference. It was the first India-wide music industry conference in four years and the first organized by a local agency covering both the indie and Bollywood scenes.

The summit hosted reps from all the international major labels and welcomed speakers from as far away as the U.K. and Japan. There were more than 600 delegates and 50 speakers and leading Bollywood stars Sunidhi Chauhan and Arijit Singh gave talks. 

Tarsame Mittal, head of the eponymously-named leading artist agency in Mumbai, organized the proceedings. “This is the first inclusive conference in India. There had been conferences before but they always leaned to one particular part of the music industry. This is the first time you’ll see a lot of vision from artists.”  Mittal explains, “The idea of this conference is to connect all stakeholders of the music industry together. In India we are very segregated.” Mittal also pointed out the recorded music industry is underperforming at R12.2 billion ($187 million) per annum as the live music industry in India accounts for nearly ten times as much revenue.

Shridhar Subramanian, president of Sony Music for India and the Middle East, set the tone, noting that India was currently undergoing a “perfect storm,” meaning cheap devices, cheap data and a proliferation of content. Pointing to Ed Sheeran’s massively popular “Shape of You” video that has 2.42 billion streams on YouTube, Subramanian related that about 10% were from India. That would make it a top 5 or 6 market for Sheeran in terms of video consumption. But he suggested this kind of expansion was not enough. Subramanian stressed that the music industry must strive to increase average revenue per user. He suggested that the best way to achieve this was to move from an advertiser-based subscription model to a paid model. Subramanian proposed streaming sites should put restrictions on the free model and offer incentives for people to pay for the service.

Another issue in the Indian music industry has been the inability of composers to get publishing revenue from their compositions. Until now, it has been almost entirely a work-for-hire market. The problem was so acute that in 2012 the Indian courts rewrote the copyright law. Achille Forler, an expert on copyright in India, explains “the copyright amendment of 2012…introduced the right to royalty for lyricist and composers which is equal to 50 percent of all publishing income. It is unassignable and untransferable.” This act clearly determines the rights of songwriters. It was previously established there can be only one copyright society but due to disputes in the industry the body that had been undertaking that task, IPRS, withdrew its application to do the job. Experts believe they will reapply but the matter is still pending. 

Ed Peto, the founder and CEO of Beijing-based rights management and service company Outdustry, gave a keynote that compared India with China, a market he has worked in for ten years. Peto asserted the large population markets of India and China were similar but China was about 3-4 years ahead of India in development. He noted that with a regulatory framework in place India was in a position to capitalize on the 400-450 million mobile data users, 100-150 million of which had come online in the last year. Peto echoed Subramanian’s view that paid-for streaming subscriptions are the way to develop the market. He suggested that, as it was with China, ad-supported streaming was insufficient to move forward and the current conversion rate was only about 1% so that is where the growth needs to happen.