Heena Kriplani: ‘The artist’s growth is more important than retaining their patronage’

After more than a decade at Gibson Brands, Inc. as Director of Entertainment Relations, Asia, Heena Kriplani joined TuneCore in 2020. With 18 years of solid music industry experience, Kriplani has previously worked at EMI Virgin Music and co-founded Cinnamon dedicated to sync and in-film opportunities for local and international talent.

TuneCore was launched in July 2020 with the aim to be a truly localised global resource that serviced Indian artists and focused on their specific needs. “Happy to say that our unwavering focus has proved fruitful,” says Kriplani. “We’ve grown exponentially and taken our artists with us. Or rather, they’ve taken us with them. Our successes and growth are closely linked.”

Heena Kriplani, Head of TuneCore India

In a bid to service today’s artist’s evolving needs, TuneCore recently announced their Unlimited Pricing packages that distributes music with no limits and total independence. Music Plus has a chat with TuneCore’s India head Kriplani to understand TuneCore’s areas of focus and way forward.

How has TuneCore managed to service the varying needs of local talent in the country?

The key to India is to not try and press it all together in one homogenous mass but to acknowledge and address the diversity. When you embrace the variety in language, culture, genre, and attitude, you have a clearer idea of who you’re talking to. That’s what we keep our focus on. Our efforts in India are almost microcosmic.

We’re talking to artists from various backgrounds trying to understand their needs. And I think you begin with language. You can’t be communicating effectively if you’re – quite literally- speaking a different language. From Indian language step-by-step guides, language-agnostic instructional videos, to customer support in a variety of local languages – we try to bridge the gap in the simplest ways possible. We’re also proud to have the support and endorsements of some incredible regional artists – Gubbi in Bangalore, Sharanya Srinivas in Chennai, Karan Aujla and Himmat Sandhu in Punjab, Oriya rapper Big Deal, Gujarati lyricist Priya Saraiya, Assamese singer Antara Nandy, Bengal’s Rupam Islam, and Haryanvi artist Vishvajeet Choudhary.

Globally, TuneCore claims to pay out over the US $1 million to musicians each day. How is the Indian market contributing to these global figures?

In April of 2022 we surpassed the milestone of paying more than $2.5 billion in royalties to artists since the company was founded in 2006. Artists using our platform have cumulatively achieved 500 billion streams and 700 million downloads to date. Our mission is to support self-releasing independent artists and provide them with the tools to grow their careers independently. This applies to every artist across the world, but for me – it’s especially true for the Indian artist. We want music creators to know that TuneCore is where you go to make money. India is a key market for TuneCore and we’ve already seen good things happen. Two  examples; let’s look at Ritviz and Anuv Jain. Ritviz retains the distinction of being the most-streamed independent artist in India and has crossed 200 million streams. Anuv Jain has more than 500K subscribers on YouTube and more than 10 lakh listeners on Spotify.

The Global Music Report (GMR), published by the IFPI states that the nation’s recorded music market grew by 20.3% to $219 million or approximately Rs 1,620 crore and we held our place as the 17th largest market in the world. The IMI report shows that the lion’s share of this growth – 86.9% – came from streaming. We’re determined to do our bit to keep this pace going by making sure that we’re delivering music and making this a viable source of income for our artists.

Are there any trends you can spot when it comes to artists releasing music in the next couple of years?

The popularity of regional music isn’t a new phenomenon. What’s new is the way it’s being consumed. Growing availability of regional artists on streaming platforms through services like ours is fuelling new listening habits. In a happy cycle, this is getting younger regional music artists to create and distribute music in their regional and authentic voice. There are some regional pockets that are more advanced when it comes to creating and amplifying their music. This is directly related to existing infrastructure and know-how that supports this creativity.

Homegrown platform Gaana states that regional Indian language music now accounts for 40% of the total streams on their platform and the IMI 2021 report tells us that 71% of time spent listening to music was on artists from India. Across streaming platforms, we see that favourite music genres after Bollywood are Tamil, Telugu, and Punjabi. We’re also seeing some great Bengali, Marathi and Bhojpuri music coming out of those regions. I really believe it’s a question of know-how and access. And we’re here to bridge both those factors.

What are the sort of opportunities a TuneCore artist has to level up?

TuneCore artists and labels earn 100% revenue from streaming platforms because we have direct deals with all DSPs (unlike other distributors), the new Unlimited Pricing plans, Free social platform distribution, best in class customer support, India sensitive price points, payments in local currency, ease of use, local payment methods like netbanking, instructional videos in multiple Indian language, the only DIY platform distributing to all popular local stores like Gaana, JioSaavn, Hungama and Wynk…the list is a long one!

There’s also the advantage of TuneCore being part of the Believe ecosystem and as a company we believe in servicing artists at every stage of their career. Part of that service is recognising when an artist is ready for an upwards thrust in their career. We actively seek out artists who are ready for an upsell to Believe that will extend to them more support, amplification, and promotions. TuneCore offers all kinds of support during an artist’s early career and when you move to Believe they work you through the next stage of growth. And because we belong to the same ecosystem, artist can continue their journey without having to worry about transferring assets and loosing streams etc.

For us, the artist’s growth is more important than retaining their patronage. I don’t think there is another service who can say that.

Could you tell us a bit about TuneCore’s India plans going forward? What are the areas of focus for the India market?  

Our focus stays the same, to help artists distribute their music to local and worldwide audiences. I don’t believe that will ever change. What might change is what that looks like. For instance – our earlier model was pay-as-you-go. And that worked perfectly for a long time. But with changing needs of the artists and many conversations with them we realised that a low annual fee Unlimited Plan was the call of the day. We were quick to assess, act and productise.

We’re also big believers in nurturing local talent. That too will remain our focus. We’re keen to provide instruction, inform and educate artists on the many nuances and aspects of distribution, promotion, and all other facets of the music business. We’re keen to make the independent artist truly independent and that can only happen when they’re informed and able to plan their own careers.

We want to be partners to local independent artists as their first step into their music careers and give them the opportunity to grow within the TuneCore/ Believe ecosystem.

What’s the one thing you’d like artistes to know when it comes to distributing their music in the Indian market?

It’s important to have a basic understanding of the business you’re in. I know that artists want to be artists, and while no one expects them to be project managers and marketeers – it is important that they grasp the fundamentals of the music business. And they don’t have to figure it all out alone. There are guides, blogs, support systems, industry experts, YouTube tutorials – all available for guidance and advice.

Also, artists should plan their release like they plan their music. Give it the same thought and care that they would the production of the song. Choose a distributor, set a release date, upload their music, set up artist profiles, pitch their music, set up socials and reach out to press. That’s the checklist in a nutshell.  

And lastly, I’m a firm believer in identifying concrete goals on the onset. As an artist, if you’re chasing an elusive ‘success’ you’ll never know when you’ve attained it. Keep objectives in mind – it could be the number of followers, number of streams, UGC content created, revenue earned, live shows played… any metric that works for you is good. This way you can define success and increase your reach by attaining tangible milestones and resetting the goal.

Could you please tell us how your focus on education will continue to evolve? What do you have planned for the near future?

We deliver information in various ways. Our one-of-a-kind TuneCore Rewards program is based purely on education and artists can access masterclasses of several music related topics. We also have India specific artist advice on the site blog from industry experts like Mae Maryam Thomas, Amit Gurbaxani, Achilles Forler and Aishwarya Natarajan. We work with YouTube influencers to create language specific and language agnostic videos on various topics. We do many 1-to-1 mentor sessions, conduct workshops and panels for artists. We have a best in class customer support team who can answer questions that artists mails in their preferred language. We use social media as a means to share information. We’ve tied up with State Government-run organisations and begun mass education for their artist community.

What we’ve learned is this. It isn’t enough just to impart information. It’s important to make sure that you’re delivering it in a way that it can be grasped and then used in the real world. In the future we want to get better at this, because there is always room for improvement.

We aim to build TuneCore to be the destination where artists can start, grow and manage their careers, while working to level the playing field for all independent artists.

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