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How is the Punjabi Music Industry Coping with COVID-19 Pandemic?



The Indian music industry has traditionally been divided into two segments, film and non-film music. Expectedly movie soundtracks claim a lion’s share of all music that is released in the country, but the non-film segment has been catching up and witnessed a steady growth over the years. Much of this growth has been driven by the non-Hindi speaking regions of the country. And leading the charge by far is the thriving Punjabi music industry.


The Growth of Punjabi Music Industry

Almost every Bollywood movie features a Punjabi song. With the production quality getting on par with the global standards, artists are amassing millions of streams and views on the digital platforms. One of reasons for this has been the progress made over the years in the caliber of  artists and their singing and besides there is a burgeoning pool of upcoming talent with huge untapped potential. Another factor is the very positive competition among the artists.

 “Punjabi music industry has grown decently because a lot of artists have done commendable work on the big screen as well. Our artists are seen performing a lot of gigs and live shows all over the world. The language has also resonated with multiple audiences therefore making the growth even more immense,” said popular Punjabi artist, Nav Raj Hans.

The Punjabi music industry is pegged at around Rs. 700 crore, which also includes revenues from streaming, live shows and advertising. It is much bigger than the rest of the non-Hindi segments in the country. The Punjabi industry has around 400 registered music labels and releases an average of 15-20 songs on a daily basis. In 2019, more than 4000 songs with videos were released. It is also heartening that independent artists have always had their space in Punjabi music. While the other regional segments too have produced great artists and content, they have never been able to match up to the Punjabi music scenario.

 “The reason is diversity and a positive approach. Everyone wants to offer variety and that makes it a vast and most regional industry. I feel lucky that we entered this field when Punjabi industry gained a boost. Now it’s on us how you utilize this advantage and bring out the best in our songs. I see it growing in terms of different compositions, different flavour in music and a lot of young singers are coming in with immense talent,” stated Maninder Buttar, one of the leading artists from Punjab.

Impact of COVID-19

The music industry is essentially dependent on large audiences and live-experiences. With the lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the music labels have had to strategise, devise, assemble and optimise new resources for music promotions. How big an impact has the lockdown had on the Punjabi music industry?

Explaining the predicament the industry found itself in through the last few months, Satvinder Singh Kohli, MD, Speed Records said,

“The last few months have yielded nothing but negativity and I feel it will take at least another 6 months for the industry to get back on track. It is only after January 2021 that the industry will be working at full strength. Every individual involved with the Punjabi music industry, be it artists, composers, technicians will have to face a drop in their commercial interests till there is some stability. This will of course result in lesser pay packages for everyone.”

Most labels refrained from releasing music in the initial phase of the lockdown. Many have taken the digital route to promote and release their content though this may not generate similar revenues and interests like the traditional format.

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The Online Streaming Revenue

According to data shared by the leading music streaming platform, JioSaavn, Punjabi is the 2nd most-streamed regional language. There has been a 38.6% increase in the consumption of Punjabi folk music in the State of Punjab during the lockdown period between March and July. Though there has been an increase in the consumption pattern of online platforms, the industry, on the whole, remains unsure about the conditions, with payments mostly on hold and also the drying up of advertising revenues.

Traditionally music and especially live music plays a prominent role in the Punjabi culture. The huge Punjabi diaspora has ensured the rise of its popularity across the world. With the advent of digital distribution, the overseas market has opened up to Punjabi music like never before, hence attracting investments and also high returns. The other key players for the music industry, like the advertisers and sponsors, are currently adopting a wait and watch approach. A huge portion of the music industry’s revenue depends on what strategies they finalise for the immediate as well as long term future.

With the entire live music industry coming to a screeching halt due to the pandemic, it has resulted in almost every artist and many labels exploring the digital space. While this may be the only option currently available, it might come to be seen as a claustrophobic space.

Kohli stressed,

“The main sources of revenue generation in the Punjabi music industry are YouTube and the streaming platforms. Since the lockdown was implemented, the income through these sources has dried up by 30-40% as advertising on these platforms has decreased massively,”

He further added,

“In this melee, some artists have started their own music labels and YouTube channels. This also has had an effect on the industry. An artist won’t be able to run his label as professionally as they are not seasoned to the day to day functioning of a label. The revenue generation currently is not the same as the pre C0VID-19 era so we cannot work on the same business model as earlier and expect to survive the current crisis. Everyone will have to compromise for the industry to tide over the present scenario.”

The Immediate Future

Many artists have already started performing Live on digital platforms. There are ticketed events that are doing well though they might not earn as much as the on-ground events, as currently everyone is still adapting to it. With the government in ‘Unlock’ mode, the future augurs well for these concerts. But the content remains king. If the song is produced and marketed well and is overall a good song, it will definitely generate business. It might not be the same amount as a few months back and won’t be for the next six months.

“While most people resign themselves to their fate, Punjabis have never done that. They have been enterprising even during the lockdown, looking at making and releasing music. The current situation will be the “New Normal” for the immediate future,” said Rabindra Narayan, MD and President, PTC Network.

“At PTC we hosted the first-ever online film awards ceremony, PTC Punjabi Film Awards 2020, where we had participants from across the globe. The pandemic has surely had an impact on the music industry but not on the artists who earn majorly through their earlier released content. The advertising revenues have dried up but artists can still earn their revenue through on-line platforms. Artists have started performing on e-concerts. Overall one has to be optimistic,” he added.

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