IMI’s Blaise Fernandes: ‘Misuse of Safe Harbour Provisions erodes value for all stakeholders’

Every country in the world has an organisation like the Indian Music Industry (IMI). For instance, in the US, there is the RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) while in Australia – the ARIA (Australian Recording Industry Association) is present.

In India, the IMI is the national body that represents the business and trade interest of record labels through measures including but not limited to policy, advocacy, anti-piracy measures, dialogue with the Government, and engagement with stakeholders. The IMI is an affiliation to the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) and one of only 70 national bodies globally. This institution is responsible for propelling growth and offering solutions to endemic issues plaguing the Indian music industry.

In an exclusive chat, Blaise Fernandes, President and CEO, IMI, talks to Music Plus about the industry at large, highlighting the incredible growth we’re on the cusp of.

When did the annual research reports become essential to tracking the music industry? 

Economic and Legal research are the raison d’être of IMI. Research Reports & Analysis helps the internal and external stakeholders make informed decisions. Research reports put the collective point of view of the record labels across the country to the stakeholders and policy makers.

What is the process of your data collection for these reports?

Primary data comes from members, industry reports, government reports whereas global data comes from IFPI and RIAA. We try and stick to primary sources for data. Industry estimates is also another source.

What is the IMI working on at the moment? 

IMI is currently working on studying two very path breaking reports, the Section 512 study conducted in the United States and the Online Platforms and the Digital Single Market Opportunities and Challenges for Europe study conducted in the EU. These reports launched by the US Copyright Office and EU Commission examine the misuse of Safe Harbour Provisions by interactive platforms. The India Report is due Q1 of 2022.

What according to the IMI, has shaped music in India this last year?

The ongoing covid pandemic in 2021 made for another challenging year to trudge forward. Through this period, it has never been clearer that music plays an important role in helping music listeners through hard times – the therapeutic effect.

The IFPI Music Consumer Insight 2021 reveals that music has had a positive effect on people in India and around the world in these difficult times. Per the study, 96% of surveyed respondents in India ‘strongly agreed’ or ‘agreed’ that music provided and was a source of enjoyment and happiness in 2021.

The second most agreed statement for music listening during the pandemic was that music helped with emotional well-being – according to 92% of surveyed music listeners in India. Music’s positive impact on mental health is something that shaped lives in India.

Are we prised to experience growth after three years of seeing the same numbers? 

In 2019, the Indian Recorded Music Industry grew 18.7% compared to the previous year while in 2020 with the onset of the pandemic and the unprecedented impact of it on the recorded music industry, the industry grew by a mere 4.9% after four years of consecutive double digit growth.

More than a year after the pandemic set off in 2019 – and people have learnt to co-exist with the virus- we anticipate pre-pandemic level growths for the recorded music industry in India for 2021. Moreover, with the growth of audio streaming – which also attracted new music listeners – and other revenue formats like public performance slowly picking up, we are optimistic that the Indian recorded music industry will continue to grow atop new trends that will help place India in the Top 10 music markets in the world by 2025.

What do we need to overcome these challenges at the earliest?

Despite a rich talent pool, antiquated laws mandating statutory licensing for radio and television broadcast, coupled with the threat of it being extended to internet services have created an atmosphere of uncertainty. Further, ambiguity in society registrations and interpretation of rules pertaining to collection societies is another big hurdle. The misuse of Safe Harbour provisions also erodes value for all stakeholders in the music industry.

These issues hamper investment plans of record labels who are forced to take a defensive outlook and stick to genres that work (i.e.) film soundtracks, leaving no money for talent development with new genres or deeper investments in traditional genres. It also deters new players wanting to enter the Indian market.

Thus, reforms to the above antiquated laws will be needed to overcome hurdles and create a climate that encourages robust investments in all genres of music across India. If the aforementioned issues are addressed, with 22 languages and 20,000 dialects, it is not difficult at all for the next ‘Despacito’, ‘Gangnam Style’ or a group like BTS to originate from India.

Will regional music in India be able to overtake Hindi film music in 2022? 

With an Indian ecosystem of 448 million smartphone users growing up to 973 million by 2025, all music genres will grow in India. All languages and genres will co-exist in India. We call it the democratisation of the music industry. Anyone can listen to any music via streaming.

What can we expect next from the IMI?

The working of the existing intermediary liability regime in India is a crucial issue for us. Due to rapid technological advancements, the expanding nature of certain interactive intermediaries and proliferation of new forms of online platforms hosting User Generated Content, it becomes imperative to re-evaluate the scope and functioning of the prevailing intermediary liability regime for interactive digital platforms.

Therefore, the negative economic impact to the recorded music industry due to the misuse of Safe Harbour Provisions by interactive digital platforms is an important area of study for IMI.

Visit the IMI here 

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