Interview of the Week- Jay Mehta, MD, Warner Music Group, India & SAARC

A month ago, Warner Music Group (WMG) announced the expansion of its presence in India, through the launch of its newest affiliate. WMG is the last of the majors (after Sony Music and UMG) to enter the Indian market.

Widely respected music industry executive Jay Mehta has been named the first Managing Director of the new territory. 

Apart from India, Jay will oversee other markets in the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) viz., Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka. Based in Mumbai, Jay reports to Alfonso Perez-Soto, EVP, Eastern Europe, Middle East, Africa, and India. 

Prior to joining Warner, Jay served as the Director of Digital Business for several years at Sony Music India. He has also spent years in the Broadcast, and Telecom industry gaining viable experience before joining Sony. 

Within the last twelve months, WMG has opened new offices, acquired labels, and announced partnerships in Turkey, Peru, Finland, Slovakia, and Nigeria, respectively. Entering the Indian market is the latest example of WMG’s long term expansion of its global reach and local expertise. 

In India, WMG will not only be competing with the global major but also with major music companies within India such as T-Series, Saregama, Zee Music Company, etc. 

To know how this competition will shape up and what plans WMG has for the Indian market, we spoke to Jay Mehta, the first MD of Warner Music Group, India & SAARC in an exclusive interview. 

Music Plus (MP): As the MD of WMI what will be your core responsibilities?

Jay Mehta (JM): My first task is to grow Warner Music’s presence in India, as well as the other markets in the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC). I’ll be working to leverage our incredible international repertoire in the region, while also looking to develop local artists who have the potential to become global stars.

MP: Why do you think this is the right time for Warner Music to launch in India?

JM: The tastes of people in India are diversifying, and with new genres springing up alongside the traditional Bollywood sound, now feels like the perfect time to open in India. Also streaming revenue rose 30.9% in 2018 and represented almost 70% of the market’s revenue. We feel we can add value to India’s growing digital music audience by signing new talent and showcasing our global stars.

MP: How do you see the Indian market compared to the other regions that you are supervising?

JM: India is the most developed country in the SAARC in terms of music consumption, so we see it as a market that’s ready for us to really start pushing international artists and there’s a great scene building with local acts that are ready to be signed. 

Markets, in the other countries, are still developing, but, of course, we’ll be working in those territories to push global talent.

MP: Have you signed any artists or how are you planning to do so under WMI?

JM: We haven’t signed anyone yet, but we are in talks with a number of exciting acts and I hope to get a few of them over the line soon. We’ll let you know when we have news!

MP: With the launch of WMI, the competition for the existing majors just toughened. Sony, market-share-wise, is the biggest major in India, and UMI is gaining ground, how do you see WMI’s position in India?

JM: I’m delighted to have joined a company with such an amazing international roster which I believe is as strong as anyone’s. Of course, we’re starting from scratch in terms of local artists – and signing and developing acts, which we really believe in, can take time.

MP: How do you plan to gain market share in a crowded market dominated by strong regional players and also the presence of the two other majors?

JM: By signing the best young talent out there and developing them into real quality artists with longevity. Warner prides itself globally on its artist development and we plan to replicate that winning formula here. Warner Music also has a brilliant international marketing team, so we’re plugging into that network and will start really working with global superstars in the region.

MP: With regional and non-film music being the driving force for the other majors, how important are regional and non-film music to WMI? Beyond your international catalogue, are you planning to acquire/create local content?

JM: India is evolving rapidly, both in terms of taste and consumption habits. With so many languages and cultural influences in one country, regional is the new mainstream in India. We will try to work towards creating an ecosystem where the only filter would be the music that appeals to the particular regional audience – it could be film, non-film, local, or international music.

We’re focused on having our ears to the ground, and signing the best talent out there. We hope to find Indian artists from all different genres that can go on to become global stars, as well as making international stars household names in India.

We truly want to live the maxim that music has no barriers.

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