Interview of the Week – S L Saha, Director, Inreco Entertainment (P) Ltd.

The non-film and regional languages music has witnessed a huge surge in consumption lately. Regional music accounted for more than a billion streams in December 2019, registering eight times growth in the past two-and-a-half years.

Regional language music currently accounts for more than 35% music consumption on over-the-top (OTT) audio streaming platforms, with more than half of their consumers hailing from tier 2 and tier 3. It is no longer uncool to listen to your local music.

Though the regional music industries have been dominated by major music labels, many independent labels have contributed to its growth. One such being Inreco Entertainment (P) Ltd.

S L Saha, the director of the company, is one of the most respected names in the regional music market.

For our Interview of the Week, we spoke to Saha about the growth of the regional music market, benefits to regional labels by joining the collection societies, scope for independent musicians and more.

What holds for the regional music labels in the current scenario?

Ever since the Mobile Industry entered the Regions, the star of the Regional Labels has been on the rise. The Mobile Industry quickly realized that the penetration of Mobiles would be greatly enhanced if the CRBT and Full Track services included local language content. This provided Regional Music the boost it required to bring them to prominence.

How can the regional labels benefit by engaging with the collecting societies?

It is pertinent to remember that the Regional Labels are small outfits, where the family doubles up to do the work. Its simply not possible for them to fulfill the formalities required to do business with corporates in the Mobile Industry in far-off Mumbai or Delhi. It was, either Aggregators or Collecting Societies like PPL and later PDL.

How can the independent labels grow considering that the consumption is lopsided towards film music?

Being a Regional Player all my working life, this issue would need some elaboration. Nobody denies the popularity and market domination of Film Music.

If we divide the Market between those which has a strong market presence, there is also a continuous and steady market in the local language. It could be film songs in the local language, like in Maharashtra and Devotional and Classical Music in Tamil Nadu. Where Film Music is absent like in Punjab, Haryana, the consumption is lop-sided the other way. This is true of the North-East too.

The independent Labels are growing and will continue to grow as Streaming services are facilitated by the growing reach of Broadband.

Considering the lockdown in the film industry, is this the right opportunity for independent artists to display their art and talent? How should they go about with it?

Of course. The Artistes can do home recording and upload them on to YouTube (not viable, money-wise). They can become members of organisations, like PDL, who will ensure marketing and monetisation of their recordings.

There is never much information available about the South Indian music industry, any particular reason?

In their own Markets the South Indian Music Industry, specially Film Music, has its own Super-stars as the 4 Languages of the South are little understood in the rest of India. But their popularity and market abroad would be the envy of many of our All-India Stars. They dominate the Middle East, and have large pockets of influence in France, the UK, Germany, the U.S.A and Canada. Add to this Malaysia and Singapore where they are a considerable percentage of the population.

The language barrier has never been a problem with music, why has no South Indian music superstar transcended to the north?

Yesudas was a major star in Mumbai for very many years. S.P.Balasubramanian and Hariharan are still enthralling audiences singing Hindi Film Songs. It, therefore, would not be quite correct to say that South Indian Super Stars did not transcend to the North.

Also, most Artistes in the South are extremely busy in their own Regions. It is worthwhile to remember that the South makes over 400 Films in the 4 Languages in the South.

What are the immediate issues the industry will need to address post the lockdown?

The Music Industry was already out of its physical avatar much before the lockdown. Music had stopped selling in the form of Compact Discs and Audio Cassettes. Music was consumed on-line, through Streaming Services like Wynk, Gaana, Saavn and several overseas players like Apple (I-Tunes), Amazon, Spotify, are now in the fray.

The immediate task for the Industry is to replenish the catalogue. The Industry depends on new content to maintain itself in the public eye. This will be the foremost task for the Industry to get into immediately after the lockdown.

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