“The time is ripe for the music industry to be unified” – Neeraj Kalyan, President, T-Series

On 31st March 2021, T-Series and The Indian Performing Right Society Limited (IPRS) announced that the former has officially joined IPRS as a member.

This is a significant development as T-Series is one of the major music labels of the country with a catalogue of more than 200,000 titles including 50,000 plus music videos across Indian languages. IPRS will now represent T-Series’ music publishing catalogue of lyrics and musical compositions and license to a wide variety of platforms and businesses in India. The move will benefit authors and music composer members of IPRS.

To know more about this watershed moment for the Indian music industry, we spoke to man behind this development, Neeraj Kalyan, President, T-Series.

Neeraj started his career with T-Series in 1996 as a Manager and played an integral role in the company’s success. During his 25 year stint he has successfully navigated T-Series through the various changes in the music business, including the shift from physical to the current digital market.

What took T-Series so long to join IPRS? Soon after re-admitting IPRS, CISAC had claimed IPRS to be the fastest growing collection society in the world, what made you wait this long?

Things only happen at the right time, and this was the right time to join IPRS. Moreover what took us so long to join is not important but in fact the important issue which we all need to focus is how to take advantage of this alliance and make the pie grow for the entire music industry. Joining IPRS at this stage was the natural progression and a logical step for us, which will ensure that music creators and labels work together in tandem towards growth of the industry as a whole.

What convinced you to join IPRS?

We, at T-Series are very passionate about the music we create and know the amount of hard work, effort and skill that goes into making a song popular. The perception in India especially is that ‘music is free for all to use’. This attitude has to change! Authors, Composers and Music Labels alike have to be given their dues for their skill, effort and creativity. Internationally, there is not even an iota of doubt that publishing is a separate right, whereas in India, despite the 2012 Copyright Amendments we as a community are still struggling in courts to establish rights in underlying literary and musical works. It is only when the music community as a whole is united, can we bring about this change. It is this passion to work towards the interest of the music industry that drove us to re-join IPRS.

Now that you are an IPRS member, what happens to your in-house royalty collection and distribution system?

Music licensing is a complex field. However, we operate on a very simple principle. As regards, publishing royalties we only collect the publisher owner share of royalties in underlying literary and musical works that we are entitled to do so under law, and authors and composers have always collected their share directly from IPRS. The only change now would be that both the authors share of royalties and publisher’s share of royalties in relation to the rights entrusted to IPRS by us, shall be collected directly by IPRS. We will continue to license rights in the master sound recording, which in itself is a separate and distinct work under law.

Earlier you were your own collection society, now there’s a third party involved between you and your composers/lyricists, will your royalty distribution structure change or are you retaining it?

We were never a ‘collection society’ nor claimed to be one. We were only collecting what is due to us under the law as publisher owner of literary and musical works, while IPRS was always free to collect the authors share of royalties in respect of the same. What would change now is that IPRS will become a single source of collection for both these shares of royalties, including ours as owner publisher, for the rights that we have entrusted them to administer.

How will your induction in IPRS impact the Indian music industry?

The way I see it, unification of authors, composers and music labels is the only way to ensure that everyone gets their dues for their contribution into making of a song. Joining IPRS is only the first step and together, whether through negotiations or availing remedies available to us in law,  I am sure that publishing rights in India will get a major boost and will lead to growth of the music industry.

As a board member of the IPRS, what changes do you want to propose in the functioning of the organisation?

We have just joined IPRS, and I would say how the society functions will be decided by the members of the society as a whole.

Do major players like yourself (T-Series) actually need to be part of a society? Don’t you get better deals when dealing individually?

Joining collection societies is not about being a major or small player in the industry. Collection Societies such as IPRS have been formed for ease of business for users of music as well as ensuring protection, enforcement and licensing of the publishing rights through a single window, so as to ensure that its members get the royalties that they are entitled to in law.

What would you say to players who are still not part of IPRS?

The time is ripe for the music industry to be unified and work towards the growth of all stakeholders.

We have heard that many industry stalwarts are hailing you as man of the moment as you played a vital role in stitching it all together. What would you like to say to that?

I have always believed in the power of a dialogue. Both T-Series & IPRS always kept the dialogue window open to find a common ground. Both parties had intent to align to develop synergies for the larger good and with support from my friends in the industry like Devraj Sanyal, MD Universal Music, Ameet Dutta and few others including Geetanjali Visvanathan, Partner at Ira Law who helped us with her valuable legal inputs, both parties were able to strike a win-win arrangement. Negotiations are part & parcel of any deal / agreement and it was indeed a great learning experience negotiating with a learned team at the other end of the table. Mr.Bhushan Kumar’s leadership and Mr.Javed Akhtar’s vision for IPRS were the guiding lights which encouraged us achieve this watershed moment for the industry.

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