Music Industry In India: A Conversation With Rajesh Dhupad
A conversation with Mr. Rajesh Dhupad, CEO of Symphony Recording Company, on running his label in India, piracy and radio royalties
Music Business News got into a conversation with Mr. Rajesh Dhupad, CEO, Symphony Recording Company and Jt. Sect., SIMCA. A passionate music lover, himself, Mr. Dhupad lends more than just expertise to all his ventures. Running a successful venture and holding a responsible position, our conversation with him couldn't have got more insightful.
Tell us a bit about the beginnings of Symphony Recording Company
Symphony Recording Company started in 1988. We were audio retailers, initially (started in 1983). We then progressed to distribution of blank cassettes. From there we progressed to production of music, manufacture of cassettes and videos.
Your label or rather you, are known for encouraging new talent. Was this something you intended to do as a part of your label or did it happen eventually?
When I started out doing music albums in 1988, the very first album saw us introducing new talent. The album was a devotional album. The top devotional singer at that time was K Veeramani. In that album we had 5 songs by K.Veeramani and 5 songs by a new singer, Veeramani Raju. One of the key functions of Symphony Recording Company is identifying, nurturing and promoting new talent.
Could you name some prolific artists who you have introduced to the industry?
Almost all the talent in the devotional industry in the Tamil music scene i.e. singers, composers, writers has been launched by Symphony Recording Company.
Of all the genres listed, what has been the highest revenue generating one for you?
We deal with genres like Folk, Pop, Devotional, and Comedy. We have also launched a few Carnatic albums but, haven't gone ahead with it in a big way. Devotional music, however, is the genre that has worked profitably for us.
Tell us a bit more about your latest offering - Symphony Digital Store.
We've begun it on small key. We've generated a small amount of business on it. To be frank, it isn't working that great. But, what's encouraging is that of whatever business we've generated so far, maximum has come from India itself. People everywhere do have a perception that Indians don't legally buy music, and our medium proves these people wrong.
Unlike other labels who believe in giving away a major chunk of their promotional tools on film music, your company gives a sparse area to the same and concentrates heavily on genres like pop, folk, devotional. Why?
It was a very conscious decision that I took long back. We were initially into film music in 1989. But, we realized that it didn't match our views. The way in which Tamil music functions is way different from the way the films function. You do not have any say in the music, marketing and content of film music. The production house gives you the recorded piece and you just have to market it. Another serious angle to it is that whenever you go to buy a certain product you see, touch and feel the product. What happens in the Tamil film industry is that at the launch of a film; there is a composer, producer and director come together and sit for the music of the film. An advance is paid to the music producer who in a period of 6 - 8 months readies the master copy. The balance amount is paid by the producer of the film and the master copy is collected. The music company purchases those songs without knowing what kind of songs it contains, quality, and content. So, that is my primary concern - why buy something without knowing anything about it?!
However, if a scenario arises wherein, I could listen to the songs, and then decide if I have to buy it, or not. I am in the music business, solely for my love for music and not for making money.
Piracy has been an issue that has affected the length and breadth of the industry. How have you been dealing with it?
The piracy issue has been affecting the industry since long. Today, piracy is at its peak due to the technology. The MP3 technology sounded the death knell for the industry. That was the time when the music producers, themselves could not match the pirate. When a cassette was made it contained around 12 songs and it was marketed by the label. The pirate also did the same but, he gave it out at 1 - 3rd the price of the music label's quoted price. With the mp3, the pirate could put in a hundred songs in a single cd and sell it for 20 bucks. This is something the music company could not do. With internet, obtaining a song came at no cost - absolutely free! The mobile medium has now enabled a music lover to go to a mobile store and feed his card with the latest tracks for a dirt cheap price. We haven't been able to tackle this form of piracy. At the same time, we at Symphony have been doing our bit. We decided to make a short film to educate the masses about piracy. Sadly, most of them don't know what a hologram is and what it signifies. The video we made was recognized at the recently held GIMA awards. It makes me happy to see that our effort has been recognized. However, we haven't been getting access to put this short film on TV due to lack of support. The most in this case we can do is include it in our label's video products. Also, now people have guilt at the back of their mind when they purchase a pirated copy.
Why hasn't the South India Music Companies' Association (SIMCA) merged with a larger entity like the IMI?
SIMCA was formed to tackle with the issues of the south Indian music industry.
Are the members of SIMCA a part of PPL?
No, we are regularly in touch with PPL for membership.
How has the recent Supreme Court ruling for FM stations and their rev sharing with the music labels gone down with SIMCA members?
We are shocked by the unjust order given by the court. FM stations are just asked to shell out 2% of their revenues with the music labels. The running of the organization isn't my concern. My concern is that the FM stations works on music. Without music there cannot be a radio station. Almost 70 - 80% of content on radio stations is music. With music being a major chunk of their content they feel paying a mere 2% would suffice?! This is against all basic business norms. No where in the world this is happening. This is the view of the SIMCA members.
Which are the largest companies in SIMCA and what are their revenues like?
I can't disclose the revenue figures. The labels that are doing really well are Star audio, Satyam audio (Kerala), Millenium Audio (Kerala), Supriya Recording Co., Abhirami Recording Co. Amutham music, Swargaswara Audio (Kerala).
What do you think is going to be the next big thing for SIMCA?
We've been looking forward to the 3G technology. It defines the future of music.
The restructured panel at SIMCA aims to work towards the copyright issue, what have been the steps in the direction so far been?
The Copyright amendment that was stabled around 10 months back had the SIMCA members give in their views. It was good to see that in every step the opinions of the SIMCA members were taken into consideration.