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New players turn up the volume in Tamil audio rights business

Celebrities and filmstars start their own music companies, creating a healthy, competitive scenario in the Tamil audio rights business

Latha Srinivasan 

He has played the angry young man on-screen, but this time, he took on that role in real life. Actor-producer launched his music label, V Music, in September because of the difficulties he had faced while selling the of some of his productions. He’s not the only actor today to venture into the music business in the Tamil film industry. National Award-winning actor too launched his music label, Wunderbar Studio, last year.

In recent years, there’s been a sudden spurt in the number of audio labels in the Tamil film market, making it much more competitive. With Gemini Music and Venus Records fading out and Saregama not buying too many new film audio rights, Sony Music had become the market leader. The scenario has changed with labels like Eros, V Music, Wunderbar Studio, Divo, Think Music and possibly even T Series, coming in.

Eros came with a bang by appointing Soundarya Rajinikanth as its creative and strategy head in the south and by acquiring the to A R Murugadoss’s Kaththi and Rajinikanth’s Lingaa. Deepak Bali, general manager (music division), Eros International, says, “The Tamil music market is very robust and growing. We feel the music consumption in the South is much higher than anywhere else in the country in terms of regional languages. Competition or no competition, there is always space in any business and that’s the space we wanted to target.” He believes that competition is healthy for any business and so is the case in music. “We are very positive about the way we are approaching and acquiring content.”

Another company that made its mark is It helped distribute the music of Vellai Illa Pathdhari. Shahir Muneer, director at Divo, explains that it is a digital entertainment company who acquire and distribute music for other labels. He says, “Last year the mobile value-added services industry had regulations imposed by Telecom Regulatory Authority of India with regard to downloads. This resulted in a dip of almost 80 per cent in revenue in caller ringback tones downloads.” This led to a drastic reduction in the acquisition costs of music rights in the market, which enabled our distribution services to smaller films. “Some of the bigger production houses like Wunderbar Films and also tied up with “These felt that selling the music rights for a one-time price wasn’t lucrative when there was an opportunity to make lifetime revenue by retaining these rights and creating an asset for their company as well.”

Star value makes a big difference in terms of music consumption like air play on radio, marketing by mobile companies and digital platforms and thus, revenues. The audio rights of films which feature both A-list stars and top music directors go for record prices. Experts say that the audio rights for an A R Rahman film could be easily sold at Rs 1.5 crore, while a Harris Jayaraj film can fetch Rs 70 lakh. Today, the albums of three other music directors — Anirudh, Imman and Santhosh Narayanan — are highly sought after as they are profitable for the labels.

Not all the players have deep pockets, nor are they willing to spend an exorbitant amount to acquire a film’s audio rights. “Our focus is identifying that combination of good content at the right price; content that is unique and appealing to our listeners and not based on the budget of a film,” says Santhosh Kumar, senior manager, content acquisition, Think Music.

A major issue facing companies in this business is breaking even after acquiring the rights to a film at a phenomenal price. Often, the price of acquisition of the content is not proportionate to the market value. Eros’ Bali adds, “There are investments that one makes initially in any new business.” With new global services launching in the country and more platforms opening up to monetise music, Eros says that it is confident about the same. “It’s the overall business that we are looking at. We are being conscious about the price that we are paying and the quality of music that we are acquiring.”

One thing is clear — the Tamil audio rights market now presents a level-playing field for any company that comes in. So, it is ultimately a film’s music that will determine their success.

First Published: Sat, November 08 2014. 00:14 IST