Music consumption pattern has drastically changed – Shridhar Subramaniam – Part 1

Music consumption pattern has drastically changed - Shridhar Subramaniam - Part 1

Music has always been a key component of Bollywood films. Over the years, however there have been a lot of significant changes in the music industry right from a different pattern of music consumption to newer revenue models to regulatory changes. All of these have impacted the music industry in some way or the other. Bollywood Hungama's Nikhil Ramsubramaniam met up with Shridhar Subramaniam (President of Sony Music Entertainment- India and Middle East) for an exclusive chat to find out what are the changes, new opportunities, issues affecting the music industry. Presenting you Part 1 of this exclusive interview…

How important a role does music play in determining a film's future prospects especially considering the fact that it's the music of a film that the consumer first comes in contact with even before watching the film?
The important role that music plays in the success of a Bollywood movie hasn't changed. In fact, it's probably become more dependent given the adventurous nature of Bollywood scripts and the way they are headed. Many a times unless you have a hit song, it's difficult to break a new talent and get the popularity of the film going. We have seen numerous examples in the recent past like Barfi! (a different kind of a film where the main protagonist was mute) or Student Of The Year ( where 3 new faces were launched) where the music of the film was the initial driving force in helping the film getting noticed in a big way. However, that doesn't mean that films which don't have hit music don't get an opening. Yet music was, is and will continue to be one of the single biggest drivers for film marketing.

Over the years, how do you think has the consumption of music changed with evolution of digital platforms?
Of course the way music is being consumed has changed drastically over the years. The consumption pipeline is a long chain. It begins with the discovery stage. Firstly where do you discover your music? From radio in the earlier days to T.V to now online platforms like YouTube, the point of discovery of music has changed. Secondly where are you experiencing music before actually buying it? That has also changed from the walkman to TV to now again mainly on online platforms. Lastly comes where do you actually buy your music? The days of going to a record store and buying your favourite music has almost diminished, then you had the phase where you could order music online or on your mobile phone via IVRS. Now with the digital eco-system changing, you can go to streaming sites like or online stores like iTunes or the various operator networks which has really brought about a drastic change. The contribution of digital to total music sales is nearly 60% now.

Music consumption pattern has drastically changed - Shridhar Subramaniam - Part 1

The consumption of music on mobile has also been a fast growing phenomenon right from advent of CRBT's (Caller Ring Back Tones) to full track downloads. Could you shed some light on how mobile consumption of music has had an impact on the music industry?
Ring back tones (CRBT) used to account for a major chunk (about 80%) of digital music sales. If you look at CRBTs people used to be confused whether it is part of the music business or not? Yes the money does come back to the music industry but the CRBT is not a music experience, it's just a personalized, novelty experience where you are setting a 30 second clip of a song and that too for somebody else to listen. In the last few years we are now seeing the evolution of full track downloads and a full video experience which is bringing about further change in how music is being consumed.

In the earlier days, the music or first promo of a film used to break on TV or radio but now it mostly debuts online. Do you think that parameters of measuring the success of a film's music has changed with producers and music companies focusing more on how many views their particular song has received online?
You need to view this in the context of how consumers interact with the media. For the longest time we've been a broadcast media, with no real two way communication. The moment you go digital, there is essentially a very clear 2 way communication which may be in the form of a 'Like' or a 'Dislike' or a 'Comment'. So there is now an opportunity for the consumers to now talk directly and interact with the content provider, share the content with their friends if they like it or tear it apart with nasty comments if they dislike it. The moment your content becomes interactive, the metric changes. So you are concerned if a certain song has got X no. of views or X no. of likes or X no. of comments. Basically the only metric that defines a successful content is whether the content is able to engage and build a conversation around it. So clearly the parameters to define the success of a song or a music album have changed. Our big Eureka moment at Sony Music happened around 2 years ago when 'Kolaveri Di' became such a big rage just a few days after it went viral. That was in many ways a defining moment for us to realize the power of digital.

With the explosion in the digital platforms, how has the contribution of other revenue streams like Radio and Physical Sales been to the overall revenue of a music company over the last few years?
There are 3 main key sources of revenue for a music company. First is physical sales, 2nd is digital and 3rd is via broadcast (which includes everything from Radio to giving out your music to be played on T.V. channels to licensing to publishing to performance etc). The digital evolution has shoved both physical and broadcast aside. Physical sales is going through a rapid decline of nearly 10-15 % each year. The decline also varies across markets. For e.g. the decline of physical sales in the South isn't as steep as it is in other parts of India. That is because devotional and classical music still are hugely popular in the south and these are usually listened by the middle aged and elderly people who like to own the CD. There are various reasons for decline in physical sales such as the lack of consumer interest, retail avenues shrinking, and of course the convenience of digital platforms. Still physical sales do play their part though their contribution to the overall chunk is on the decline. The size of the total music industry as of today is around Rs. 800 crores and out of that almost Rs. 170 crores is through physical sales. At one point of time, the contribution from physical sales used to be as high as Rs. 600 crores. The contribution of broadcast also used to be very high. At one point of time, it used to be about 35% of total revenues but now its shrunk to around 20% because of various regulations in radio, compulsory licensing regime, revenue share model as opposed to a per hour rate, and also television broadcasters constant lobbying with the Govt. challenging the rate etc.

Article written by staff at Bollywood Hungama. Read more

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