In an exclusive interview with Financial Express Online Vinit Thakkar, COO, Universal Music India talked about music culture trends in India, Bollywood music and emergence of online music platforms. Excerpts:
People celebrate World Music Day every year on 21 June to encourage young and upcoming musicians and motivate them. On World Music Day people celebrate by playing their favourite instruments and songs. The World Music Day is also known as Fête de la Musique. Across the globe people celebrate World Music Day and organise public concerts for free in parks, stadiums and other public places. Different musical concerts and events are organised to mark this special day. In an exclusive interview with Financial Express Online Vinit Thakkar, COO, Universal Music India talked about music culture trends in India, Bollywood music and emergence of online music platforms. Excerpts:
How has been this revolution in building a strong culture and category for non-film music?
At Universal Music India, we have played an integral part in shaping the culture and category of non-film music in our country. We started this journey in 2018 with our commercial Pop music label VYRL Originals. In 2019, we launched Mass Appeal India, which has become the premier label, promoting Indian Hip Hop music. With Bollywood releases coming to a grinding halt last year due to the pandemic, we have seen many major Indian music labels gravitating towards this category. In the last 15-18 months, most of the pan-India success stories have been from the world of non-film music. We believe that this is just the beginning, and we have not even seen the tip of the iceberg yet. Over the next couple of years, we expect to see an even more significant shift in India towards non-film music content consumption and more artist-centric music across all major regions and languages.
How has the music industry changed strategies and has continuously delivered back-to-back hits?
Unlike UMG India, where we have been promoting non-film music aggressively since 2018, most of the large Indian local labels focused on film soundtrack music. With the onset of the pandemic in early 2020 and with the film releases on hold, quite a few music labels like these had a content drought. And that is when we saw them swing into action and shift their focus towards non-film music. Like in any other industry, it is very crucial to adapt to the changing environment. And I think the music industry did a great job of shifting its focus around artist-centric music. I would say that a large part of the credit of delivering HITS should actually go to the artists. The last few years have seen an emergence of some incredibly talented new artists who have had very little or no history with the world of soundtrack music. At VYRL Originals, few names that come to my mind are Vishal Mishra, Akull and Sukriti – Prakriti.
Overall, how has non-film music been a subset of Bollywood – in terms of artists driven, soundtrack driven, composition, etc.
I wouldn’t say that non-film music is a subset of Bollywood. Especially in today’s day and age, it’s almost impossible to distinguish between film and non-film music based just on the composition, artist, etc. Both are different forms of commercial music. In fact, as mentioned above, we have noticed the emergence of some incredible talent who predominantly focus only on non-film music and have very little to do with film music. The good thing about non-film music is that most artists/musicians themselves are an integral part of the audio-visual, unlike Bollywood /film music, where artist/musicians seldom get a chance to be a part of the audio-visual units.
Your views on the Label’s approach in spotting & mentoring new talents.
At VYRL Originals and Mass Appeal India, we encourage a lot of new talent. Our teams are constantly on the lookout for talented artists. With the incredible success we have demonstrated across both our sub-labels, we have become their first label choice for almost all artists in India. We always keep artists at the centre of everything and do our best to create an environment that fosters creativity and helps artists bring out their best. Over the last few years, we have built an incredible team that works as an extension of the artist team. I have always believed that other than being best at their craft, an artist definitely needs to hustle to make it big in this industry.
Your views on the emergence of Online music platforms.
The major shift started in 2016, post the launch of 4G in India. With the high penetration of smartphones and availability of high-speed data at possibly the lowest cost in the world, and proliferation of OTT platforms across audio and audio-video formats, there was a marked shift in consumer behaviour. Consumption habits started to become on-demand and on-the-go. These platforms have also created a lot of opportunities for talent across India. Today content consumption has actually become ubiquitous across audio OTT, video OTT, social media, short-video platforms, etc.