Music publishing has been largely unexplored in India. Artists and music labels turned a blind eye to this critical aspect of the music business for a long time.
During its teething period, the music industry was oblivious to publishing, essentially due to a lack of knowledge about this aspect of the business. Film producers and artists would sign all rights in the recordings to the music label. This was because the only music business entities around were the labels. Even if someone wanted to look at a separate publisher, there was no such option.
From the artists’ perspective, they wanted the album to be released and promoted. It was and is still very rare for artists to ask questions about the clauses of a contract or negotiate royalty rates. The artists are eager to get the record out. They get into contracts without reading or taking legal advice prior to signing them. Upcoming artists especially would dare not try a negotiation for fear of losing the deal. Even established artists over the years have not bothered about the receipt of royalty. Since they assumed that it would not be paid. Even if it was, the amount would be so little that it did not warrant bothering about.
The rise of music publishing business in India
After the digital business evolved in India, the physical business model collapsed dramatically. People started to explore new avenues of revenue generation. The first stream of revenue in the digital business was the ‘ringtone’. This is a music publishing right and not a sound recording one. Once the digital business settled with ‘ringtones’ and ‘ring-back’ tones, the question everyone asked was: What are the relevant rights for this and who has them?
“Once numbers started appearing in the media about the amount of revenue ring-back tones were generating (whether accurate or inflated), the creative fraternity sat up. Composers and authors especially were agitated as they were just paid a one-time fee by the producer. They had no share of royalty in the digital business. This is when the whole understanding of rights started,” explained Atul Churamani, Founder/Managing Director Turnkey Music and Publishing Pvt. Ltd.