14 million in informal music industry, but paid below unskilled workers: Icrier – The Indian Express

The ‘informal music industry’ — which includes people like DJs, brass bands, independent artists, sound engineers, and small-scale manufacturers, among others — is at least 74 times bigger than the ‘formal’ music industry, which comprises recording studios and digital streaming, a new report has estimated.
Yet, the average salaries of those who form the informal music industry is lower than the typical average salary of an unskilled worker.
According to a report by the Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations (Icrier) titled ‘The Untold Potential of India’s Informal Music Industry’, the market size of the informal music industry in the country is between Rs 1 trillion and Rs 5 trillion. In comparison, the formal part of the industry is worth Rs 18.7 billion, or Rs 0.0187 trillion.
“The popularly available estimates for the music industry, primarily focused on the formal sector, are miniscule in comparison and reflect just the tip of the industry iceberg,” it said.
The report estimated that the informal music industry employs almost 14 million people, which, it said, is more than those employed by the Indian Railways or even the Indian government.
Sectorally, even though the industry employs more people than the telecom sector does, the report said that government policies focus on the telecom sector for their growth dividends, but “the music industry has remained on the periphery in the overall economic agenda for the country”.
Despite its large size, the estimated average monthly income of different sub-groups within the informal music industry is lower than the median salary of an unskilled worker under the Minimum Wage Act, 1948, the report has found.
Icrier said that while the median salary of an unskilled worker is around Rs 29,000, that of a sound engineer is Rs 28,000, for a DJ Rs 27,000, for brass bands Rs 19,000 and for instrument manufacturers Rs 12,500.
“The estimates for the informal music industry indicate a need for policy intervention with respect to improving livelihood opportunities for the sector, providing social security to vulnerable groups and nurturing its overall growth perspective,” said the report, which was commissioned by the Indian Music Industry (IMI) — an industry body which represents the interests of the recorded music industry in India. Its estimates are based on the triangulation of data from a multi-city field survey of 1,574 individuals, including members of 255 brass bands, 207 DJs, 201 sound engineers, 234 independent music teachers, and 677 independent artists.
While globally, some governments have approached music as an industry central to its cultural reflection and an opportunity for growth, “in India, music has seen commercial success primarily in the shadows of the film industry”, Icrier said in its report. It cited the example of South Korea, where the government has managed to create soft power through music.
At the same time, Icrier said organisations representing music artists in the country make far less revenue compared to their global counterparts.
The Indian Performing Rights Society (IPRS) and the Phonographic Performance Limited (PPL) are the leading organisations that govern the commercial use of music in India. “Our stakeholder interactions have suggested that while both institutions have matured and strengthened over time, in comparison to several other countries, the member association and revenue generated by these institutions remain relatively low,” the report said. For example, in 2021, the Society of Authors, Composers, and Publishers of Music (SACEM) in France collected royalties close to $1 billion. In comparison, the IPRS collected less than $200 million in royalties the same year, it estimated.
According to Icrier, “poor enforcement” of intellectual property rights laws is “perhaps the sorest point for the industry”.
The report added that “there is a history of exploitation especially towards creators of music” and many commercial activities in India continue to use copyright protected music without paying for it.
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India is one of the few countries that allows music to be performed at weddings and educational institutions without any copyright licence, the report said.
“In fact, in countries like the USA and UK, even religious institutions like churches pay royalty to local copyright societies for music performances. These exemptions result in huge losses, considering the volume of weddings and the economic activity surrounding it.”
The report recommended strengthening India’s copyright laws in favour of the industry. “The current Copyright Act allows exemptions to educational institutions, resident bodies, non-profit clubs, religious institutions and bonafide religious ceremonies including weddings. A more nuanced view of these exemptions can improve the royalty base for commercial music,” it said.
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Soumyarendra BarikSoumyarendra Barik is a Principal Correspondent with The Indian Expres… read more

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