Somewhere last month there was a massive hue and cry that rose from the singers within the music industry that squarely claimed music moghul and production giant T-Series had indulged in illegal malpractices with reference to payment of remunerations. Though the issue took on substantial size thanks to the media barrage, T-Series clarified their terms and stance in the media. Ultimately, the media and the spotlight moved away to focus on more current issues.
Recently, composer Aadesh Shrivastava raked up the issue again in an interview with the Lucknow edition of a leading newspaper. In the interview, Aadesh went on to lambast T-Series claiming that the company was indulging in malpractices and illegal activities.
Further in his statement, Aadesh claimed that T-Series apparently made Rs. 106 crores from just a single song, ‘Munni Badnam Hui‘ from Dabangg, however they have categorically denied paying the singer the due in terms of royalty. Apart from this, Aadesh also holds the company responsible for the rumoured retirement and subsequent exile of singer Arijit Singh.
Despite Aadesh’s claims, we decided to analyze the matter in an impartial light looking at both sides of the story. Considering that the singers have been pretty vocal about their grouse, we look at what music labels in reality do to provoke these individuals. For this, keeping Aadesh’s recent rant in mind and categorizing his grievance into four distinct parts we try to bust the myth.
Tackling the first part of Aadesh’s grievances, that of T-Series not paying its singers any part of the profits earned in the form of royalty, we learnt that in fact the singers are paid a onetime lump sum remuneration for rendering their voice to the song and eminent lawyers have informed us that in fact the singers do not have any copyright in the song and the performers right under section 38 of the new Act are completely assignable including any right to royalty. Moreover we have further learnt that singers are free to perform on the said songs and they earn crores from such shows whereas the owners of copyright i.e. the music labels do not get any income from such shows. The commercial risk in the music of a film is entirely borne by the music labels by way of huge advance minimum guarantee payments to the producers. Further T-Series and other major music labels, through their Advance Royalty Mechanism, pays each author / composer their named fees, along with an advance royalty which is recoupable against author / composer share of Publishing Royalties as per provisions of the Copyright Act and in line with international norms of royalty sharing. Staking claim to the said profits Aadesh says, “I know of certain music labels who feel that they are doing a big favor on the composers, whereas the fact remains that what they make is only plastic cover for the CDs, the inside content happens to be the resultant of the hard work of the composer.”
Now keeping Aadesh’s claim in mind while simultaneously looking at what the said music companies do in reality, we wonder how Aadesh claims that the company denies its singers / authors / composers a share of the profits. Adding to this Ratan Jain of Venus says, “Firstly you cannot force anyone to sign any contract, but when they do sign it, it means that they know exactly what they are doing. Secondly, according to me the royalty for the singers is not very clear. If it was, then we as music companies or producers would definitely pay. Till the time that these laws are not clarified by a court of law there is not much to really say.”
The second point that Aadesh raised was that of T-Series indulging in illegal activities. We learnt that in fact the company has ensured that each of the contracts, between them and their singers, are done as per the existing laws. Apart from this,the said (read disputed) contracts are signed by both the singers and the company voluntarily, hence eliminating any aspect of illegality. Besides if there was any form of illegality, it would fall into the judicial system and would be up to the court of law in the country to raise an objection and take a decision of illegal activities.”Frankly music companies do not deal with the singers directly, it is in fact the producers who deal with them and hold the rights of the tracks. These rights are later transferred to the music company by the producer. So how does the question of copyright infringement or indulgence into illegal activities come up when the rights are legally transferred?”, adds Kumar Taurani.
The third point of contention involving Aadesh’s claims was that, T-Series was the reason for Arijit Singh, who shot to fame with his rendition of the hit ‘Tum Hi Ho‘ from Aashiqui 2, to announce his early retirement from music and his moving back to Kolkata. However, contrary to rumour, we learnt that Arijit is very much in Mumbai and is singing too, adds Mr. Neeraj Kalyan of T-Series, “Arijit is still singing for us and various other producers. I think this has become more like the improper use of one’s celebrity status, wherein whatever you say gets picked by various forms of media and despite being pure hearsay takes on the guise of truth.” Kalyan further adds, “The Indian Constitution provides for freedom of contract and everyone is free to negotiate commercial business terms within the ambit of the law governing that business/ activity and alleging someone to be in advantageous position in a free market scenario reflects the immaturity of parties making such frivolous allegations. T-Series, as a label, respects and has always respected the rights of authors, composers and performers and has been regularly entering into agreements which are in consonance with the applicable provisions of the Copyright Act, 1957 (as amended) for our own home production films. Certain people with vested interests, based on their erroneous interpretation of prevalent agreements adopted by many producers, have been spreading false rumours and trying to dissuade others from signing the agreements thereby causing lot of confusion and losses to the film fraternity”.
As for Aadesh’s claims, that the copyright of songs belong to the respective singer, it can be questioned how that is possible, especially when the composition and lyrics belong to someone else. In fact singers actually have no right over the tracks, considering that all singers do is, add voice to the lyrics, which essentially is like a service rendered. This aspect of lending voice to lyrics is easily accomplishable by any other singer. Echoing a similar belief Taurani adds, “How is this possible? The composer and lyricists are the creators, to whom according to law, 50% of the Publishing rights belong. As for the singers, they are not creators, in fact they are just providing a service, what rights they hold are assignable, and thanks to this the producers pay the singers for their efforts. Moreover when these singers perform any of their tracks at live shows they are being paid huge amounts, these amounts belong solely to the singers, we as music companies or producers do not ask for a share of the profits.”
Finally, arriving to one of the most important points raised by Aadesh, on the apparent earnings of the track ‘Munni Badnam Hui‘,we need to delve into the business to gain a better understanding of the claims. However before looking into the business we decided to get Aadesh’s views on the figures he quoted, “I had read it somewhere about the figures, that’s why and how I commented on that. I was totally misquoted on that context. What I was trying to say was about the popularity of today’s songs and also about the kind of money that one can make with music downloads, for which I simply quoted the example of ‘Munni Badnaam‘ and the amount of money that it has made. After that, someone simply made a headline out of that (laughs)! And since that (media) person was based out of Lucknow, I did not bother to call up regarding the same.” Though in an explanatory mood Aadesh, copiously steered clear of mentioning the said amount or for that matter the exact source of his analysis on the figures.
Now looking at the business, if assuming T-Series has earned Rs. 106 crores from a single track, the gross earnings for the said track would have to be close to Rs. 300 crores. The reason behind this being that generally operators don’t pay more than 25% of revenue earned from any track, while radio channels that air the tracks pay about Rs. 660 per hour of play time on the highest side. Apart from this, the total music industry’s size is between Rs. 1000 – 1100 crores. So if one song earns Rs. 300 crores (although impossible), the rough industry estimate will work into millions of dollars. Now this is literally impossible. Laughing on Aadesh’s claims Ratan says, “I really don’t know where Mr. Aadesh got these ‘facts and figures’ because according to me this is more than impossible. This kind of money from one song is unheard off, besides how can a single track make such money when the film barely did that much business.”
After understanding each aspect of Aadesh’s claims, and analyzing the basis on which they are made, the sole question that arises is why and how any one individual make such claims.