Music today has not degraded but changed to reflect current times: Manu Kaushish

Music today has not degraded but changed to reflect current times: Manu Kaushish

The music industry in India has some unique characteristics that set it apart from global markets

Mumbai: Music has always been an essential driving force for people to achieve a thing or the other in their lives. From depression to expression of emotion, music has been a helping hand. With the evolution of music through different eras, the music taste of people as well as the ways of earning a livelihood through music has also significantly varied.

Exploring the in-depth insights of the age music industry and more, caught up with Create Music Group India president Manu Kaushish.

With over two decades of experience in digital content monetisation and distribution, Kaushish has played an instrumental role in bringing music from India into the digital world. He has created history by entering into the first major digital monetisation deal for Indian content on RealNetworks, paving the way for Indian music to be heard by audiences across the globe. He was also recently featured on Billboard International Power Players List for the second consecutive year in a row. Billboard International Power Players List recognises the contribution of music industry leaders and international music executives from across the globe.

Create Music Group is a data-driven media and technology company that was founded in 2015. In 2020, the company was named #2 on the INC 5000 list of the Fastest Growing Companies in the US. Create works with some of the world's most prominent artists, including Jennifer Lopez, Snoop Dogg and Tory Lanez. With such a strong foundation, Create is well-positioned to continue revolutionising the music industry and breaking new ground in the years to come.

Edited Excerpts:

On the quality of true melody of music composed/produced today as compared to a few decades ago

The quality and true melody of music are subjective and vary from person to person and definitely vary by generations. If you ask a teenager what they think about music that was created a few decades ago or a grandparent what they think about today's music, you will get completely divergent answers

The Indian music industry has undergone significant changes with the rise of digital distribution and changes in consumer demand. These changes have led to a shift in the way music is produced, marketed, and consumed. 650 million Indians, nearly half the country's population, are below the age of 25. Younger listeners are slowly but surely becoming the driving force to change the traditional listener base and will pave the way for more global trends to grow in the Indian music space. So, I don't think that music today has degraded, it has just changed to the sound that reflects the current times.

On the uniqueness and diversity of genres in classical and regional music. What steps are being taken to promote this globally?

The first major step that the industry can take is to make Indian classical and regional music more accessible to people around the world. This can be achieved by first ensuring that a rich catalog of this content is available on all major global streaming platforms such as YouTube, Spotify, and Apple. The second step is to create organic collaborations with global artists to introduce the rich heritage and sounds of Indian music to a global audience. The third step is to make this content accessible to global TV shows and films for sync opportunities.

Create Music Group is already working with notable classical and regional labels and artists to provide a platform for global distribution, royalty collection and Film/TV Sync placements. We have also facilitated collaborations between Indian classical artists such as in-between Amaan and Ayaan Ali Bangash with Punjabi singers such as Devika to create tracks such as "Jaaniya" and "Holle Holle" that have millions of streams on digital platforms.

On the differentiation of the Indian music industry as compared to the global music industry in terms of opportunities and challenges

The music industry in India has some unique characteristics that set it apart from global markets. India has an extremely diverse music culture and a wide range of regional languages; however, the film industry has historically played a significant role in the discovery and consumption of music. Unlike the rest of the world, where genres like pop and hip hop are more popular and profitable, film music continues to dominate the Indian music industry and accounts for the majority of the revenue. This had been a challenge as it was hard to compete with the reach and budgets of film music.

However, the Indian music industry has also seen significant growth in the last three years, with the rise of Indie artists and the increasing adoption of music streaming platforms and digital music consumption. India is driving Spotify’s international expansion and is now in the top five territories in total users for the platform after just four years of operations. "Naatu Naatu" won at the Oscars and the Golden Globes. "Maan Meri Jaan" by King became a top-30 hit on Spotify through the volume of streams from Indian listeners. This means that not only is consumption changing, but the music being created is changing as well. I see tremendous opportunity in both domestic and international music from Indian artists and labels in India and Create is well-positioned to help drive and deliver this music to audiences globally.

On being the President how are you approaching artists and labels in India? What is the USP of Create Music Group?

We approach working with artists and labels in India with a focus on three key areas:

Artist focus: I believe that artists are the heart of the music industry, and we are committed to helping them develop their sound and listener base, distribute their music to all global streaming platforms, maximise revenue collection, obtain film/TV sync opportunities and pitch for brand endorsements.

Label focus: I am also committed to building strong relationships with labels in India. We already work with regional music powerhouses and our goal is to expand label partnerships for distribution, global revenue collection and collaboration.

Technology focus: I am a strong believer in the power of technology and data to transform the music industry. We are committed to using technology to help artists and labels reach new audiences, monetise their music, and build their brands.

I believe that Create Music Group is uniquely positioned to help artists and labels in India succeed. We have a strong track record of working with the biggest artists from around the world including Jennifer Lopez, Snoop Dogg, and Tory Lanez. The company also owns several media properties, including Flighthouse, the #1 channel on TikTok, The Nations network of influencer channels and numerous top Instagram channels, comprising an audience of over 400 million global followers.

Besides the strong international presence, we have a deep understanding of the Indian music market with teams in Chennai and Mumbai. With such a strong foundation, I believe that we are well-positioned to continue revolutionising the music industry and breaking new ground in the years to come.

On balancing the creative and business aspect of the industry? What is the role of innovation and experimentation in the company?

Create Music Group is a company that is committed to balancing the creative and business aspects of the music industry. We believe that the best music is created when artists have the freedom to be creative, and when they have the support, they need to succeed in the business world.

How do we balance this? In one word: teamwork. Our artist teams and our business teams work together to devise plans that focus on creating music that is unique and using data to deliver it to the right audiences. We are also committed to innovation and experimentation, as we believe that these are essential for success in the music industry. The music industry is constantly evolving, and artists who are willing to try new things are more likely to succeed. This means being open to new genres, new sounds, and new ways of marketing and distributing music.

As an example, we noticed that one of our tracks called "Bangalore Bounce" by Ian Allen was getting a lot of traction on Instagram Reels in India. Our teams reached out to JioSaavn, Wynk, Hungama and Gaana and all these platforms immediately understood the data and gave us very prominent placements to highlight the track. This success was a combination of creative and business and of course the forward-looking attitude of editorial teams at these platforms.

On promoting diversity and inclusivity in the Indian music industry? How do you ensure that underrepresented voices and perspectives are given a platform?

At Create, we have a diverse team of employees who come from different backgrounds and cultures. Our teams are located in Chennai and Mumbai and this diversity of thought and experience helps us to better understand and connect with artists from all walks of life. We are committed to signing artists from all over India, regardless of their gender, race, religion, or sexual orientation. This is apparent in the breadth of languages that we have in our repertoire of music including Hindi, Bhojpuri, Rajasthani, Punjabi, Kannada, Malayalam, Tamil, and Telugu to name a few. We believe that everyone has a story to tell, and we aim to be a platform for all voices.