Carnatic music finds online key as record firms flounder

    Unlike in the ’90s, when people were given to sizing up a classical music aficionado by the records he owned, today we live in an age where an ocean of content — both paid and free — is available on the Internet through apps, web radio, web streaming sites, dedicated websites and wired and wireless platforms. All you have to do is to take your pick.

    The shift that Carnatic music has made from physical devices to the online stage, coupled with rampant piracy, has left many recording companies in tatters. On the other hand, many musicians have taken this shrinking dependence on music firms as a cue to take things into their own hands — to record and market their music themselves.

    “Recording live shows is the trend of the season,” a source from the recording industry says. Musicians are tapping into the benefits of the net to reach out to a wide audience by uploading not just their concerts, but also practice sessions, event curtain-raisers, clippings of performances and tutorials on websites, online platforms and even via personalised apps.

    Carnatic vocalist Sikkil Gurucharan, for instance, has with violinist V Sanjeev and mridangam artist Patri Sathish Kumar founded the web platform Sraavyam. The website contains a collection of concerts of various Carnatic artists and one can either subscribe to listen to songs or buy them online.

    “Thematic recordings contributed to a huge chunk of my income in the early 2000s,” Gurucharan says. “Earlier, the artist would sign away rights to the recording company and settle for a one-time payment. But the artist can now either record and sell his own music online or tie up with a recording company to market his music through platforms like Amazon, Spotify, iTunes and so on. At the end of the day, the artists own digital rights to an album and get a share of the royalty.”

    Amutham Music director M C Raghunathan, however, says recording companies inevitably play a role in an artist’s career. “One, the quality of recording by a recording company is far more superior; and, two, the company comes up with fresh ideas and themes to sell a product,” he says.

    Raghunathan admits that recording by companies has dropped considerably in the past decade. “How do you expect companies to invest in quality projects when they know the contents will be pirated and uploaded on hundreds of websites the next day? There is the cost of the artist, the studio and the production house. It now takes at least two years to make profits.”

    While piracy discourages firms from recording new albums, the firms are tying up with musicians to record concerts and special albums. “We have started marketing music through online portals and have a long-tailed catalogue to cater to online uploads. But for things to return to normalcy, the issue of piracy should be resolved,” a recording company owner says…..

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