Music Today breaks even, woos corporate sponsors

By , agencyfaqs! | In | August 04, 2001
Despite parting ways with Warner Music, and a sluggish music market, Music Today has managed to break even and hopes to double turnover by March 2002

Despite the parting of ways with Warner Music in September last year and a sluggish music market, Music Today has not just managed to break even this year but is looking to "double turnover by March 2002," affirms Venkat Rolla, COO, Music Today. Part of the India Today Group, Music Today closed its books in March this year with turnover of Rs 6.21 crore against Rs 5.83 crore last year. It is looking to cross the Rs 10-crore mark next year. "I am being conservative in pegging our turnover at Rs 10 crore. We have some very ambitious plans ahead of us," says Rolla.

Obviously, the company's decision to focus on traditional Indian music forms has been responsible, in no small measure, for the success. "Warner contributed almost 40 per cent to our sales turnover till March 1999 (While the split happened in September 1999, Rolla indicated that Warner had stopped giving new labels six months before that. Hence, the contribution of Warner, for all practical purposes, was negligible for the whole of 2000). We have managed to grow despite the fact they are not with us for over a year now. In turn, we have managed to bring in 'Koel', a very prestigious south Indian label, with us,'' says Rolla.

The fact that the company has built for itself a brand that represents Indian music in its myriad forms - from folk and classical to ghazals and devotional music - has helped it draw a like-minded partner in Koel - owned by Shankar Narayanan, a US-based NRI. Koel has 85 popular labels to its credit, which Narayanan bought from the Chennai-based Sangeetha Music Company.

Koel brings with it such all-time traditional favourites as 'Lalitha Sahasranama' by Bombay Sisters, 'Trio Mandolin' by U Srinivas and 'Nagaswaram' by Sheik Chinna Moulana, among others. "The addition of this label makes our repertoire complete. If we largely represented Hindustani music till now - which gave the impression of us being a 'north Indian' company - today we have a balanced mix. And Koel is a label which was being actively wooed by many in our industry," he said.

The company revived the trend of music festivals last year with the 'Swar Utsav', which was held to commemorate India Today's 50th anniversary. It was held in Central Park at Connaught Place, New Delhi. The company had invited Pakistani artistes such Begum Abeda Parveen, among others, for this event. The company is now looking at making this an annual event. It hopes to rope in corporate sponsors to perk up music awareness, as did the 'Spirit of Freedom' series, conceived by VST and sponsored by Charms cigarettes.

However, Rolla feels corporates are going slow on such sponsorships these days. "We are trying to infuse a fresh lease of life into corporate sponsorship of cultural events. In fact, I owe my knowledge of music to such festivals," he says. The company is on the verge of tying up with ITC Welcomgroup to kick off music events on the third Sunday of every month. This will start off in Chennai, and will be extended to other markets of the south after four months. It will happen on a national scale in about a year's time.

The group has clearly identified folk, devotional, Hindustani, Karnatic, Ghazals, Sufi, and World Music as the forms of music it would promote. It has also kicked off preliminary efforts to sell music on CD-ROMs with a volume on Thyagaraja, which traces the life of the musician saint and the evolution of his music. The volume is priced at Rs 999. A volume on Vishnu Sahasranama is also available on CD-ROM at Rs 499.

The company is also looking to sell mythological tales on CD-ROM, like the Karadi Tales and Chandamama tales in the animation form. Negotiations are on with Chandamama India Ltd., and the publishers of Karadi Tales for this. The company is also negotiating with three other Indian and International companies for marketing rights of their music labels.

Music Today claims it has successfully tapped the resources of group companies to help it market its labels. It has activated the website for e-commerce and has a database of 30 lakh names and addresses. "We advertise on Aaj Tak, India Today and have now started selling through the India Today Books Club. These efforts have helped us increase our catalogue sales by 10 per cent," he says.

The company is now gearing up to create a big splash with its new album - Hariharan's rendition of Mehdi Hassan's 'Sada-e-Ishq'. This release is significant, as it happens to be the final score by the ill ghazal maestro. In fact, the company has roped in Seagram to sponsor its launch in Hyderabad where Hariharan would inaugurate the event on August 12. Meanwhile, the launch of the label Ahimsa by K.J. Yesudas has met with fair amount of success and has already clocked sales of 20,000 units.

© 2001 agencyfaqs!