14 million in the informal music industry, but paid below unskilled workers: Icrier

The “informal music industry” – which includes DJs, marching bands, independent artists, sound engineers and small manufacturers, among others – is at least 74 times larger than the “formal” music industry, which includes digital recording and streaming studios, a new report has estimated.

Yet the average salaries of those who form the informal music industry are 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 1,000 and 5,000 billion rupees. In comparison, the formal part of the industry is worth 18.7 billion rupees, or 0.0187 trillion rupees.

“The generally available estimates for the music industry, mostly focused on the formal sector, are miniscule in comparison and only reflect the tip of the industry iceberg,” he said.

The report estimates that the informal music industry employs nearly 14 million people, which it says is more than those employed by Indian Railways or even the Indian government.

On a sectoral level, even though the industry employs more people than the telecom sector, the report says government policies are focusing on the telecom sector for their growth dividends, but “the music industry has remained on the periphery of the country’s overall economic agenda”. .

Despite its large size, the estimated average monthly income of different subgroups within the informal music industry is lower than the median wage for an unskilled worker under the Minimum Wage Act of 1948, according to the report.

Icrier said that while the median salary for an unskilled laborer is around Rs 29,000, that of a sound engineer is Rs 28,000, for a DJ Rs 27,000, for marching bands Rs 19,000 and for instrument makers Rs 12,500.

“Estimates for the informal music industry point to the need for policy intervention in relation to improving livelihoods for the sector, providing social security to vulnerable groups and maintaining its perspective of overall growth,” said the report, which was commissioned by the Indian Music Industry. (IMI) – an industry body representing the interests of the recorded music industry in India. Its estimates are based on triangulating data from a multi-city field survey of 1,574 people, including members of 255 marching bands, 207 DJs, 201 sound engineers, 234 freelance music teachers and 677 freelance artists.

While globally some governments have approached music as an industry at the heart of its cultural thinking and an opportunity for growth, “in India, music has been commercially successful mostly in the shadow of the industry cinematic,” Icrier said in his report. He cited the example of South Korea, where the government managed to create soft power through music.

At the same time, Icrier said organizations representing the country’s musical artists generate far less revenue than their global counterparts.

The Indian Performing Rights Society (IPRS) and the Phonographic Performance Limited (PPL) are the main organizations that govern the commercial use of music in India. “Our interactions with stakeholders have suggested that while both institutions have matured and grown stronger over time, compared to several other countries, the member association and revenue generated by these institutions remains relatively low,” says the report. For example, in 2021, the Society of Authors, Composers and Music Publishers (SACEM) in France collected nearly $1 billion in royalties. By comparison, the IPRS collected less than $200 million in royalties in the same year, he estimated.

According to Icrier, “poor enforcement” of intellectual property rights laws is “perhaps the most sore spot for the industry.”

The report adds that “there is a history of exploitation, especially towards music creators” and that many commercial activities in India continue to use copyrighted music without paying for it.

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India is one of the few countries that allows the performance of music at weddings and educational institutions without any copyright license, according to the report.

“In fact, in countries like the United States and the United Kingdom, even religious institutions like churches pay royalties to local copyright societies for musical performances. These exemptions result in huge losses, given the volume of marriages and the economic activity that surrounds it.

The report recommended strengthening India’s copyright laws in favor of the industry. “Current copyright law allows exemptions for educational institutions, resident organizations, nonprofit clubs, religious institutions, and bona fide religious ceremonies, including weddings. A more nuanced view of these exemptions can improve the royalty base for commercial music,” he said.

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