The undisputed king of music, be it Bollywood, singles or even devotional, Bhushan Kumar of T Series is an example of how one's passion for music can build an empire with razor-sharp business skills and a never-say-die attitude thrown in for good measure. "To run a music label, I don't need a film. I need songs and that I know how to make," said Kumar, giving a clear idea of the hard work and focus he puts in to keep T Series at the top.
Kumar, Chairman & MD, T- Series, Super Cassettes Industries Ltd was in conversation with Raj Nayak, COO, Viacom18, to conclude the two-day long conference of Music Inc., a high-powered event presented by MTV and curated by Loudest.in and exchange4media. The chat topic was, Bollywood: How Right Music Drives Box Office, Sales and Audiences.
Nayak set the tone of the session by highlighting Kumar's clout in the music industry. âIf Shah Rukh Khan is the âBaadshah of the film industry then he is the âShahenshahâ of the music industry,â said Nayak as he introduced Kumar to the audience. Recalling the earlier days, Nayak said, âT- Series used to come to us and give music for free to air on TV channels. And now, we go to them and say give us the music and keep the money as well. How do you feel now?" To which Kumar smiled and said, âIt feels good when you get money.â
Speak of T Series and the Late Gulshan Kumar can't not be mentioned. Kumar was 19 years old when he started heading T-Series after the sudden demise of his father. âGulshan Kumar himself was a great entrepreneur. What was it about him you remember that you can share?," Nayak asked Kumar. âHis passion and dedication towards music is all that I remember,â replied Kumar.âI was very young and not into business so I used to go to him for pocket money. I had a great relationship with my father and from what I have known about him, he used to live, eat, sleep and talk music. He used to make his own music and wasn't dependent on films even when films were a huge market for cassettes.â
On a lighter note, Nayak said that he tried to Google the turnover of T-Series but was unable to come up with the numbers. He said, âIndustry people say that you have 70-80 per cent share, how much business do you control?" Though Kumar did not reveal the numbers, he did talk once again of his late father's vision. "We, as a team, believe in working hard and we don't go by numbers. We drive our company with passion, which my father had. I am thankful to my father for one thing- an ear for music, which is very important to run a music company.â
Over the years, music has evolved. Speaking of the time when T-series used to produce various devotional songs, Kumar commented, â People thought that devotional songs will come in 10-15 years. My father in that era had made all the possible songs whether it is 'aartiâ or 'Gayatri Mantraâ. He made everything that was musically possible in the devotional space. We still control the largest share in the devotional market because of things which he had already created.â
Speaking about the different revenues streams Kumar shared that earlier it was just cassettes and CDs but now we have digital platforms, mobile platforms, callerback tunes, radio and television platforms, and it is also these streams on which T Series is highly dependent. "All of them are doing really well," added Kumar.
Nayak also raised the question of people in the industry feeling that Kumar dictates terms and at a time when other music companies are coming in, how does it impact T Series.
"We never dictate terms and people can talk whatever they want to. We are confident about our content, which we make. In a year you need only 10-15 songs to drive your business, rest is your catalogue. And I am capable of making 100 songs and we are already doing this. Therefore, we don't see what other companies are doing. Our profit and turnover is growing every year, which shows that competition has no effect on us, it's benefitting us, actually,â Kumar explained.
Regional is a huge business area, even for music. âPeople are consuming music in regional languages. We are available in Tamil, Telugu, Punjabi, Bhojpuri and devotional. But Bollywood is mainstream," said Kumar.
"Can independent artistes make it big without T-Series?" asked Nayak, leading to an eruption of laughter from the audience. âThe kind of platforms we have, that makes a very big difference,â Kumar answered succinctly.
Apple, Google, Jio Music and many more are entering the digital music space and it surely can't be an easy job to run a music company. Speaking about the influx of players, Kumar cleared that his business will not be affected by them. âIt is not an easy job to run a music label. I am making 25 films. We have 12 films a year including big, medium and small budget. A (good) number of songs and songs which people want to listen to is all you need to drive the business," added Kumar.
Also speaking about the strategy and films, he said, âOur core business will be music, always, as I mentioned, it was my fatherâs passion and life. Iâm just running his dream ahead. His another dream was the movies.â Kumar also revealed that he is making a film on his father's journey.
On the role of marketing in music, Kumar told Nayak, âMusic plays a big role in marketing. At times when you are promoting a film, music is a very good tool. There are so many channels and if you don't have music in your film, you won't be able to promote it on all those platforms.â
Talking about the singles coming from independent artistes, Kumar said, â I am a big promoter of singles. I started this two years ago because all the TV and radio channels were not keen about it. Then I got Bollywood stars and now we have developed this market, this year we are doing at least 25-30 singles with independent artistes. All new artistes are coming to us and we are promoting them. But when it comes to TV channels and radio stations we face a tough time promoting independent artistes.â
Making a commitment, Nayak said, "If there are good singers and good artistes, MTV will come forward.â
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