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Bollywood asks whose song is it anyway?

Music publisher Achille Forler feels that the Indian music industry doesn’t understand the business.

music Updated: Dec 01, 2010 14:40 IST
Nikhil Hemrajani
Nikhil Hemrajani
Hindustan Times

Chances are that the average Indian wedding sangeet will have people shaking a leg to Kajra re. Not just in India but in the rest of the world as well. The song continues to see tremendous popularity in the USA, but here’s the shocking bit: Kajra re hasn’t been registered internationally with a music publishing company.

“Every time an Indian performer goes to the US, Kajra re is played and royalties are collected. But because it hasn’t been registered, the publishing societies don’t know whom to pay,” mentions Achille Forler, Managing Director of Deep Emotions Publishing. “The money is then absorbed by the society after three or five years, depending on the country in question.”

Forler owns 50 per cent stake in Deep Emotions. The other 50 per cent is owned by publishing giant Universal Music Publishing, which has more than 47 offices across the world. Quite an important thing, as it helps Deep Emotions monitor what’s on radio, television and film around the globe, and collect respective fees.

Sitting in the confines of his office cum recording studio on Ghodbunder Road, Thane, Forler says, “Laws like the Copyright Act aren’t the problem. It’s industry practice that needs to change. Film producers and record labels just want to buy everyone out. The government has no option but to bring in a draconian law to protect lyricists and composers from such exploitation.”

In 2005, Forler was sued for defamation by two record labels for saying that they don’t under music publishing. The case was eventually abandoned. “Now, the same companies have finally woken up and realised that there is a revenue stream separate from the sound recording,” he says.

Forler is no newbie in the music world. Before starting Deep Emotions in 1995, he was an attaché in the French Foreign Service in New Delhi. He reported on the cultural and creative industries back to Paris. Now he helps artistes get deals with labels, protects their rights across the world, and fetches them their respective mechanical rights, more commonly known as royalties.

“My clients are the record labels who want to record my artistes’ songs, the telco for ringtones, advertising agencies and films,” says Forler. Deep Emotions publishes the entire catalogue of T-Series, Universal Music India, Nokia’s comes with music service and the works of AR Rahman. The company also owns the record label Silk Road Communications, which records and publishes artistes like Something Relevant and Daler Mehndi.

When any music plays on the radio or in a film soundtrack, the record label that owns the recording automatically benefits too. “When there are three owners of the pie – the film producer, label and publisher – one entity cannot benefit without the others benefiting too. It’s good for everybody. This mentality has yet to sink in with film producers and labels in India.”

According to Forler, there are only two catalogues in India with proper registration – T-Series and Universal Music. “I can check the database in particular countries and see if a particular song is listed or not.” Just from a country like Turkey, where Indian music is very popular, Deep Emotions raked in Rs 50 lakhs of revenue in 2009 for T-Series and Universal Music India.

“My advice to anybody who creates music is that it is your property. Don’t give it away. People who want your music don’t need to have your rights. Keep them,” signs off Forler.

First Published: Dec 01, 2010 13:05 IST