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How to tap music's employment potential 

China has proved that the music industry can create millions of jobs. India must work to promote interest, investment in the sector

The story of the recorded music industry in India would be that of David powering Goliath. The ₹1,068-crore recorded music industry is the fuel for the ₹3,100-crore radio industry, the ₹74,000-crore TV/broadcast industry, the ₹7,500 crore live events industry - as per the A Billion Screens of Opportunity, 2019 report by EY and FICCI - as well as unicorns in the ₹2,700-crore audio/OTT industry (according to Deloitte’s Economic Impact of the recorded music industry in India Report, 2019).

Soundtracks from the recorded music industry are core to employment generation in the informal sector, where music is a key component of services provided by brass bands and local DJs. However, India is not tapping fully into the employment generation potential of its music ecosystem. The robust music ecosystem in China has generated 40 million jobs in this sector. Till 2012, China was behind India in global rankings, but today ranks amongst the top 10 music markets in the world. Voluntary licensing helped China break the investments logjam and acted as the turbocharger for a thriving, employment-generating music economy.

What will it take for India to achieve such results?

Encouraging interest

The logical first step would be to assess the current level of employment generated by music and its associated activities. Following the footsteps of countries such as Australia and the UK, there is an urgent need for government-funded studies to map the employment generated by the recorded music industry and its economic contribution. With the 2021 Census fast approaching, it might be the ideal time to include careers related to media and entertainment sectors - TV and cinema artistes, musicians, artisans, traditional craftsmen, etc - under the categories of occupation.

The Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT) should engage with the World Intellectual Property Organisation, which has developed templates to capture economic data in the creative sector in a globally acceptable format.

A change in mindset is also needed. Activity around music is an integral component of the gig economy, and so the Indian society must move away from the generalisation of music as a mere hobby - music can be a viable career option if treated as a serious subject. In China, there are almost 400 colleges and universities offering a graduate degree in music.

Inclusion of music in the higher education curriculum; community support from academia, think tanks, trade bodies, chambers of commerce and the National Skill Development Corporation; and the establishment of world-class music universities along the lines of the Berklee College of Music and The Julliard School will sensitise and help students discover employment opportunities in music.

The National Film Awards of India were first presented in 1954 to recognise the exceptional talent and production of films. There’s no reason why the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting shouldn’t have a National Award for music, which would be vital to provide recognition, and also encourage more people to consider music as a career.

Boosting investment

Despite a diverse and talented musical culture, there is a lack of performance venues and infrastructure that can support creative talents and the associated gig economy. Investments in a performing arts ecosystem can also boost employment in the cultural and tourism sectors. A case in point: as per The Vancouver Music Ecosystem Study Report, 2018, the music ecosystem in Vancouver generates revenues over C$690 million per year, with an employment impact of C$520 million per year from 14,540 jobs.

Inclusion of performance centres as part of Smart City projects and in tax incentives must be initiated to attract players such as LiveNation, AEG, TicketMaster, to create performance centres - especially spaces that could host music and art festivals.

To unlock this potential of the music ecosystem, it is important that there be a jugalbandhi between the industry stakeholders and the government. For example, a music-centric grants scheme, linked to the DPIIT’s ‘Start-up India’ scheme and aligned with the reforms to increase the ease of doing business must be established. Such a scheme can be used for investment in music content by regional and local music labels.

China’s gargantuan leap to becoming one of the top 10 music markets and creating 40 million jobs was fuelled by encouraging a free market media ecosystem, which ensured fair market prices for content and facilitated ease of doing business, attracting investments. In India, however, ambiguity surrounding existing laws related to licensing of copyrighted works has led to hurdles in ensuring fair value.

The dragon has thrown down the gauntlet and shown the world how a robust laissez-faire music economy can generate jobs. There is no reason why the Indian tiger, with its cultural richness, cannot do the same.