Why piracy is a non-issue for the music industry

By Rafay Mahmood Singer Haroon Rashid (former member or Awaz) and a number of other musicians from Islamabad recently came together to make an anti-piracy song titled Maza Muft Ka. The message of the song is as pertinent as Haroon is now to the Pakistani music industry. It seems more like a desperate attempt on his part to sustain his own relevance rather than a genuine effort to shed light on an issue, or should we say, a non-issue? The English subtitles of parts of the song say, “On the outside it seems all hunky-dory, but something isn’t right here. Wish people would think twice, how hunger kills the artiste’s muse,” and “You listened to songs that fed your soul, but never gave a thought at all. Someone put their heart into this tune, they did the hard work and you reaped the reward.” Not only does Haroon’s song fail to make a statement from a rational perspective, but also relies needlessly on gaining sympathy from the audience regarding artistes’ efforts. Not to mention, the badly produced audio and video makes it even harder to commend the song for the intent behind it. He and all the other artistes who ruminate over piracy in the music industry need to do some soul-searching. One might get taken aback by how piracy is no longer applicable to the local music industry. The draconian deals offered by record labels in Pakistan (and many other countries), especially in the post-Indus Music days, have facilitated artistes less and marginalised them more. Record Labels consumed the lion’s share of the revenue, which is why if piracy ever affected anyone, then it is the labels themselves. Let’s look at the mid-90s when an artiste used to get royalty worth Rs1 on a cassette priced around Rs15 to Rs20, a rate that was later on improved to Rs3 for a cassette worth Rs30 to Rs35, and Rs15 for a CD worth Rs60 to Rs70. On paper, it sounds like a fair deal, but what happens when there is no way of judging the actual sales of an artiste’s album? Well, nothing really. The artiste starts looking for live concerts and brand endorsements. “You would be surprised to know that after our first album, Vital Signs was broke because we didn’t get a single penny as royalty from EMI Pakistan. Had Pepsi not come to our rescue, there would have been no more albums,” Rohail Hyatt told The Express Tribune in an interview conducted earlier. EMI, however, still claims that they send royalties to the band. Musician-turned-politician Abrarul Haq, whose album Billo is still considered as the most widely sold album, had to face similar problems. “I got Rs0.3 million as royalty for Billo whereas my share was around Rs10 million and the rest was taken up by my record label,” Abrar said. “I have always relied on live shows for my living as a musician and so have others. Piracy is a bad thing, but it really didn’t affect the artistes as such,” he added. Read the full article here: http://tribune.com.pk/story/708819/why-piracy-is-a-non-issue-for-the-music-industry/

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