‘I believe that today we are in a place where Indian music can cross over globally.’
MBW’s World Leaders is a regular series in which we focus our attention on some of the most influential figures in the industry outside of the US and UK markets. In this feature we talk to Mandar Thakur, COO of Times Music in India. As well as representing its own major music catalog, Times Music also publishes sub-publishes in India for companies such as Music Warner Chappell and peermusic. World leaders backed by PPL.
Mandar Thakur’s appointment as CEO at Times Music doesn’t quite represent the breadth and depth of knowledge he has as a veteran of India’s music industry.
For more than two decades, Thakur has been both a witness and a catalyst for its growth and today, he retains his full view through his seats on the boards of revenue organizations. royalties from the Indian Performing Rights Association (IPRS) and the Country Acoustic Performances Limited (PPL), plus the music distribution company Phonographic Distribution Limited (PDL) and the commercial arm of the Indian Music Industry (IMI), which represents the interests of more than 200 labels.
It’s no surprise that he’s a fan of music conference organizers across the globe who are looking for someone who captures the rhythms of business in India.
Mumbai-based Thakur’s career began at the turn of the millennium when he had just passed his teenage years. His first job (of sorts) was as a paver for Indian rock band glam, Hazzard, a period that led him to become a lighting designer specializing in rock concerts.
This led him to land a gig as the manager of the hard rock band Krysis. According to him, these experiences taught him his first big lessons in life. “It’s not what you do, it’s about knowing people,” Thakur told MBW. “You need to have an inherent curiosity about people who surprise you. You need to be amazed by any little thing they can have, their talent, their skill [or] character.”
Next, Thakur followed the lead singer of Krysis and close friend Suraj Jagan to Hong Kong. There he hustled to work with concert promoter Anders Nelson at The Entertainment Company, which he helped put on shows by the likes of INXS and Elton John.
“That is [next] What I learned: until you ask, the answer is always no,” Thakur said. Upon his return to India in the mid-1990s, he took on the first of his career-defining roles, at rival MTV Channel [V] where he served as head of relations in the music and talent industry.
“That is [one of] The best experience of my life. Everything we’ve done has been groundbreaking, from the top 10 charts to compilation albums, road shows and Channels. [V] Awards that we held three years in a row and [we brought] Spice Girls, Bon Jovi, Air Supply, Led Zeppelin and Bryan Adams. ”
A change of ownership prompted him to seek his next challenge in 2000, which turned out to be at a business co-founded by a former rival, Sudhanshu Sarronwala, who was then chief executive of the company. MTV Asia.
Thakur’s move to first digital music service provider Soundbuzz “is a difficult turning point in the deep world of music technology, business and licensing”.
After Motorola buying (and later discontinued) Soundbuzz in 2008, Thakur moved into consulting for a few years. Among his clients was media conglomerate Times Group, who invited him to direct the “digital pivot strategy” for Times Music.
In 2010, they offered him the position of full-time COO of Times Music. “I remember thinking to myself, this is going to be three to four years.”
Among his accomplishments at Times Music – his longest employer to date – is growing the publishing business in India (“We represent Warner/ Chappell and peermusic here”) and a forward-looking bet on the region’s Indian language and pop music markets in 2017 through an investment in the Punjabi Speed Records brand (“Today, we i own 25 to 30% of the punjabi market”)…
What is the most exciting development you have witnessed in the Indian industry over the years?
The tectonic shift away from Bollywood. It’s been a long road, but we’re on the road. We have a short pass; it’s here to stay. We’re building a pop music industry. That’s number one.
Second, I’m not at all surprised by the rise of video in India. We grew up on Chaya Geet (a 1970s and 80s Indian TV show on public service TV station Doordarshan that showed clips of songs from Hindi movies). We are always the audience ready to watch the video. When people think YouTube being Mecca, I think the short format video revolution kicked things off even below the YouTube layer.
“[There’s] a tectonic shift away from Bollywood… We’re building a pop industry. ”
I think the rise of YouTube and then short format video has a much larger cultural significance than music. It’s a guy [on a short video app]Even if he was a bathroom singer, today he has 10,000 fans.
When you have such audiences, you are talking about another level of relationship. So that changes towards liking the artist [rather than just songs] will come from the audience on that ground floor. Because that subject is talking directly to their age [group]. They have no legacy, no labels, nothing.
What is the biggest misconception about the Indian market worldwide?
That everyone thinks, ‘Oh my gosh, 1.4 billion people’, when telling the truth to you, 50% of them are wondering where their next meal is going to come from, not the genre of music. next music to listen to.
As a subset of that, our audience size [for monetized media] is 700 million people, not more, of which 400 million to 500 million is the population that uses your music.
“To tell you the truth, 50% [India’s population today] wondering where their next meal will come from, not the next kind of music to listen to”.
The second misconception is India [can be treated as] a country. India is like a continent. Some of us are not even the same; some of us don’t speak the same language.
It’s not about infiltrating India, but about what part of India you broke into. You [have to be] associated with a multi-layered, multi-territorial society. That’s the only way to look at India.
What do you think of Indian music crossing?
There are two very different things: One is the intersection [within India] and the other is Indian music that has a worldwide audience [in terms of] absolute numbers.
What we are seeing [so far] is the sheer size of the population outreach [YouTube] and sheer attraction drives the numbers [of consumption] upward. I’m so glad it’s happening.
“Across [globally] That’s basically what BTS did. Or Latin music. Indian music sold abroad to Indians; [it] do not pass. “
In my mind, pass [globally] That’s basically what BTS did. Or Latin music. Indian music sold abroad to Indians; [it] do not pass.
I believe that today we are in a place where we maybe overcome. I don’t think that’s happening to any [major] Bollywood name.
If it happens… I know Punjabi people, a lot of firms, especially international ones, are trying to do writing camps and cooperation as well as technical some of these. If 15 of them appear, maybe two will have some impact.
Several Indian industrial organizations have the same people on their boards. Is there a scarcity of top music management? In addition, not a single female identity member holds a board seat at any of the major commercial organizations. Obviously there is a huge diversity problem.
The problem is like this. Our industry is in the shadow of Bollywood. And there are a few people who run the industry. But today [that’s less true], if you look at the constitution of the board. It was after a lot of efforts by three or four people [at the largest companies] that we had all of this together.
[But] in FMCG world, if you have FMCG [industry] board, do you think a P&G, Nestle and three or four [other large companies] will have to be on it? Likewise, four or five music companies must be on each board because 90% of the revenue comes from those labels. The viability of the small labels is due to the fact that these giants do so much business, creating jobs.
“At Times Music, about 60 percent of our employees are women. Of my leadership team, 70% are women.”
We are a mess when it comes to diversity [at the trade orgs]. so many, so much [individual] brands that have women working for them: at Times Music, about 60% of our employees are women. In my leadership team, 70% are women. Almost every lawyer in the business is a woman, [including those] in UniversalContemporary music, Radio Mirchi, Gaana, Music by SonyIMI.
[Improved diversity on trade body boards] It’s just the matter of time. [But so far] we’ve been terrible at diversity, probably the worst in the world. I agree that we [need to] do something in front of you.
What is one thing you would change about the industry overnight?
There isn’t really a thing. What I want to change is the maturity of the artists’ composition. I believe we don’t spend enough time developing the artists.
I [also] wish we had enough government support as an industry and great powers see us as a job force and entertainment creator for so many.
Finally, I really wish DSPs created a subscription market [in India] because the way I see it, a lot of people will run out of venture capital and that will almost destroy themselves and some parts of the record industry.
World leaders backed by PPL, a leading international collector of neighborhood rights, works with best practices to help performers and recording rights holders worldwide maximize their royalties. Founded in 1934, PPL collects money from across Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe, and North and South America. It has grossed more than £500 million worldwide for its members since 2006.Worldwide music business