What roles do music & advertising play in India?

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India’s media and entertainment industry is igniting with a colourful blast of music and technology. But in a chaotic country with 27 states, each with different cultures and languages, what roles do music and advertising play? We spoke to Meera Shararth Chandra, who runs her own media company Tigress Tigress in Mumbai, and spent five years working across agencies in London, to find out her perspective.

Global agencies like WPP and Leo Burnetts all have a large footprint in India, and CORD tied its laces and opened its doors here last year too. There’s money to be made in India, and from India. As the world’s leading country for outsourced work, and 70% the population being under 35, this work force means business.

‘Everything begins and ends with music in India,’ saysChandra. From births to deaths, to marriages and festivals, music provides the water to India’s beautifully manic tree of life. Everyone in India can hum the sonic logo for Britannia Biscuits – just like Brits can recall Intel Inside or Danone. Brands know mnemonics are important. But Bollywood of course, is King – its reign over the nation is a force more powerful than monsoon season.

Defining the country, expressing the nuances of its rich culture, Bollywood dictates the way people spend their wages and how they live their lives. It also directs the music industry; a film’s soundtrack is released way before the movie. Music is the hook, the reason people go to the cinema. People define their personalities with ringtones that come from chart topping movie soundtracks – thus the market for ringtones is a huge money-maker for the mobile networks. With more mobile subscriptions than America, the smart phone has become the lifeline of the population of India. Phones serve as the office, college, home, game console – laptops have passed this nation by.

According to Chandra, the advertising industry follows Bollywood’s lead. ‘Over here everything is treated like a mini movie – it has to have its own separate score. If you compare US and UK ads to Indian ones, lovely moments that could be heightened by music are missed because they’re not scored – they use library music. In London everyone thought I was crazy for wanting my ads scored because it costs an arm and a leg there.’

Only film music is regulated in India. Outside of Bollywood there’s no such thing as royalties. Musicians only get paid to create music and piracy is probably as huge as the population itself. The Indian Music Secretary, Savio D’Souza said last year 104 torrent sites were shut down and more laws are being passed to continue this trend. Streaming services such as Saavn, Gaana and the troubled Dhingana (recently acquired by RDIO) need to implement effective anti-piracy strategies to consolidate growth.

Digital marketing is very much a metro phenomena’ says Chandra who produces campaigns across all forms of media. But the dramatic growth of India’s largest cities is spreading like floodwater and the digital market is a thirsty sponge.Hyper personal advertising is now rife and brands are using social media platforms to connect with consumers just as they do in the UK. But it’s still only television that reaches the heartlands of India.

The working day in India’s metropolises is as relentless as the traffic. There’s no such thing as 9-5 and there are far more women hold senior positions. ‘We work like it’s going out of stock’ laughs Chandra. ‘But in London it was more regimented. If I had a good idea I felt like I had to book a slot in someone’s diary in 3 weeks time to talk about it. Here we just act on ideas as they happen.’ Maybe there is method to the madness of India after all!

In a country where the music industry is so heavily governed by film is there a space for the music agency to put on a show of its own? ‘We take the talent and the studios and everything from Bollywood so there has never been a structure in place to include a music agency. But people are starting to realise the potential in music strategy,’ says Chandra. It might be a slow process, but CORD are willing to take the lead and show Indian brands that music can be even an even bigger part of their lives.

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