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Indian audio labels and producers (who, in a quirky twist of fate, hold the rights to soundtracks in India, as against actual music composers) have been complaining about rampant online piracy for quite some time now. But, what exactly are they doing to find newer means of retailing and promoting music online?

Take the example of Rakeysh Mehra’s Delhi 6, with music by A R Rahman. The music is eagerly awaited and mysteriously was found to be streaming via one of India’s most popular film portals, Bollywood Hungama (formerly IndiaFM). Literally thousands of people listened to the songs and a couple of ebullient music reviews are already out (ahem…including mine!). 

Then suddenly, the streaming links were withdrawn. Clever online fans found a backdoor entry to continue listening to the songs by simply searching for the composers name in the website! It was that simple!

Delhi 6’s official Facebook page reveals that the music is likely to be in stores between the 19th and 21st of January, 2009. So, here are a few questions…to UTV (the film’s producer) and BollywoodHungama!

  1. Was the Bollywood Hungama music leak intentional? If yes, it is nothing short of ground-breaking and brilliant. Ground-breaking because it takes guts to stream music online a few days before a highly-anticipated soundtrack is expected to hit the stores via other forms of retail, namely CDs and cassettes (yes, still used in India!).
  2. On the other hand, did Bollywood Hungama jump the gun and started streaming the songs in the wrong assumption that the CD is releasing on the 14th of January as the TV promos scream? Did UTV force Bollywood Hungama to pull the plug?
  3. Is Bollywood Hungama and UTV aware of the fact that songs are STILL streamable via the website and that many people are listening to it? How does that really help that the official audio listing page has no streaming links but there exists another link within the same portal to perform the same function?
  4. Is UTV aware that the audio quality in Bollywood Hungama is enough for pirates to rip its off the streaming links and peddle 320 KBPS VBR rips online via torrents? Well, its not THAT good, but good enough to burn a CD and satisfy fans’ curiosity.

Enough questions – now for some ideas for music promotion via social media. 

  1. In case of a highly-anticipated title like Delhi 6, there are thousands of fans waiting to get a glimpse – even teeny weeny bits – of the music. Where there is anticipation, there is opportunity. Think of ways to utilize and fulfil this anticipation to build word of mouth for the title. While the music itself has to be really good too, why not use samples created exclusive for this purpose OVER and ABOVE the ones being aired on the TV. The current idea seems to be an after-though…upload the TV ad in the Facebook group and YouTube. There is NO thinking or creativity in doing that and it merely treats social media as second-rate communication medium. WRONG!
  2. So, what can UTV do? How about music snippets that are different from what is being shared on TV? is it that difficult? 
  3. There has to be a strong differntiation between what is offered online and on a CD, to side step piracy. Yes, this may be a premature suggestion, but no harm in trying. If Benny Dayal is singing a track from the soundtrack, how about getting him to say a sentence or two about the experience…his opinion on the tune…mid way during the video/ audio snippet or towards the end. This, in my opinion, would be the equivalent value addition that DVD makers add in movie titles…things like director’s take, commentary and so on. The idea is simple – increase the production values and the stuff made available in a CD so well that it becomes a collector’s item. Of course, there’s nothing stopping a pirate to rip the entire thing and making it available via torrents, but fans will evolve…and value the productoon values and the overall effort by supporting a CD that seen as value for money + something more.
  4. Is the Facebook group merely a broadcast medium? I agree, Rakeysh Mehra is answering questions et all, but is that it folks? No more interactivity? The last 5 days before the CD launch should actually create an online frenzy so that the demand for the CD reaches its peak on D-Day…simple movie promotion-styled/ election-styled campaigning…only, online. What can you do? Think simple ideas – audio/ video snippets of select singers/ composer talking about interesting facets during recording…the director/ lyricist talking about the lyrics and their inspiration…the lead actress picking up her fave track…there’s so much one can do. And, the interactivity of social media will ensure that these are spread and shared.
  5. There was a plethora of print love for how the word ‘Masakali’ (in one of the songs in Delhi 6) was conceived. Why can’t the lyricist and composer, along with the producer create a video explaining the same thing and prmote that video online? Is that so difficult in these times of mobile phone videos?
  6. Don’t even get me started on ring tones – I’ve already talked about that earlier, so let me not reiterate that. Let me just say that this opportunity is pure gold.
  7. If torrents are hurting your business, try to get even with them. Why not try with 1 minute, high quality mp3s of the songs…create a torrent of the soundtrack with one minute audio clips and seed it yourself (from the producer’s behalf) with a plea requesting downloaders to buy the CD after listening to the high quality samples? The act of making high quality samples in a medium that downloaders prefer is just to let them know that the producers are as clued in as the pirates.
  8. Understand that many of the downloaders choose the online pirated rips not to side step the CD purchase process – but also to get their hands on the music as early as possible. Physical purchase takes time and effort. Making CDs available via pre-ordering is one good idea which is being followed by online retailers now…but, the CDs need to reach the fans the day the CD hits the stores – not a day late. Else, you’re pissing off a fan. The other mode is to offer online downloads yourself – iTunes is something Bollywood producers have already warmed up to, but it is not the end of the world, at least in India. Can you sell the songs as a download for a price? Quite a few Indian music websites enable this function these days.

Bollywood is one area where social media can be used aggressively due to the high level of involvement and interest from fans. The only two requirements are to think out of the box and embrace the community that so passionately supports all things Bollywood.

Note: Many of the links from Bollywood Hungama may change in the coming days as the CD is released.

Photo courtesy: (who else?) Bollywood Hungama

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