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    Interview with Suresh Thomas

    [Interview by Joginder Tuteja]
    Tuesday, October 24, 2006
    The world talks about music piracy and how it has impacts the industry in general. One also speculates about whether any action is taken at all to curb the evil.

    We get into a conversation with Suresh Thomas, MD Crescendo music, to talk about music piracy, company’s recent initiative on Artist Management and whether the company has any plans to rope in a pop-star from Pakistan?

    As a member of the IMI [The Indian Music Industry], what are the kind of steps that have been taken to curb music piracy?

    This is a question that is often asked and I wish to tell here that IMI and heads of all music companies have put in so much of time, effort and money to aim at bringing at solution to this. We must have spent around 4-5 crores on this already and have at least managed to curb music piracy in a big way. Now look at America. There too so many steps have been taken to eradicate the issue and there are many laws and regulations in this regard but still around 10% of music found there is on pirated software.

    So can this be brought to ground zero?

    No. We have never claimed it can be because just like you can't stop a murder from happening as a criminal would be hanged for that, in a similar way you can't stop the crime of piracy. Though law exists for more than 5000 years that a murderer needs to be punished, relatively anti-piracy laws are still new! Yes, we have been working continuously to counter piracy and for that in recent times we have even conducted 200-300 raids.

    But there could be some solution?

    There are but then look at the channels through which piracy is mushrooming. There is internet, there are mobile phones, what not! But are we lying low because of that? No! Why should we? After all if you don't give a fight-back, there are minimal chances of survival of whatever we have in hand. In such a case, we may soon be like Pakistan or Bangladesh where there is no music industry of their own. This is why you see so many Pakistani artists coming to India to make a future. See, it is easy to criticize that piracy is rampant but how many actually know the kind of work that IMI is doing. In last 10 years, 50-70 crores have been spent in anti-piracy initiative. Things like conducting workshops, even going to the extent of educating cops about the finer points.

    You just mentioned about Pakistani artists. Do you have any plans about roping in Pakistani artists for the ‘Artist Management’ business that you have kick started?

    I am certainly not closed to it. They are good. But then I am not overtly excited too to have someone on board soon just because I want to have one. First of all I have to look at my own backyard since there are many waiting in the wings to be picked up. In addition, the issues that crop up with picking up artists from Pakistan are multitude. First and foremost there is no contractual control due to legal bindings. Secondly, VISA is a problem. You may invest in them and a day would come when they have to be in India but are unable to get hold of a VISA.

    Coming to a different topic, one remembers that till about a year or so back Crescendo was trying to make its presence felt in the Bollywood music scene too. What happened?

    Yes, we didn't really do well there though 'Jhankaar Beats' was a big hit. We must have released around 20 albums and one hit out of 20 is not a very bad ratio after all [chuckles]! Anyways, at that point of time, we were quite keen on entering this market. Now whether you opt for low acquisition or high acquisition model, the problems are with both. It's a loose-loose situation. When you see music of big films going bust, you wonder how you would survive with small films. Now we were primarily dealing with small films at that time and after a few failures, we realized that to sustain in this business, you need to have deep pockets. It was a good learning process.

    And what else did you learn?

    That we are not going to do it again! Anyways our core competency has been non-film music and we plan to reap fruits from there. Yes, grass always looks greener on the other side and we realized this after loosing money. That's the reason why we want to go back to our forte; somewhere where we are a comfort level.

    Separation from BMG must have been painful too.

    Yes, it was. In fact we were earlier Crescendo and later partnered with BMG to become BMS Crescendo. What happened later was that Sony came into the scene and a worldwide merger happened in the form of SONY BMG. This resulted in Crescendo being on our own and it did impact us since the MNC feel of an organization did go away with that. But fair enough, we have good plans for future and we would be there! Who knows, we may have a new partner soon. I look at things like these positively since it's only a 'jhatka' like this which makes one being open minded and come out of complacency.

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