How the film industry struggled against Audio Cassette Piracy?
Music is the backbone of the Indian film industry. According to trade pundits, 70% of the film industry’s revenue is due to good music. Good music not only builds pre-release publicity but in most cases, it has played a pivotal role in the mega-success of a film. Since the early ’30s, music has been a vital aspect of the film business. Earlier, the craze for music was such that in the early ’30s, films had as many as 25 to 30 songs! The film Indrasabha (1932) holds the world record for the most song. It had 72 songs!
Readers would be stunned to know that Music director, Naushad, was paid more than the stars in the ’40s and the 50s’ because the music of his film was the benchmark of the film’s success. Filmmaker A.R. Kardar had produced the film Rattan (1944) for Rs75,000 but the film’s music, scored by Naushad, was so outstanding that the music company earned Rs 3 lakhs in royalties from the sales of Gramophone records in the first year! To date, the music of Rattan is timeless. Remember the songs – Akkhiyan Milake Jiya Bharmake Chale Nahin Jaana…….O Janewale Balamwa… Milke Bichhad Gayii Akkhiyan…. Some of Naushad’s musical blockbuster films are Rattan (1944), Anmol Ghadi (1946), Andaz (1949), Aan (1952), Baiju Bawra (1952), Mother India (1957), Mughal-e-Azam (1960), Ganga Jamuna ( 1961), Ram Aur Shyam (1967), etc.
In the ’60s and ’70s, film music was a rage. Music ruled the roost, and film music companies like HMV and Polydor minted money. Remember films like Dosti, Sangam, Bobby, Julie, Laila Majnu, Kati Patang, Aradhana, etc. Even today, music rules in Bollywood. The success of Rockstar (2011), Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani (2013), and Aashiqui 2 (2013) are pointers.
The business of music was simple. A music company buys the rights of film music and pays a bulk amount to the producer. Later, the music company mints money on the sale of records/ cassette. Since the country has an enormous population of music buffs, hence the music companies made a huge business from the sale of records. However, in the late ’70s, with the technology innovation, the gramophone records were replaced by audio cassettes and thus entered the threat of audio ‘piracy’ in film music.
The key player who gave a tough time to music companies was a man called Gulshan Kumar, who set up T-Series, a manufacturing plant of audio cassettes, and did the illegal business of selling pirated audio cassettes’. While legal music companies sold the music cassettes’ between Rs 100/- to Rs 60/-, T-Series cassettes, were sold in the market at a dirt-cheap rate of mere Rs 20/- to Rs 30/-
The highlight of T-Series cassettes was that unlike cheap pirated cassettes, T-Series cassettes were superior in quality. Plus, in the case of a defective T-Series cassette, it was instantly replaced by retailers. Thus the demand picked to dizzy heights, and T-Series cassettes ruled the country.
According to reports, T-Series sold 20 million cassettes of Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge, and this started a bitter rivalry between music companies and T-Series! The music companies were furious as they paid exorbitant amounts to film producers for music rights, and the canny Gulshan Kumar sabotaged the music and flooded the market with his pirated cassettes within a few hours of their release.
Finally, Gulshan Kumar was cornered! Legal cases were filed against him, but he coolly escaped all allegations saying, “Piracy? Ji, Hamare business Mein to yeh sab Chalta hai.” (Piracy? In our business, all this is acceptable.)”