Financial Daily from THE HINDU group of publications
Thursday, Oct 10, 2002
Promotions & Offers
Variety - Music & Dance
AIR taps corporates for sponsoring classical music
Shyam G. Menon
MUMBAI, Oct. 9
THE influence of corporate sponsorship is beginning to be felt in All India Radio's (AIR) classical music programmes. With it, a generation of musicians dependent on AIR for recognition and income are fearing the heat of competition.
In the drive to augment revenues at Prasar Bharati, AIR's respected classical music programmes recently started accepting corporate sponsorship. The shortfall in AIR's income was sizeable and the Government was forced to invite sponsors for programmes, including classical music.
As Prasar Bharati Broadcasting Corporation, both AIR and Doordarshan are trying to improve earnings from their programmes. Last year, the efforts helped Prasar Bharati earn Rs 700 crore, but the expenditure was Rs 2,000 crore, necessitating a Government allocation of Rs 1,300 crore. "Our aim is to increase revenues every year by Rs 100 crore," Mr K.S. Sharma, CEO, Prasar Bharati, had said at a press conference here two months ago.
For its classical music programmes this was the first time AIR had sought corporate sponsorship, said an official familiar with the subject. In some ways it was inevitable because from a commercial perspective where listenership and marketability of music should match input cost, classical music was disadvantaged.
Recording fees to senior artistes remain high and the marketability of their music comparatively low. To make sense, AIR was even forced to curtail broadcasting hours for classical music.
Earlier, top grade artistes were allotted up to eight programmes in a year. That was cut to two or three, the official said. AIR is now seeking sponsors for all its classical music programmes, including the flagship `National Programme.' And it has met with modest success, if sponsorship alone were to be the yardstick.
Currently, AIR Mumbai's two primary stations air two hours each of classical music programmes, while the two FM stations have a shorter slot daily. Over the last month, sponsors were consistently found for both studio performances and archival recordings, AIR having a huge library of the latter.
However reflecting market reality, rates for sponsoring classical music quote far below that of Hindi film songs. As per existing tariff here, it costs a mere Rs 1,200 to sponsor 30 minutes of classical music (along with 90 seconds of free commercial time), while Hindi film music commands Rs 5,500.
These rates are being raised from 2003, but the disparity in tariff will continue. Officials were unsure how these rates were arrived at, whether it was based on a formal valuation of AIR's classical music library or not. But fact is, even music labels for long associated with Indian classical music are deemed reluctant sponsors today because they have profits to make and shareholders to answer to.
The market rules. Simply put, that means AIR must sell, and sell cheap if needed. In fact, the list of sponsors so far does not feature corporate heavy weights. To its credit, AIR reportedly tried other routes it asked senior, established artistes to sponsor their own programmes or that of upcoming junior artistes. Neither worked.
In the resultant scenario is buried a strange possibility. Traditionally, AIR has been the platform for promoting upcoming Indian classical musicians. On applying for `approval' they are invited for audition and after screening by a panel of senior musicians, enrolled for regular programmes.
Today, the official said, a musician without such approval can get air time on AIR provided he finds a sponsor. This was yet to happen but the potential existed in principle, he said. Nevertheless the real worry over AIR's move to sponsorship is felt elsewhere.
Among the many approved artistes are those who survive on the periodic assignments they get at AIR. There is concern that sponsors will back only established names or valuable archival material, leaving upcoming artistes out in the cold. This, when life as a musician is any day tough and market earnings differ sharply for top artistes and juniors. AIR officials acknowledge the worry, but the income deficit they are trying to bridge for the moment takes higher priority.
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