‘Consumer taste is same, only loyalty has shifted’


    GUWAHATI RETAIL MUSIC MARKET – THE UP’S AND THE DOWN’S

For Arvind Ajitsariya, life, or rather the music record, has played its full cycle. From starting off as the only music distributor-cum-retailer in the Northeast with a booming business to the present day state of affairs today when retail sales of physical records are at the lowest minimum, he has seen it all. As owner of Meghali Music, the foremost and oldest music store of Guwahati, Arvind and his wife Usha had managed to create an enviable reputation for themselves as the music lords of the region. “If you don’t get that tape in Meghali, you wont get it anywhere else,” is still the unanimous view of most music lovers in Guwahati and other towns of the region.

However, a few years back, the pitiable state of the music retail industry had prompted Arvind to diversify into other areas like mobile handsets and electronic items. “The music retail industry won’t last for more than five years,” he makes a definite claim. The sadness, evident in his voice, is understandable. In the heydays, the same retailer used to sell more than 500 audio records of movies on a daily basis for three-four months at a stretch. “Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge, Dil to Pagal Hain were some of the movies which sold like hot cakes during those days. Nowadays, it’s a big thing even if you manage to sell 10 copies.”

While the birth of T-Series marked the start of the music revolution in the country, emergence of music retail chains was one of its defining factors. “T-Series literally stopped the monopoly of HMV in the entire market but the mushrooming of the music chains marked the beginning of the downfall. While they themselves did not make any profit, they did spoil the entire market,” says Arvind.

However, he still has his hopes pinned on the market. “The dynamics are always changing. I am hopeful that it will come back to square one someday. After all, the consumer taste is still the same. Its just the loyalty that has shifted – you don’t want to pay for your music today. But quality will always have the last say.”

Having veered into music production for a brief period as well with my production house Nisha Audio, Arvind strokes my curiosity when he claims that in terms of volume, North east India has the highest market in the country for physical sales. He explains, “I have spoken to many music distributors all over the country while taking regional distributorship of a number of films and had realised that the North east accounts for almost 30 to 35 per cent of total sales.”

A much loved retailer of western music lovers for his collection of English tapes, Arvind has done it all, even bringing in pirated English cassettes from Nepal and then recording it in blank cassettes for music lovers here. “We used to get those cassettes from Nepal for Rs 150-200 during those days and re-record them and sell here. Copyright was an alien concept during that time,” says Arvind, who was arrested for the offence in the late nineties and kept in police remand. “Piracy is now the biggest threat to the music industry. The entire phenomenon has now been transformed into an organized crime with mafia groups running the show in places like other towns of the Northeast,” he says.

ARVIND’S VIEW OF THE GUWAHATI MUSIC MARKET

1. What genres sell in the city and who is the target audience buying physical music?

Arvind: There has always been a mixed audience for music in Guwahati. Ours is probably the only market in the country where such diversity in tastes exists. Folk, local and classical music are equally popular here, besides of course the Bollywood numbers. In other parts of the Northeast, there is a huge market for international catalogues.

2. Difference in margins to retailers for regional versus bollywood music versus international catalogue.

Arvind: Apart from local, the margin is almost the same. Margin is much lesser in international catalogues.

3. How has music retailing evolved with chain stores like Landmark, Planet M stepping in a decade back?

Arvind: It can be compared with a revolution. While these stores did not manage to make any profit themselves, they did spoil the entire music retail market.

4. How many stores were there in Guwahati earlier and do they still exist?

Arvind: There were around five major independent music retail stores in the nineties. Except one, all have diversified and the one which has not diversified is on the verge of closure.

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Posted on September 14, 2011, in Concerts/ Reviews, Day-to-Day, Musicians/ Bands, Personalities/ Interviews and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Gives a true picture of the music industry … music doesn’t sell anymore seems to have finally dawned. Well captured facts Aiyushman. Wish some one comes and blesses the retail division of the music industry ‘Aiyushman bhava’ and this whole scenario goes back to square one again.

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