Music Licensing in Bollywood
It is hardly a trade secret that the Indian film industry, or Bollywood, as it is practically universally-known, is one of the fastest growing and most successful film industries on the planet – India actually overtook America as the world’s most prolific film producer back in the 1970s. Bollywood film producers seem to have found the perfect recipe for that uber-successful mix of old-school glamour and new-school cool that makes these films appeal to old and young alike. It has been claimed that the Bollywood film industry was partially responsible for the recent renaissance of musical films in Western cinema such as Moulin Rouge, Chicago and Mamma Mia! .
Given the strong Indian history of narrating stories, fairytales and legends through song and dance, it is natural that music should still play a huge part in Bollywood films today. The soundtracks for the majority of Bollywood films tend to be a mix of traditional Hindi songs and instrumentals, and more modern, upbeat, bhangra-style tracks.
Music Licensing from Hollywood to Bollywood
Recently, however, Western musicians have been getting wise to the opportunities available within this relatively untapped (by European and American artists) market, and have contributed songs for several recent Bollywood blockbusters. The 2008 film Singh is Kinng featured a song, in English, by Snoop Doggy Dog and Kylie Minogue has recorded a song by the ubiquitous AR Rahman for his recent film, Blue.
The Slumdog Millionaire soundtrack successfully married classical Hindi music, modern Bollywood-style bhangra and Western pop – Jai Ho, by the Pussycat Dolls and AR Rahman, was one of the biggest hits of 2009 (and the soundtrack won two Academy Awards for Rahman).
American composer Wayne Sharp is supplying background music for the film Lahore, and Lisbeth Scott, whose credits include Avatar and The Chronicles of Narnia, will feature as a playback singer. Grammy Award-nominated R&B star Akon is planning to contribute a song, in Hindi, to the soundtrack of upcoming Bollywood sci-fi film, RA.One.
A Music Director is the key contact in India when it comes to music licensing
EMI Music Publishing signed a deal with Indian production house Eros International in February 2010 enabling Eros to market EMI’s music catalogue within India, meaning that songs by artists such as Beyoncé, Katy Perry and KT Tunstall could soon be licensed out to feature in Bollywood movies. In the UK and the United States, songs are often cherry-picked for a film by music supervisors whose role is to find songs which are the perfect fit for that particular film.
Within Bollywood, it is more and more the case that a music director, rather than a supervisor, has control of the score for a film; that director being responsible for getting current or well-known songs remixed for the film and commissioning the composition of specially-written songs, as well as obtaining licences for already-recorded songs.
Soundtrack release strategy in Bollywood
Interestingly, Bollywood soundtracks are often released some time before the films themselves, (which is not generally the case with Western cinema), getting audiences and listeners involved with the film before it has even appeared.
These soundtracks often become very successful in their own right and it is not unusual for a promotional music video to be released in advance of the film, sometimes showing a song that does not even feature in the film itself. Some might say that Western film marketing has a lot of catching up to do!