Abdullah Mahmood on Saturday, October 04, 2008 This year has been a mixed bag so far for the Indian music industry, which relies heavily on Bollywood movie soundtracks to keep the cash registers ringing.
Among the success stories was the soundtrack release of music composer and actor Himesh Reshammiya's much-awaited Karzzz, ahead of the film's box-office release on October 16. The music has received a bumper response all over, including in the GCC territories, with the UAE leading sales.
Karzzz's run adds to the recent success of soundtracks from the films Jannat, Jaane Tu ya Jaane Na, Singh Is Kinng, Bachna Ae Haseeno and Rock On, which has given some impetus to the sluggish Bollywood music business so far this year.
The year 2008 started on a slow note with only A R Rahman's Jodha Akbar managing to cross sales of more than one million units, until Race took the music charts by storm thanks to composer Pritam's vibrant score.
Race has been the best selling soundtrack so far this year, selling more than 1.7 million units. This was followed by another of Pritam's chartbusting soundtracks in the form of Jannat, which is running the Race soundtrack close in terms of sales.
"Jannat's music sales exceeded our expectations" says Karan Lilaram, a senior executive at Megastar, the UAE distributor for Sony-BMG. The only other soundtrack that managed to do well was Tashan, but its performance was short-lived due to the film's box-office failure," he adds.
"It is very rare that a film's music continues to do well even after the film's failure and it is important that a film succeeds for its music to have a longer shelf life," says music composer Ismail Darbar, speaking about the impact of a film's success on its soundtrack sales.
The second half of 2008 rocked the music industry with the soundtracks of three films � Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na, Singh Is Kinng and Bachna Ae Haseeno � each achieving individual sales of more than 1.5m units.
Beyond the fact that these films were all certified box-office hits, their youthful, trendy music succeeded because it appealed to the younger generation.
"Bachna Ae Haseeno's vibrant music performed best among all our releases, which have included Tashan and Thoda Pyar Thoda Magic so far this year. We believe Tashan's music sales could have gone the extra mile had the film become a major box office success," says Nelson D'Souza, Head of UAE operations, Yashraj Music and Films.
But the soundtrack for Rock On, while catching on among the urban crowd in India, only did well in some segments of the UAE market, such as the big music stores in Dubai. This is probably because Hindi rock music is still a new genre and is not yet everyone's first choice off the menu.
Besides Hindi film soundtracks, the Indian music industry relies on compilations of hit songs, remix albums and private albums to keep the show running. This year Atif Aslam's Meri Kahani and Rabbi Shergill's Avengi Ja Nahin won critical acclaim but failed to repeat the huge success of their previous private albums, Doorie (2006) and Bulla Ki Jaana (2005) respectively.
With no major remix or private album recently that has rocked the musical charts, music store owners had to be content with sporadic successful compilations of Bollywood hits such as Let's Rock The Party, Lambhi Judai and Pappu Can't Dance.
"I believe the genre of remix albums is pass�. Though I don't have anything against them, I think they can't match the charm of original music scores, which still lure a huge number of people," says award-winning Bollywood playback singer Alka Yagnik.
But more than changing tastes or the impact of different musical genres, it is music piracy that is killing the industry which was worth nearly Rs10 billion (Dh793m) in the early 1990s and shrank to a mere Rs5bn by the early 2000s. A best-seller in the nineties meant sales in the vicinity of 10 million units. That has come down drastically now to only around two million units in recent years and speaks volumes about how much of a loss the music industry has had to suffer.
Meanwhile, the business will be hoping that the recent spate of successes continues, with some major Bollywood musical blockbusters lined up for release.
There is promise in the air of the year ending on a high note.