Friday, April 26, 2002

Bangladesh Music: Condemned to extinction? - PART 2

The Bangladesh Music 'industry': Of pirates and Patriots

The Bangladesh music market generates an annual revenue upwards of Tk. 200 crores (Source, Bangladesh Cassette and CD Manufacturers Association - BCCDMA) or roughly US$34 million. Unofficially the figures may be more than double if not triple. The 'industry' provides employment to well over 1 million citizens of the country, from artists to musicians, producers, distributors, retailers, wholesalers, cassette and CD manufacturers, pan-cake tape importers, inlay designers and printers, label manufacturers, audio- and video-recording studios, ancillary support systems like sound and light companies, entertainment and even management companies, decorators, banner and stage makers, etc.

Audio-cassettes are the largest sources of software that reach the common man, followed by a now burgeoning CD industry that has grown over 200 per cent in the last three years.

There are only two major players in the entire industry who control almost 80 per cent of the total business, and the rest is divided between ten to twelve minor players.

The average profit on a single cassette is between Tk. 14 to 24, depending on quality, based on the wholesale price of blank cassettes at between Tk. 11 to 15, that are sold to finished cassette wholesalers at between Tk. 28 to Tk. 32, while the retailers sell them from anywhere between Tk. 40 to Tk. 45.

There is no legislation or system in place to offer royalties to artistes, who are compelled to sell their works one at a time, all copyrights surrendered, and for flat payment.

The cost of production and margin of profit in CDs is almost three times higher than audio-cassettes for producers, distributors, wholesalers and retailers.

Of the total software sold, 60 per cent of the music is pirated Indian Hindi music, 25 per cent Bangladeshi music and original rendition of artistes and the rest miscellaneous.

Despite the huge size of the market and the number of audio-cassettes and CD?s sold, the hard truth is that the Bangladesh audio industry thrives on piracy of Hindi audio music, due to the unrestrained demand created by:

  • The overbearing Indian satellite television channels that have unrestricted access to the Bangladesh.

  • The easy availability of original recordings across the border which more than a dozen pirates immediately start recording and distributing with no major expense other that the cost of blank cassettes and the negligible cost of duplication and inlay cards.

  • No cohesive policy against open marketing of Indian music, its piracy or smuggling.

  • Role of the Bangladesh print media that glorifies Indian artistes at the expense of Bangladesh artistes and at no extra cost to the marketing company in India, or their pirates in Bangladesh.

  • No legislation to recognise the music industry as an industry, and therefore no effective guarantee for the future growth, sustenance and/or protection of burgeoning entrepreneurs, or Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) of singers, musicians et al.

  • No guiding law banning copyright infringement of Bangladeshi music. The ones ratified by the previous government are aimed at protecting the interest of foreign music marketers, without guaranteeing protection of the Bangladeshi audio-cassette industry, its artistes and others involved in the trade.

  • No abiding law that protects the pecuniary interest of Bangladesh artistes, nor any law to ensure that their works are not plagiarised in other countries.

  • No law to offer royalties for Bangladeshi singers and musicians, through transmission or telecast in state-run or privately owned television or radio channels.

  • No Bangladeshi music company affiliated with the International Federation of Phonographic Industries (IFPI) that guarantees royalty distribution.

  • No pressure group or body in Bangladesh to protect the rights of singers and musicians.

  • No infrastructure in place to promote and market Bangladeshi music abroad, though the Bangla language is spoken and understood by over 200 million people in Bangladesh and West Bengal with an expatriate community of another two million overseas, making Bangla the seventh largest spoken language in the world.

  • No legal representation of any major foreign or Indian music marketers. For instance, the largest Indian music marketer -HMV/Sa Ray Ga Ma have two local distributors, or 'official pirates' who supposedly look after their interest.

  • In the dispute last year between these 'official pirates' and BCCDMA that resulted in a stay order from courts, HMV did not give a public clarification of the locus standi of these distributors, nor any indication as to how profits are to be repatriated to India.



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