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Spiritual strains

October 17, 2003

To time it with Karva Chauth (October 14), a festival in north India, Times Music launched Karva Chauth Vrat Katha, a step-by-step guide on how to perform your panch shudhikaran mantras, prithvi pujas and aartis.

Keeping in sync with the festival season, Sony Nad, the Indian classical label of Sony Music India, has also launched an eight-part DIY album devoted to calm your stubborn grahas.

Its USP? A 16-step shodashopchar puja for each of your nine grahas and it is "recommended for those whose planets are detrimental or malefic ", explains the company's release.

If wealth is your prayer for Diwali this month, look up Hind Pocket Books' cassette on performing the Lakshmi puja.

Last year, Times Music launched Shubh Laabh, a "prayer for abundance". This month it is releasing the Sukh Samrudhi Suraksha mantras for prosperity.

Music companies, hit by declining sales, are increasingly exploring new product lines to boost their fortunes. And what better way than to cash in on religious resurgence sweeping the country coupled with growing interest in spirituality.

Incidentally, while devotional music accounts for 20 per cent of the industry's sales, spiritual music is a niche market constituting about 2 per cent of the organised segment valued at Rs 500 crore (Rs 5 billion).

"Today people in the cities are stressed out. The younger generation too is yearning to return to the roots and keep traditions alive, " observes Pradeep Gangal, vice president, Super Cassettes Industries Ltd, which owns the T-Series brand.

T-Series focuses on low-priced products aimed at the rural market and brings out at least 3,000 devotional music titles, a year.

But for urbanites, plain devotional music is passe. They are now lapping up mantras, shlokas, meditation albums and wellness music.

For instance, if Music Today has launched Shakti mantra to heal one's chakras for relief from heartaches and headaches, Times Music has brought out Garbh Sanskar, meditative music aimed at pregnant women.

In addition, Times Music has also released an album called Gyan Jyoti for better concentration on studies while BMG Crescendo had earlier brought out an eight-part series on the Vedas.

Says Ravi Bhatnagar, VP, Times Entertainment, "We are aiming at the super A category class of listeners in the metros. The plan is to launch 50 to 60 titles in a year. We attempt to extract as much as possible from the Vedas and Puranas."

Most companies are unwilling to share sales figures of such titles. But music industry sources say that spiritual music production rarely goes above 5,000 units a month for a single title unless it's a best-seller like Gayatri Mantra or Chants of Shiva from Times Music or catalogue hits like Mantra Shakti from Music Today.

Times Music claims it sold over 3,00,000 Gayatri Mantra cassettes and CDs and 1,50,000 of Sacred Chants of Shiva.

And as innovation is the name of the new game, music companies are also tying up with lesser-known music labels to expand their range.

Sony Nad has tied up with labels like Sona Rupa, Adishri, Baba and AVM, while Times Music has tied up with Art of Living Foundation, Osho Foundation and Art & Artists, a company owned by Pandit Jasraj.

BMG Crescendo has similarly tied up with N A Classical and Music Today has tied up with Chennai-based Ojas Foundation to produce music for better health.

"While devotional music has a much bigger market, chants have a popular appeal," says Venkat Rola, COO, Music Today.

But not everyone is jumping onto the spiritual bandwagon. Though HMV Saregama brings out 5-10 devotional music albums a month, it is unwilling to invest in a genre that doesn't have an existing market.

"It's a new market and costs are not easy to recover. The advertising and marketing costs are very high. So even if you have a margin of 20 per cent, it does not add to very much," says Atul Churamani, HMV's vice president, A&R.

But advertising is not a major cost for Times Music and Music Today, owned by Bennett, Coleman & Co and Living Media respectively.

The groups also manage to promote their music on their local FM radio channels. Others like T-Series heavily advertise their products on religious channels like Aastha.


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