Diljit Dosanjh, a popular Punjabi singer, and actor, recently bought himself a private jet. This should give you a good sense of how well Punjabi singers are doing.
But it wasn’t the same a decade ago. It wasn’t like this ever. The Punjabi music industry was revived by the very same thing it initially hated the most – the internet.
Piracy had been a pain in the ass for Punjabi music producers since the analog music days. Even though piracy hasn’t been eradicated completely, the internet has found more ways for artists and music producers to score even, and sometimes even more than that.
In the 90’s, one simply didn’t buy an original Punjabi music cassette or a CD. You could easily fit in around 20 tracks in a 90-minute blank tape for under ₹100. Music stores which couldn’t sell any original music ended up helping users in pirating the content.
When the internet started going mainstream in Punjab and elsewhere, piracy just became a walk in the park. Anyone could simply download music for free. Music producers and singers were left with very little.
The only way they could make any dough back then was by doing national or international shows. Even weddings were a great place to make a quick buck.
Music production houses were still making a killing because almost everyone in Punjab wanted to become a singer. All they had to do was sell some farmland, spend money on getting an album out. Some would go further and spend lavishly on a music video too.
If it worked for the singer good for him. Maybe he’d get picked up for a paid album or for some shows abroad. If it didn’t, the music labels still had nothing to lose. But people only had a limited amount of farmland to sell. Production houses still needed a hit every once in a while.
And then YouTube happened.
Today, for a Punjabi track to be called a success it needs at least a million YouTube hits. The production house doesn’t care about piracy anymore because they’re at a point where it’s similar to hitting a wall. Instead, they’re using the power of the internet and the tools it offers to bring alternative sources of revenue.
YouTube’s revenue-sharing program helps production houses in making money off music videos and albums. Videos also serve as a great marketing tool for promotional tours abroad. Fans in countries like US and Canada are now willing to pay more than ever to attend live shows from Punjabi singers. A little piracy even goes out of the way to help get the promotion needed for any Punjabi singer today.
Social media platforms also serve as a great tool to push further marketing. Punjabi singers who are in the popular league tend to charge anywhere between Rs.40,000-50,000 per Facebook or Instagram post to promote other singers’ albums and singles. Digital marketing companies are making a killing serving these Punjabi singers.
Online music streaming services have also helped convert a lot of pirates into genuine users. Affordable music streaming services in India, coupled with increased mobile broadband penetration have helped users opt for a paid subscription to these services. The all-you-can-have part continues to entice even more users each quarter.
The audience itself has matured over the years. Punjabis love to spend their money on shiny, large-screen flagship smartphones. With the expansion of 4G and 3G connectivity across the state, content consumption has only risen many folds. Online video consumption has grown rapidly in the last five years. Reliance Jio helped speed things up in the last six months.
With more money pouring in, production houses could maximize their spending. This helped create stunning music videos while labels jumped ships and started producing movies as well. The same story could be told for the Punjabi movie industry which is growing quite rapidly now. But piracy had been one of its least known issues. We’ll keep that story for another time.