How YouTube views have emerged as the significant yardstick in South Indian music scene

Apart from the Tamil scene, the Tollywood is another industry which continues to deliver viral chartbusters on a dynamic scale in terms of YouTube views

Surendhar MK March 22, 2020 09:36:56 IST
How YouTube views have emerged as the significant yardstick in South Indian music scene

Music has always been an integral part of films in India, and there’s always the extra attention that is handed over to movies in the south because of the enjoyable song and dance routine in the story-telling since time immemorial.

Both the Tamil and Telugu industries are very celebratory and protective about their composers, who in turn become the calling card for every film made down here.

According to a report published by Ernst and Young for FICCI - Media & Entertainment last year, the budget assigned for digital with the aim to increase YouTube views in commercial movies has changed to almost 4-5% from less than 1% a few years back. Gone are those days when keen music buffs would regularly look out for air-check data to track the most frequently played songs on the radio every week.

Though the hit value of the composer still remains as the numero uno yardstick for the industry to bring in the rankings, how a chartbuster is judged has largely changed over the years. With the introduction of YouTube as the primary source of music for the average man, it all boils down to numbers these days, with a million views being the fundamental benchmark. Firstpost spoke to stakeholders in the music scene in the south industry and how YouTube views have become a significant selling element for movies.

Shahir Muneer of Divo, a popular music label in the South, told Firstpost, "It begins with something as basic as the lyrical videos. In the early days, lyrical videos used to just have stills from the film in them, but now, there is an entire creative process involved for the same. With so many composers in the frame and easy access to content, the audience is spoilt for choice with the number of songs that they have to hear. Therefore, there is something more than the actual song itself to keep them pinned."

He further added: "A recent example is Darbar, where we had to bring in a making video of sorts for the first single 'Chumma Kizhi'. At first, we pitched the idea of Anirudh and SPB crooning the number on video but later went ahead with Superstar Rajinikanth himself and the chorus singers. If not for the content that we created specifically for the video, it wouldn’t have even achieved half of the views it has today."

As music labels look at it from a business perspective, composers have another viewpoint. GV Prakash, who is a proven long-standing composer in the industry, says he believes in the longevity of the music that he creates rather than how it is presented.

“For me, it has always been about the reach of the songs. Over the years, I’ve realized that the recall value of the song amidst the audience is what matters the most. The industry is driven by numbers now and the yardsticks to judge a hit have changed, but the value of a hit song remains the same. Even after these many years, 'Urugudhey' (from his debut film Veyyil) still gets a lot of plays on FM stations; that’s where the real quality of the song stands the test of time. Records are temporary; the love from the listeners is permanent,” he says.

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Composer D Imman is another minimum guarantee musician in the Tamil industry, with recent hit albums like Viswasam and Namma Veettu Pillai to his name.

Viswasam turned out to be one of the most viral albums to hit Kollywood’s shores in 2019, garnering more than 500 million streams across multiple platforms.

The composer spoke to us, saying “With the change towards online media gaining more mileage, we do adhere to some gimmicks where the singer we choose matters as he will be featured in the lyric video and so on, but the ultimate result comes down to how good the song really is. People have totally moved away from watching songs on TV as everything has shifted to the mobile screens, but we cannot always reflect on the number of views to judge a hit, as it is something that has taken over recently. For example, my song 'Koodamela Koodavechi' from Rummy had a late surge in views, while the lyric video of 'Kannana Kanney' from Viswasam went viral in a flash. As a composer, it is important for me to balance all the sides and make sure that the song has everything in it before it goes out in the open.”

Shahir believes in the idea that Tamil cinema needs to adopt the practice of releasing the visuals of the songs from the film beforehand, just like how it is done in Bollywood and for some Malayalam films as well. Commenting on the monetization scene for YouTube, he says “The pattern for monetization has changed from YouTube’s side, with them getting a little tighter with their cuts. However, we as a label try to incorporate ads creatively, without acting as a hindrance to the content.”

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Apart from the Tamil scene, the Tollywood is another industry which continues to deliver viral chartbusters on a dynamic scale in terms of YouTube views.

Before the viral Tamil hit, 'Rowdy Baby' (from Dhanush's Maari 2) took the top spot in the list of the most viewed song videos in the south, it was the Telugu number 'Vachinde' (from Fidaa) which held the crown.

SS Thaman’s recent offering in Ala Vaikunthapurramuloo is one of the best examples for a complete chartbuster soundtrack, with all the songs peaking all around the globe. 'Ramuloo Ramulaa', a dance track from the film is now the most viewed lyrical video, which was also achieved because of the music-video like content that was exclusively shot for promotional purposes.

The other viral tracks of the film include 'Samajavaragamana' (another YouTube sensation) and 'Butta Bomma' (fetched loads of attention on TikTok). With the album, Thaman has gone on to become the only music director from the Telugu industry to fetch himself an album worth 500 million streams across all platforms.

FICCI reported that the Indian music segment grew 10% to reach Rs 14.2 billion in 2018 and is expected to grow 10.8% annually till 2021, on the back of increased digital revenues, performance rights and synchronization rights. "YouTube accounted for 40% of the digital revenues for labels. Physical music sales fell by 50%3. India reached 19th position in the IFPI world rankings of music markets," read the FICCI report.

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