Challenging Bollywood music’s dominance of the music industry in India is no easy feat.
According to research published by SoundCharts in August, the average movie produced in India features between four and six songs recorded specifically to help tell its narrative.
India’s film production output, adds the study, is close to 2,000 per year (compared to Hollywood’s 600). All mathematics being true and correct, that would mean there’s around 10,000 original songs being produced and released by India’s film industry every year.
Speaking at the Music Inc. music conference in Mumbai in June, Spotify India’s Managing Director, Amarjit Singh Batra, estimated that music from films still accounts for 80% of India’s music industry’s revenue.
Creating and promoting culturally influential and commercially successful non-film music in India, then, evidently requires significant effort and investment. One company in particular has made major strides in this space in little over a year.
In 2018, Universal Music India (UMI) launched VYRL, an artist platform specifically designed to challenge Bollywood’s music dominance in India.
VYRL has four sub-properties, all created to help grow the company’s share of the non-film music category:
- VYRL Originals is a premium video content platform with over 2m subscribers on YouTube;
- VYRL Top 20 is a playlist across various DSPs;
- VYRL Fever is a Top 10 countdown radio show;
- VRYL Fever is produced in association with Fever FM and My FM and is India’s first and only non-film countdown show.
Lastly, there’s VYRL Coverstar, a user-generated content initiative for aspiring artists to create cover versions of their favourite songs by VRYL artists.
Devraj Sanyal, Managing Director & CEO, Universal Music Group, India & South Asia, says: “We have worked hard over the past two years to build VYRL Originals, not only as a label with artists’ own original creativity at its core, but also to help redefine and open up the non-film music genre to India’s rapidly evolving music audience, who are open to discovering music outside of Bollywood.”
He adds: “We are now in a sea change moment for music here in India. We have a new mobile-first generation of smartphone users, consuming more music than ever before and it’s our mission to make original Indian music as accessible to everyone as possible.
“Our wider ambitions – for original Indian music to reach beyond India to new audiences around the world – mirrors the global outlook and core values of UMG under the leadership of our chairman, Sir Lucian Grainge.
“Our wider ambitions – for original Indian music to reach beyond India to new audiences around the world – mirrors the global outlook and core values of UMG under the leadership of our chairman, Sir Lucian Grainge.”
Devraj Sanyal, Universal Music
“We have been working hard with partners, DSPs and media to help build a platform, where artists voices and talent can now be seen and heard, whether that is from our VYRL artist roster or the next wave of Indian hip-hop stars through Mass Appeal India.”
Since its launch, VYRL Originals has released over 30 non-film hits like Aaya Na Tu, Laal Bindi, Jo Tu Na Mila, Tu Na Mera, Sajna Ve, Mafiyaan, Woh Barishein and Kisi Aur Naal.
VYRL’s roster includes artists such as Mithoon, Asees Kaur, Arjun Kanungo, Lisa Mishra, Tanishk Bagchi, Sukriti & Prakriti Kakkar, Akull Tandon, Asim Azhaz and many others.
On Wednesday (November 6), VYRL chalked up a big milestone by releasing the video for a new track called Intezaar, which is a collaboration between three of the biggest names in Bollywood music and film: Mohit Suri, Mithoon and Arijit Singh.
The trio are famous for delivering superhits like Tum Hi Ho, Humdard, Phir Bhi Tumko and Chaahunga. Intezaar marks the first time they have come together to make a non-film track.
Intezaar was composed and written by Mithoon and features both Singh and Kaur.
Directed by Arif Khan, the video for the track showcases Indian TV stars Sanaya Irani and Gurmeet Chaudhary. It racked up some 2.5 million views in its first 24 hours, on is now at 6.5m on YouTube,
This all acts as further evidence that the VRYL project – with Bollywood stars creating non-film music – is becoming a major force for Universal India and parent company UMG in the market.
“We are now in a sea change moment for music here in India.”
Devraj Sanyal, Universal Music
Adds Devraj Sanyal: “This release [Intezaar] brings together some of India’s most successful talent across music and film to create new original material… [It] shows that Universal Music India’s belief in putting artistic integrity and collaboration at the heart of everything we do is resonating with the artist community here in India, who want their music to help soundtrack people’s lives, and not just movies.”
Vinit Thakkar, Senior Vice President, Universal Music India & South Asia, says: “VYRL Originals is an artist first music platform which has been at the forefront of creating a category and culture of non-film music in India.
“Intezaar has been a dream project for us at VYRL. To bring together the biggest names in the Indian Music & Entertainment business, for a non-film song for the first time, has been an exciting experience.
“I am deeply appreciative of the creative journey and efforts of the entire team including Mohit Suri, Mithoon, Arijit Singh, Asees Kaur and the talented duo Sanaya and Gurmeet, who feature in the music video directed by Arif Khan.
“Intezaar is not just another non-film song; it’s a musical experience.”
“VYRL Originals is an artist first music platform which has been at the forefront of creating a category and culture of non-film music in India.”
Vinit Thakkar, Universal Music
Explaining how the decision to place Intezaar with VYRL/Universal came about, Mithoon says: “Mohit and I always like to work on a thought when it comes to any song. He gave me the idea to come up with a song which talks about yearning and hoping against hope.
“I responded by giving him this melody and he got very excited about it. He initially wanted to use it in [movie] Aashiqui 2, but later on, we both felt it wasn’t fitting in the narrative of the film.
“Time passed but we both held on to this song very dearly in our hearts. Even Arijit would keep asking me about where are we going to use it. Earlier this year, VRYL Originals approached me to do a project with them and Mohit kept pushing me to do something in the non-film space.
“I reworked on the entire structure of the song and added the voice of Asees Kaur, who I think elevated the song with her honesty. Finally, it all came together as a true musical experience.”
Pictured [L-R]: Vinit Thakkar, Mithoon, Asees Kaur, Sanaya Irani, Gurmeet Choudhary, Devraj Sanyal, Mohit Suri and Arif Khan. Music Business Worldwide