Global publishers receive Turnkey services in India

While music publishing in India was virtually non-existent in the 1990s, things have fortunately changed since then for the better, actually…much better!

Atul Churamani

Most of the world’s largest publishers [“majors”] not only have a presence in India, such as Warner/Chappell Music [represented by Times Music, which also represents Peer Music], Universal Music Publishing, and Sony/ATV Music [which also represents EMI Music Publishing], but have been proactive in pursuing their artiste/client interests. Further support for the music publishers in India occurred by the amendment of the Indian Copyright Act in 2012, resulting in several independent companies entering the publishing sweepstakes, mainly Turnkey Music & Publishing, a company floated by media and industry veteran Atul Churamani in July 2013.

In acknowledging India’s rapid growth in the global music industry and, as part of Turnkey’s plans of having global representation in India, three standalone international music publishers entered the home market, via sub publishing agreements with Turnkey, on July 1, 2020.


The first is the largest independent publisher in the world, Kobalt Music Publishing Limited. In the business for 20 years, Kobalt has achieved the number four position globally in terms of market share, just behind the three majors mentioned earlier. Kobalt represents over 600 publishers, 25,000 songwriters, and 20,000 artistes that include chart sensations ranging from Dua Lipa, the Weeknd, Marshmello, Diplo, Childish Gambino, Lauv, Pitbull, Lewis Capaldi to those comparatively senior such as Enrique Iglesias, Dave Grohl, and the Foo Fighters, as well as living legends like Paul McCartney and Stevie Nicks to those that have passed away, such as Elvis Presley and Bob Marley. Kobalt represents some 40% of the Top 100 singles and albums in the US and in the UK.

The second publisher, the Fairwood Music Group, is an established and highly respected independent music publisher. Formed in London in 1987, through the years, Fairwood has represented such iconic artistes and writers as David Bowie, U2, Cat Stevens, Antonio ‘LA’ Reid, Average White Band, Collective Soul, and J.J. Cale [for the trivia-minded, this is the songwriter behind Eric Clapton’s “After Midnight” and “Cocaine”, as well as “Call Me The Breeze” performed by Lynyrd Skynyrd and John Mayer, and “The Sensitive Kind” by Santana and John Mayall]. Fairwood is actively looking for co-writers in India for material that will appeal to both the indigenous and international markets.

The relatively smaller Konic Records, the third of the publishers signed by Turnkey, is also an UK-based publisher that represents the catalogue of eclectic singer/songwriter James Kennedy, and focuses on the genres of rock and electro-pop.

Although Churamani had informally shared his potential publishing associations with this writer a couple of months ago, he requested that that the news officially remain under wraps until now. “We’re very excited to be representing some of the greatest music in the world in India” – he cheerfully boasts now, and why not? – “as there are many opportunities that we’re hoping to tap into, including helping independent artistes do legitimate covers of global hits that they can release officially on all audio platforms, working on collaborations between Indian and international songwriters, artistes and producers and, of course, doing a lot of synchronization deals for films, ads, and web series in all languages.”

Adds Churamani, “We’re also looking to strengthen the IPRS [Indian Performing Right Society] representation of international music, which has been continually growing in consumption in India.”

Just as Churamani referred to IPRS [], to re-establish itself as the forerunner for publishing in India, in April 2017, it appointed a new, no-nonsense chairman; namely, celebrated poet, scriptwriter, and lyricist Javed Akhtar. Almost simultaneously, Achille Forler, one of the more experienced copyright administrators in the country and a long-time activist for authors’ rights, courtesy of his being the man behind the genesis of Deep Emotions, was made a Permanent Advisor to the IPRS Board. Specifically, on the publishers’ side, the addition of Mandar Thakur, COO of Times Music, lent support and credibility to a body that has since re-established itself to its heydays, and has since gone way beyond.

Meanwhile, referencing other collection agencies, on the public performance side, other key bodies that exist include PPL (Phonographic Performance Limited; and its offshoot, Phonographic Digital Limited [of which, more later], and Novex Communications [] – a company floated to represent the interests of select content production houses like Yash Raj Films, Zee Music, Eros International, and Tips Industries, among others.

If one includes additional bodies in the Indian Singers’ Rights Association (ISRA) [] – represented by former IPRS representative Sanjay Tandon – there exist multiple organisations acting as collecting agents, but each one with a specific role.

While PPL, PDL, and IPRS have a connect with the Indian Music Industry [IMI;], another body, the South Indian Music Companies Association [SIMCA;] was set up in 1996 to oversee the common problems faced by the industry in South India. The membership of the association includes members who once belonged to the Indian Music Industry (IMI) and/or Phonographic Performance Ltd (PPL); however, to the best of this writer’s knowledge, since SIMCA is not empowered to issue any kind of licenses, in or about December 2018, SIMCA entered into an agreement for monetising its public performance rights through PPL.

With the likes of large players from South India such as 5 Star Audio, Star Audio, Satyam Audio, Amudham Music, Millennium Audio, Symphony Recording Company, Mass Audio, Nadham Audio, Melody, Modern Cinema, and 45 other labels coming on board, PPL had immediate access to 100,000 sound recordings from films, and independent and devotional albums across the languages of Tamil, Kannada, Telugu, Sanskrit, and Malayalam.

Nevertheless, a significant change occurred in the Indian music industry in 2017 when a new organisation was floated to licence and collect fees from the various telcos [Vodafone Idea, Airtel, Reliance Jio], from downloading/streaming services, and from aggregators/platforms [Spice, OnMobile, IMImobile, Airtel Wynk, JioSaavn]; namely, Phonographic Digital Limited (PDL;, which was formed on March 17, 2017 for issuing licenses for mobile and digital services with effect, from April 1, 2017, with six directors on board then, including Turnkey’s Atul Churamani and Times’ Mandar Thakur.

Meanwhile, in May 2020, the IFPI – The International Federation of the Phonographic Industry, a non-profit members’ organisation that represents the interests of the recording industry worldwide – launched the latest edition of its Global Music Report annual compendium of what the worldwide recording industry earned last year. It showed that, in 2019, India’s total wholesale market (i.e. the money paid to labels) rose 18.7% to US$181.4 million, thanks largely to a hike in ad-funded streaming revenues. With this kind of income in sight, India, which is currently the world’s 17th largest recorded music streaming market, including potential income from music publishing, thanks to initiatives from the collection bodies and from independent publishers like Turnkey Music & Publishing, India is certainly on its way to meet its goal of becoming one of the world’s top 10 music markets by 2022.

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