No business sense in making CDs: Indian Ocean`s Rahul Ram

New Delhi: Fusion rock band Indian Ocean had released its last album "16/330 Khajoor Road" online - one song per month - and all for free! It was a decision based on "pure economics", says Rahul Ram, the band`s bass guitarist and lead vocalist. The money, he added, lies in doing live shows.

"16/330 Khajoor Road" was given away completely free as MP3 downloads from the band`s website from July 2010 to February 2011. After that, only a double physical CD pack was sold.

"It was simple, pure economics... When did you buy your last CD? Nobody buys! Why should I make a CD?" Ram asked while speaking to reporters.

Indian Ocean has stuck to its fusion flavour with albums like ‘Indian Ocean’ (1993), ‘Desert Rain’ (1997), ‘Kandisa’ (2000) and ‘Jhini’ (2004) in its discography. The band is happy with a few Bollywood projects.

"Nobody asks us," says Ram, whose band has composed for movies like "Black Friday" and "Peepli Live".

He is now set to judge Zee TV`s flagship music reality show ‘Sa Re Ga Ma Pa 2012’.

Excerpts from the interview:

Q. Why does Indian Ocean do such few Bollywood projects?

A: I never have any issue. The issue is that nobody asks us. Choosing a Bollywood project for us will depend on the kind of director and producer more than anything else, because we really dislike interference.

Q. Was interference the reason why Indian Ocean decided to wean away from record labels and release an album online?

A: It was simple, pure economics. Let us say it takes Rs.10 lakh to record. If I make a CD, I will need to spend a minimum of Rs.15 per CD. If I go to a music company, generally most companies` contracts are that `Sir, you will get 15-20 percent, or whatever you are able to negotiate, as royalty`. But 15-20 percent of what is the question?

Let`s say one CD is sold for Rs.200, some money goes to the retailer, five percent goes to the wholesaler, five percent goes to the distributor, another 10 percent in tax. Say then you are down to Rs.120. Now what we get is 15 percent of Rs.120, which is Rs.18. To recover Rs.10 lakh, how many CDs will I have to sell? Lots!

When did you buy your last CD! Nobody buys! Why should I make a CD - go to a company, sign a contract, and then they want to take away your copyright!

Also, if you want to reach out to the young crowd, they are never going to buy a CD any more. If it has to be ripped, just distribute it free, right!

Q. But CDs of the album "16/330 Khajoor Road" were ultimately released, isn`t it?

A: People my age prefer to buy a CD, they like the feel. Besides, the same CD sells in the US for $15. It takes Rs.25 to make a CD, and if it is sold for $15, imagine the kind of money! See the profit margin.

Q. Does live singing pay better than albums and film work?

A: I make all my money singing live. Live singing pays you a lot more. For example, Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy may charge Rs.30 lakh for a live performance. It is just one evening`s work. And out of one film album, which will require two months` work, they might make a crore. But three live shows cover it all up! That`s the difference.

However, it is only by making songs for films, that their live shows get an impetus. When our song `Banday` released, we could bump our price by one and a half times.


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