When art spells trouble

Between the lines

When art spells trouble
In the field of entertainment, that glorious arena of spats, gossip and controversies, the music industry down South was an oasis. Though there have been squabbles and public fights, these were usually exceptions rather than the norm. However, this peace has been shattered with a recent dispute between two stalwarts of the industry.

S P Balasubramaniam was sent a legal notice by Ilayaraja for performing the latter’s compositions without his permission, while on a foreign tour. The implication is that the composer feels he should have a share of the monetary gain made through his songs. While SPB has announced that his ongoing tour will continue without any song composed by Ilayaraja, the issue grabbed headlines and musicians and music fans termed it as regrettable.

“The incident is unfortunate. So are some of the reactions of the fans,” says Harish Sivaramakrishnan, frontman of hugely popular Carnatic progressive rock band ‘Agam’. “Emotionally responding to such a nuanced subject will not help anyone. I am both a composer and a musician and I feel that it is very hard to define who art belongs to.

And I personally feel that no one can claim absolute ownership over art because you are always influenced and inspired by so many people around you. You don’t create something in vacuum.”

However, he does agree that credit, in all forms, must be given where it is due. “For that, everybody should be ready to pay for art. The onus should not be on just one person. Asking a singer to pay for the songs he is rendering makes it all very transactional; credit and monetary sharing should be a part of the industry as a whole,” the singer opines.

“In a song, the music and lyrics are of paramount importance. Only after that does the singer come into the picture,” says Eldho C, an MNC professional and music aficionado. “So a music composer or director has a right to demand adequate remuneration based on his market value. But depriving music lovers of his music in the name of royalty is not proper. Music is a divine gift and money should not be the only consideration is what I feel. If that was the case we should all give royalty to Thyagaraja, Muthuswami Dikshitar and Syama Sastri. After all, their ‘ragas’ formed the base of this music,” he added.

Legally, SPB can’t be stopped from performing songs he has lent his voice to. The Copyright Act 1957 was amended in 2012 to recognise the performer’s right in the songs they render. But songwriters too have an equal ownership and that is where Ilayaraja may have a point when he demands his share of the proceeds.

Singer songwriter Shubhangi Joshi feels that everyone who has been part of a collaboration should be fairly compensated. “It is not fair if one is paid far more than the other. In such a scenario, they might not be motivated to come up with new things. Lack of motivation leads to mediocrity.”

She adds, “Everyone has a right to demand that their work be fairly compensated. People might be in this due to their passion and love for music but ultimately, there has to be a sustainable model. These things should be openly discussed so that no one gets a raw deal.”

Someone once said, ‘Music is spiritual. The music business is not’. One can’t help but agree.

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