Speaking to TNM, stage artiste Lakshman of Chennai’s famed music troupe Lakshman Sruthi, says only IPRS has the right to collect royalty amounts.

Ilaiyaraaja royalty claim Orchestra artistes unhappy ask for more clarityFacebook/ Ilaiyaraaja
news Copyrights Monday, December 03, 2018 - 11:13

Music director Ilaiyaraaja has opened up a new space for discussing India’s copyright laws that are a little murky in comparison with many other parts of the world. While the maestro has announced that every musician singing or performing his songs will have to pay a royalty amount to him, this statement, however, has not gone very well among a few artistes in the industry.

Speaking to TNM, stage artiste Lakshman of Chennai’s famed music troupe Lakshman Sruthi, says the amount specified by the music director cannot be met by stage artistes such as himself.

“The Indian Performing Right Society (IPRS) is the only body that has the right to collect royalty amount. Ilaiyaraaja has said that the Cine Musicians’ Association will regulate and collect his royalty amount henceforth, which is not right according to us. Also, IPSR has been very erratic in its collection of royalty amounts. Sometimes they take 10%, sometimes 30%. This needs to be regulated,” says Lakshman.

He further adds that almost a year and a half ago, Lakshman Sruthi had spoken to the music director and agreed upon an amount of Rs 100 per song. “In six months we do about 75 events and we made a list of about 350 Ilaiyaraaja songs that were to be performed during these events. When we met his lawyer with a cheque of Rs 35,000, he refused to take it from us saying this amount was too less. This was after we had spoken to the music director explaining our problems and after he agreed to our rates,” he says.

Lakshman goes on to make his point saying music troupes do not make as much money as those in the industry. “When you compare what we make with the film industry, our’s would amount to one percent. Not all of our events are ticketed,” he shares adding, “if every music director asks for royalty, where would we go?”

While Ilaiyaraaja has said that artistes need not pay to perform his songs if they are singing at weddings and other such family functions, Lakshman points out that this is a mandate specified by IPRS.

As State coordinator of Medai Melisai Matrum Tozhilnutpa Kalaingargal Sangam, a stage artistes union that has about 1500 troupes across the state and 20,000 members, Lakshman points out that light music artistes plan for a total of 25 songs per event. “Of these, we’d probably sing five Ilaiyaraaja’s songs, 5 MSV songs, 5 Deva songs, 5 Harris Jeyaraj songs, etc. We don’t always stage an exclusive Ilaiyaraaja concert. How is the royalty amount calculated then?” he asks.

Founder of Saadhaga Paraivaigal and Vice President of the Sangam, artiste Shankar corroborates Lakshman's point. "Right now there is not much clarity. IPRS was collecting an amount but how much of it is reaching the owners is not clear. My father Ulundhurpettai Shanmugam has composed several devotional songs. Are we getting royalty from IPRS? the answer is no. Therefore what we need right now is more clarity."

He further states that Ilaiyaraaja's statement has come as a shock to many. "It feels like a mother who has nurtured us for so long is asking money for what she gave us. Orchestra singers like us are becoming rarer. You've got DJs these days and existing stage singers are finding other work opportunities.

Music director Ilaiyaraaja sparked off an important debate on copyrights in the country when he sent a legal notice to singer SP Balasubrahmanyam in 2017.

In a two-minute video released on Tuesday, the musician says, “Music artistes, this is a new announcement. For those who wish to sing my songs without my permission, it is only right that you take my permission and follow due procedures. Failure to do so is illegal. Those who sing and provide accompaniments to my songs without my permission need to realise that it is wrong. I would like to inform that if you do that, action will be taken.”

Ilaiyaraaja also clarified that he was not an obstacle to the artiste’s singing; he also does not seek royalty for free concerts. “Aren't you taking money? Are you doing kutcheris for free? You are singing my songs, right? You are taking money for my song. Am I not owed a share of that money? When the song itself is mine, how can I not have a share in it?”

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