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Death of the CD

A call taxi driver told me the other day that he struggled to find the audio CD of Vijay’s Puli in Chennai. He said he finally got it from a grocery shop in Triplicane, as most of the big music shops have stopped stocking CDs. There has indeed been a decline in the sale of audio CDs worldwide.

In fact, some recent Tamil films did not even release audio CDs.

Music director and actor Vijay Antony says: “My last release was India Pakistan, and we did not bring out any CDs. Yet, the songs became a hit — the reason being music is completely digital today.

For my next film, Pichaikaran, there will not be any CDs again; the audio will be released online, which is where all the action is happening.” There are other avenues online for people to consume film music. The audio, apart from being listened to on YouTube, is also streamed from websites exclusively dedicated to film music.

Technology has changed the way people discover and listen to music.

Sridhar Subramaniam, president, Sony Music India, says, “The sale of CDs is vanishing by the day. Nearly 65 per cent of music in India is now online, 25 per cent is through broadcast (FM radio, music channels and public playing) and roughly only 10 per cent through CDs.”

Music has moved to the digital platform and the market only looks set to expand further.Tamil film music itself is changing, as directors and composers are focussing on creating (and then creating hype around) one hit number as opposed to creating a hit album. Vijay Antony admits: “Yes, I agree that a catchy song like ‘Nakku Mukka’ made me famous. Today, everybody is in search of that song that will make audiences go crazy.”

Tamil film music accounts for the second-largest audio sale in the country, after Hindi film music.

According to an executive working in a newly-formed audio company, “Going digital cuts cost and the internet is where the core audience, the youth, are listening to songs. And what sells best in Tamil music today are catchy party or gaana numbers and ‘love failure’ songs. During the last five years, more than 200 music directors have debuted, but only a few, who have understood these trends, have managed to hang on.”

Devi Sri Prasad, a leading music director who has come out with two hit albums recently, Puli and Srimanthudu (Telugu), agrees: “The audio market is continuously evolving, and you have to change with the times if you want to survive.”

The top-selling album this year is Mani Ratnam’s O Kadhal Kanmani, with music by A. R. Rahman. Industry experts attribute much of the film’s success to its music and the picturisation of the songs.

Nowadays, music also plays an important role in the promotion of a film. Songs are an audience’s first window into the film, and a decisive factor in bringing them in. Traditionally, Tamil producers and directors, unlike their counterparts in Hindi, have refused to show a song’s visuals on channels before the film’s release.

However, audio companies are now fighting a battle to have the song’s visuals shown before release.Karthik Srinivasan, music critic and blogger, points out: “Music companies have become innovative in their approach to marketing. They use YouTube to create anything from singles with lyrics, to making jukebox playlists that let people listen to the entire album. This helps build adequate pre-release buzz around the film.”

While the demise of CDs can seem like a sad thing, it’s important to remember that the Tamil music industry is growing. There are more FM stations on the anvil. More people are making music today. All this has to come as music to our ears.

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Printable version | Apr 11, 2021 12:34:36 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/cinema/how-audio-has-gone-digital/article7569444.ece

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