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When was the last time you heard a Pakistani hit that all your friends and family were raving about? Sure, Coke studio is an obvious answer, but those tracks are usually remakes. It is a struggle to name something recent and one has to go back at least a decade to find an original Pakistani hit.
Songs such as ‘Aadat’, ‘Channo’, ‘Tara Jala’, ‘Chaaye Chaaye’ all came out in the mid-2000s.
Multiple reasons are attributed to the decay of the Pakistani music industry and interestingly all of them are interlinked. But they all have a common denominator and that is the lack of royalties. “The main source of earning for artists in Pakistan is through concerts and not through content,” claims Hassan, manager of the underground rock band Blackhour.
“Whenever a famous musician releases a new song various platforms (such as radio and television) pick the song up from somewhere and play it. So the more their songs are heard, the more they can charge for shows.”
Hence, the first concern is that there are no publishing royalties, which is the payment made to artists by such platforms. “Artists spend money to record music and to shoot videos and this material is aired by radios and TV [without incurring any cost],” shares Haroon. “Although these platforms make money via advertising on the back of these artists, they don’t pay them a penny.”
And since not all artists are able to book concerts all the time, the lack of financial incentive in the profession puts pressure on artists to find a more sustainable source of income.
As more artists switched over to other dependable professions, the local music industry suffered. There was a lack of fresh music and the airwaves stopped playing older tracks. In order to fill the void left by local content, media platforms turned their attention to Bollywood hits.
“The Indians demanded payment for their content and all these platforms, including telecommunication companies that use songs for ringtones, paid millions of rupees for it,” complains Haroon. “So, all that money that could have been pumped into the local music industry began to flow abroad.”