We don’t decide the music we’re given to listen to anymore, it seems. If not that, the charts are fixed. Giving an impromptu talk at the Publishing Next conference, Anish Trivedi, author of Call Me Dan, said that these days you have software that decides what music is heard: it analyses the song, compares it with what is currently on the billboard top 10, and picks the music for the labels. Reminds us of Akon’s HitLab. “For every 50 manuscripts that get trashed, there are 5000 (music) tapes that get trashed.”

On piracy, he said that “We spent 10 years trying to combat this. All we realized was that you cannot stop it. We used DRM to protect tracks. The consumer just went – we don’t want this. As a result, you started getting things like the IODA, which said lets make it easy. You’re a musician, you made a track, we’ll make it easy. You have sites like emusic, which had a free track a day,and made it easy to publish and download. It was a random track, a different genre. I may have downloaded it, trashed it, but I did listen. People were able to put a full album on sale.

Along with making content available digitally, Trivedi recommended that books publishers make their content discover-able, using meta-tags. “I’ve benea proponent of narrow-casting. What the Internet has done is to allow hundreds of different formats, but it has also made discovery possible. No one names the name of that (Indian) song, but they knew the track and who it was picturized on. What we did was, for all Indian music, lets make it possible to get every song picturized on rekha, to get every song with Aamir khan, or the Bhajan between 8 and 10 in he morning. We spent that time putting that data together according to mood, tempo, emotion. If you can stop worrying about whether a store is getting shut down, then convenience of tablets and devices will draw people to that medium. In India,we found that there aren’t 5 million iPads and iPhones. How do you make it available on the Rs 2000 Nokia? How do you make regional music available? In Bombay, my second most listened to radio is bhojpuri pop. Bengali books cannot be only available in Kolkata. Use the technology to reach the people where they are. Just being able to reach the consumer, by saying we’re going to make it easy to find it.”

“If you have meta-tags to ensure that when you Google, I can find it, but that book must be available wherever I am. We had the same crossborder licensing issues. At the end of it, the organizations I consult for decided that we can’t beat them. so we needed to make it easy for people to reach them. Canada is the first country where it has happened. We made 1500 labels in one country come together – it take a bit of doing, but it is possible to do. Canada has access to 30 million tracks, in the manner that they want. We tried to police music and lost vasts sums of money in doing that. You need to do what is being done with iTunes and emusic. Those models have encouraged people to start listening to music.”

Trivedi also mentioned that in India, physical music sales last year were Rs 140 crore and mobile was 850 crore.

Disclosure: the writer was a speaker at the Publishing Next conference in Goa at the invitation of the organizers, with costs of attending covered.