18-year-old YouTube star Shraddha Sharma has signed a long-term contract with Universal Music, for producing her first album, Devraj Sanyal, MD of Universal Music Group & EMI for South Asia, told MediaNama. Sanyal declined to comment on how many albums and years Sharma has signed up for, but said it’s a long-term contract. “In our world, we call it a 360 degree contract which means we run everything for her, including endorsements, albums appearances, live…everything.”
Sharma is from Dehra Dun, and uploaded her first video in April 2011. Since then, she’s got 129,873 subscribers on YouTube with 10.3 million views, 1.5 million likes on Facebook, and even been featured in an MTS advertising campaign. During an event held on the sidelines of the Nokia Music Connects event, she also repeatedly thanked Culture Machine for the work done her videos.
Culture Machine is a YouTube multi-channel network that Sameer Pitalwalla co-founded after leaving Disney UTV earlier this year. According to its website, Culture Machine helps content creators create videos, enables discovery, build communities and monetize. Speaking with MediaNama, Pitalwalla told MediaNama that they’re managing her entire YouTube and Social Media presence. “She’s a star because of her digital presence. We grew Shraddha’s viewership four times from the time she joined the Culture Machine Network. Her subscriber base grew from 40,000 to 1,30,000 on YouTube, and on Facebook from 100,000 to 1.5 million likes.”
On working with YouTube, Sanyal said on the panel that “Youtube will always be the devil, but a good devil. The relationship that we have with them – we find them fair. They tell you what they can do and can’t.” Universal Music will help Sharma monetize her YouTube channel as well. “We will continue to help her with the right partners. My job is to take those 10 million viewers she has to 100 million,” Sanyal said. “Shraddha is starting from zero. To me as a label, it’s an interesting ride and we have our hopes pinned on this generation of people, who are able to give Bollywood numbers. If we promote it well, the sum of all parts will be as big as Bollywood (music).”
Sharma has, so far, done cover versions of songs on her YouTube Channel, but the Universal Music deal allows her access to producers and songwriters: Ankur Tewari has written the lyrics of her first song, and her album has producers like Leslie Lewis, and Timbaland’s main producer Jim Beamz. This is where Universal is spending the money it seems.
Sanyal declined to comment on how much Sharma has been signed up for, saying only that “In India you give shagun it’s either of Rs 11 or Rs 1,100. In a brand new artists money is never …from the time we signed her I have spent a shit load of money on her. Lesley Lewis is producing her India end, Jim Beanz who is Timberland’s main producer is producing songs out of Philadephia. Her videos are expensive. It costs as much as it costs a main stream star. It’s like the cost of a b-grade bollywood movie, which is a lot. It’s expensive, not cheap,” Sanyal had said during a discussion at the Nokia Music Connects conference.
What signing Sharma, who, frankly, was already a star before the Universal Music came on board, does is get Universal access to a captive and engaged fan base that already wants her music. “I love it when people tell me they like my songs. It’s difficult to manage with 1 million people. More than me or my songs, they communicate better. I do a post (on Facebook) just twice a day,” Sharma said. In a separate conversation, Sharma explained how the Facebook page was created by a fan, who then messaged her and gave her the page.
Later in the conversation, Sanyal added that he doesn’t want to get into Bollywood, “I have an innate sense of great, great respect and a possible future I see for Indie. If there are a million Shraddha Sharma’s, it is a ridiculously equivalent platform. Get iTunes, and the future is bright, the futuer is indie.”