Piracy: What stands between Pakistani music, and greatness

Published: June 5, 2011

Piracy exists everywhere in the world, but in most parts, there are laws to protect people from it.

Pakistani music is recognised around the world for its distinct and creative style. The diversities in Pakistani music are there for everyone to hear, with artists coming up with everything from hip hop and rock, all the way to classical eastern music, with some musicians even putting them together.

The fact that we don’t have a prestigious film industry helps rather than hurts. Since artists don’t look towards movies to be their main form of advertisement or the medium for people to be exposed to their music, they don’t need to make specific types of tracks to please producers and are the only people involved in making their music they retain their individuality as artists and don’t “sell out” to gain commercial success.

But, then why do so many of our biggest artists jump at the first opportunity to record music in India?

Why do the concerts that take place in Pakistan pale in comparison to those you might see in other countries?

The reason in my opinion is simply, piracy.

It may not seem like it, but the artists in our music industry are severely underpaid. Their main source of income, as I see it, are live concerts and advertisements. That’s probably why Ali Zafar has sang the theme song for almost every notable telecommunications company in the country at some point in time, and why we had artists like Adnan Sami move to India for more opportunities to showcase their talents.

Piracy exists everywhere in the world, but in most parts, there are laws to protect people from it. These laws are enforced strictly which keeps the piracy contained to a very small amount. As a result, not only are album sales and digital downloads monitored, artists and record companies get paid well for their efforts. This gives rise to accurate music charts, and the awards and accolades that are given to the artists grow in stature.

Millions tune in to watch the Grammy’s, but if I went out on the street and asked people in Pakistan what our most esteemed music award was, half of them wouldn’t even have any names in their heads to throw around. Apart from that, when artists get paid bags of money rather than just large enough pay checks to live a good life, they invest with larger, self organised concerts in bigger venues with larger crowds and rather than playing in small schools and colleges in concerts organised by sponsors.

Many might argue that it isn’t easy to stop piracy. But it is certainly worth a try.

Zakaria Agha

Zakaria Agha

A soon to be freshman at the University of Illinois in Chicago. Agha is currently a Radio Jockey with Planet FM94, in Islamabad.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.