Death of music channels in Pakistan

There is a dearth of good music TV channels in Pakistan. What are the reasons and why many music channels were closed?

Pakistani media industry has witnessed rise and decline of music channels on television. The current situation is quite disappointing. Let’s see how it began.

In 90’s, pop music in Pakistan was flourishing. Artists like Vital Signs, Strings, Junoon, Awaz, Ali Haider, Amir Saleem, Sequencers etc were immensely popular among youth of Pakistan. Their songs were played for 30-60 minutes weekly by Pakistani channels. Many people had access to international satellite channels through satellite dishes. In 1994, a dedicated music channel Channel V was launched in India.Two years later, MTV India was started.

These two channels played international music including English, Indian and Pakistani. It was an extremely entertaining experience for Pakistanis during those days when one can enjoy music anytime by switching to these music channels.

In 2000, first Pakistani music channel Indus Music was launched. It was start of a new wave in which several music channels would be launched. Indus Music played only Pakistani songs and its programming was inspired by MTV network.

In 2003, ARY group launched their music channel ARY Musik. ARY Musik was initially an international music channel. The broadcasting studios were in UAE. The presenters were Pakistanis and Indians. The channel played a variety of music including Pakistani, Indian, English and Arabic.

Both the channels ARY Musik and Indus Musik became very popular. It encouraged other media groups to launch music channels. Therefore, more channels started. In 2005, Aaj TV network launched Play TV. In 2006, Geo TV started their music channel Aag TV. In 2009, another music channel Oxygene was started.

In 2006, Indus Music collaborated with MTV Network and Indus Music was transformed into MTV Pakistan. It was a major milestone in music TV industry because it was the first time an international brand of television had entered Pakistan. Indus TV network (that owned MTV Pakistan) also started another music channel by name of Channel G. Channel G was later renamed G-Kaboom.

It was the golden period of music channels on Pakistani television when there were about six dedicated music channels. All these channels played a variety of music and not restricted to Pakistani music only. A big chunk of Indian music (Bollywood music and Punjabi) was also played.

During golden period of music channels in Pakistan, there were at least six channels that offered a variety of content and played music of different genres.

Everything was going perfectly. Existing music channels were competing with each other and new channels were launched. However, there was sudden downfall later due to a number of factors. All these channels were commercially successful and making profits.

Downfall of music channels

In 2011, two major incidents disrupted the music industry on television. Both of these incidents were related to each other through one word that resulted in demise of a number of music channel – copyrights.

The problem was that almost all the music channels were playing copyrighted songs (Pakistani and international) without any permission and authority.

First incident: In 2011, EMI Pakistan was re-launched. EMI Pakistan is Pakistan’s largest and oldest music label that owns copyright of over 150,000 Pakistani songs. The company ceased its operations in 1993 but restarted in 2011. It started sending legal notices for copyright infringement to TV channels. It affected Pakistani songs content on music channels.

Second incident: In same year i-e 2011, a new music channel 8XM was launched. The channel was so inspired by an Indian music channel 9XM that it even copied the logo and graphics/animations. Under the banner of “Media Concepts”, sister company of 8XM, contracts were signed with leading music labels for exclusive rights to their copyrighted songs. The music companies were T-series, Saregama and Universal Music Group.

8XM not only copied the logo of Indian music channel 9XM, the presentation style and graphics were also heavily inspired by 9XM.

Copyrights of most of the Bollywood music is held by T-series & Saregama and Universal Music Group is one of the top three music companies for English music. Therefore, 8XM got exclusive rights to a huge library of Indian and English music.

The management of 8XM also started sending legal notices for copyright violations. The other music channels could not afford to pay hefty amount of money for acquiring copyrights. Hence, they started closing down.

Moreover, 8XM ignored Pakistani songs. 100% content of 8XM channel was Indian or English songs. It was a bold step but attracted Pakistani TV viewers and soon 8XM became the most popular music channel.

8XM channel partnered with these leading international music companies and acquired exclusive rights to their content.

Within a few months, Aag TV was converted to Geo Kahani (general entertainment channel), Play TV became an entertainment channel and MTV Pakistan & G-Kaboom were closed.

Current situation

Right now, there are 3-4 music channels:

8XM and Jalwa: These two sister channels have similar content. After restrictions by government of Pakistan, no Indian songs are played. The channels plays currently popular Pakistani and international music (English, Spanish and Arabic).

ARY Musik: In order to protect themselves against copyright infringements, the channel mostly plays indie songs of new and amateur singers. It also plays songs of films in which ARY is a media partner.

Oxygene: This channel plays old and new Pakistani pop songs.

If we compare these channels, only 8XM and Jalwa are commercially successful channels that have a good viewership. Many renowned brands advertise on this channel. ARY Musik has mostly advertisements of ARY group only whereas Oxygene channel has no advertisements of any kind.

Prospects and Future

Music has no boundaries and everyone irrespective of age loves and enjoy good music. Unfortunately, so far the Pakistani music channels have focused on pop music for youth only. There are unlimited possibilities of genres, target audience and language when it comes to music.

For example, songs in Turkish, Russian, Persian and other languages are not played on our music channels. A few popular foreign language songs are played (e.g Spanish song Despacito or Korean Song Gangam Style) but only because “everyone else is playing, so we should also do the same” attitude of Pakistani music channel owners. We should not be afraid of experimentation and international music irrespective of language should be introduced to Pakistanis.

Then comes the genres of music. When was the last time you saw a complete concert on TV? When was the last time you heard a ghazal by Mehdi Hassan or Nayara Noor on any music channel? Will the evergreen songs of 90’s by Milestones, Fringe Benefits, Sequencers, Yasir Akhtar etc be buried forever or will they ever be shown again on TV in our lifetime? Our generation doesn’t know about Noor Jahan’s songs except one or two. EMI Pakistan should launch their own TV channel or at least facilitate existing music channels on partnership basis.

Some people argue that music channel is an obsolete thing and people now prefer streaming through internet or Youtube. That’s an incorrect assumption. Internet has affected general television viewing habits but interest in music channels remain. Just for comparison, India has more than 15 music channels, Turkey has more than 10 and UK has 20+ music channels.

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