Located at the heart of Saddar’s famous Rainbow Centre was one of the more prominent branches of Sadaf Records, once Pakistan’s premiere video and record label store. Up until the turn of the century, the shop received much footfall and became known for its comprehensive catalogue of music, video and television serials. It was a must visit for people seeking a taste of Pakistan’s flourishing entertainment industry.
Fast-forward a few years into the future and the brand becomes virtually non-existent. An inability to embrace the digital age seems to have left the former market-leader behind, with cheaper alternatives like streaming portals and torrents, stealing the monopoly. The distribution company-cum-record label looked all set to be reduced to a footnote in Pakistan’s cultural history until Shamraiz Khalid’s rolled the dice. After over three decades in Pakistan’s media landscape, Sadaf Records is now undergoing a rebranding of sorts and finally stepping in to the digital arena through a subsidiary called Sadaf Digital.
Patari continues to keep it real
He may be a tad late to the party but as managing director of the venture, Khalid believes it is better to be late than never. “Digital media is still an emerging field in Pakistan,” he explained, speaking to The Express Tribune. “Factors such as confusing copyright laws have only increased our problems.” According to Khalid, the venture is expected to be operational within a month’s time. The company will now be uploading majority of its archives on a portal (website and application) specifically dedicated to Sadaf Digital. He also shared how there have been talks with nearly 150 other digital platforms, including Netflix, YouTube, Dailymotion and iTunes, to showcase Sadaf Digital’s content.
Citing the example of Jal’s video for Aadat, Khalid shared how an unknown person had uploaded a low-quality version of it on YouTube and is now earning money through it – money that rightfully belongs to the artistes. “The artiste’s content is not being monetised properly. It was these aspects that had actually contributed to the downfall of many record labels and eventually, our industry,” he proclaims.
While creating a proper ecosystem for the entertainment industry is at the heart of the concept, Khalid clarified that it was not the only motive behind Sadaf Digital’s revolution. He reiterated how there was no proper archive or database of Pakistani movies, music or TV serials and that viewers now resort to low-quality prints or illegally download what they wish to see. “A lot of the quality content is either locked up in people’s cupboards, forgotten or has been misplaced,” rued the managing director. “For example, there are so many film songs by Tafu that were iconic at one time but no longer available anywhere. Luckily, we have maintained an archive and will be releasing the content for free to our users,” he added.
Will localised version of YouTube change anything for Pakistan?
With a website and multi-platform application in the works, the venture will maintain a “free for all” approach but the same business-model may not be implemented on international portals like iTunes or Netflix. “The aim has always been to provide free content but it is worth noting that a major chunk of our audience comprises of expatriates and not everyone abroad uses Google to search dramas or films,” clarified Khalid. “People also use services like Amazon or Netflix. So we need to keep them in mind. Our content should be accessible worldwide.”
The company may still be in its early days but Khalid has already taken the liberty of chalking out a potential five-year plan. For him, the initial phase is for getting maximum traffic, not revenue generation. “Once we have the correct model in place, there are 20 different ways to earn money from the internet,” he stated.
But for Sadaf Digital to grow, the company cannot rely solely on recall value as sooner or later, it may have to offer fresh content in its digital library. Having launched noteworthy artistes such as Ali Zafar, Faakhir, Entity Paradigm (eP) and Rahat Fateh Ali Khan in the yesteryears, Khalid is willing to repeat the process once again, with both old and new musicians. This leads to the all-important question of whether the artists will receive royalties or not. “Yes, we do intend to share our profits if the content is being monetised,” said Khalid. “Part of the reason we’re doing this is to help our industry grow.”
Singer Faakhir welcomes the move, saying, “I have worked with them in the past. They are good people.” He feels in recent times, companies like these have realised the value of the work of acts like Awaz and how they can now “make money of them”.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 17th, 2016.
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