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EMI Pakistan boasts a catalogue of over 55,000 tracks and 3,400 contracted artists. From 1948 to 1996, the record label had the largest distribution network for traditional formats and currently, it claims to have the “largest” digital distribution platform in Pakistan.

But while its extensive library reserves exclusive rights to the music of maestros, the company has often come under criticism from the music fraternity for relying on the licensing of previously copyrighted music and not investing in anything fresh.

So now, music producer Faisal Rafi, who recently joined EMI as the head of its Artists and Repertoire (A&R) department, is planning to shake a few things.

“Nobody is developing artists in Pakistan, artists have to develop themself. Knowing this, the moment I joined EMI, I emphasised on signing new talent,” Faisal Rafi told The Express Tribune.

As per the new plan, the record label would be willing to bear the costs of production, image building, mastering, marketing and distribution of the artists it signs, provided that they are un-established. “The costs the label can bear will vary from artist to artist. And since there can’t be gigs at the moment, EMI acknowledges it cannot market its artists as it should. So we will be waiting for the pandemic to subside before moving forward,” he added.

So far the label is in negotiations with Hamza Akram Qawwal, pop singer Taha G and folk singer Nirmala Maghani. “We are primarily looking to work with genre-specific artists and revive some desi genres like Qawwali, Ghazal, and Geet. Other than that, we are interested in working with artists of all genres, but fusion music has been overdone,” he remarked.

After shutting down in 1996, EMI made a comeback in 2010. Since then the label has been in the limelight for battling copyright infringement across the music industry in Pakistan. The company did release new music by Zoheb Hassan and Asad Ahmed but none of that made an impact, or for that matter, even came under the limelight.

“I cannot speak for the time before my joining,” said Rafi. “As a producer, I know exactly what’s needed now. We will not be signing obscure instrumental albums and veterans. We will be signing new artists and ensure they have an online presence.

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