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BW Businessworld

Music Industry: Surviving, Thriving & Collaborating Despite The Pandemic

Playtoome provides a virtual platform for the musicians to perform live, where the artists receive appreciation in terms of monetary value, and wider reach

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The global music industry has seen one of the worst scenes because of the pandemic. To showcase the extent of the impact, the World Economic Forum (WEF) shared that a six-month shutdown could cost the performance industry about $10 billion. Also, given the fact that a majority of revenues are generated from live music has posed the fundamental challenge. To host any event successfully, one needs: sponsors, workable avenues and audience paying for tickets. The restrictions on each of them is unparalleled now. 

Currently brands themselves are facing a cash crunch, so providing sponsorships is far from being the first priority. Amidst the cash crunch, brands and companies are reducing the investment in advertisement and marketing, and artists are bearing the finacial repercussions.

Yuri Dokter, Founder & CEO, DJ Monito, reiterated the those who are really hurt are the people who work at the events. Since the first week of March, major concerts, including the international gigs, which are a staple source of income for elite and middle-level musicians, have remained closed. Though they might have some revenue at hand to sustain though the pandemic, the worst hit are the sub-accompanists such as gharha and ghatam players as they are least paid and expendable when shows are run on a budget.    

During this times, few event organisers are hopeful still. Siddhartha Chaturvedi, CEO, Event Crafter, said: “As an event organiser we need to create SOPs (standard operating procedure). We have to lead into time sheering and work physically, and discover how to make safer events, make it boutique-ish, smaller but safer.” So far there has not been any music events happening in India – small or otherwise. However, industry experts suspect that a large percentage of people are likely to attend events in the coming days given their reluctance to let go of their tickets (instead of cancelling and refunding) which they booked before pandemic.                 

Vikram Mehra, MD, Saregama India, gave a macroscopic view: “The speed of change might have varied but the change is always there.” The big change that is being suspected is the move towards digitisation across all aspects of music. He pointed out in order to better understand and tackle the challenges it is important to speak to the consumers. “We need to spend time to find how the consumer behaviour is changing.” In fact, several reports suggest that there has been serious change in the consumer patterns of music consumption. Lloyd Mathias, Business Strategist & Angel Investor, informed that the people’s ability to receive streaming services has increased many folds. Also, during the lockdown period, music artists and fans have come together and shared time over social media platforms. Shameer Tandon, Bollywood Music Composer, said, “It is a great time for being a music artist because online music consumption has increased.” Addressing how effective the online platforms are for the music industry, Tandon informed, “There are multiple sources of revenues that artists can reach out to.” 

Webcerts (Web Concerts): The New Normal?

Entertainment Tech Platform Playtoome provides a virtual platform for the musicians to perform live, where the artists receive appreciation in terms of monetary value, wider reach, etc. The platform has seen a significant increase in numbers during the lockdown: in page views (from 34 K to 350 K). Subramanian Keerthivasan, Founder & CEO, Playtoome shared, “Earlier we used to do one show a day, now we do 10 shows in one day.” He informed the platform, which is seen best for the rising artists, pay them about Rs 10,000, which he pointed out is way more than what they may get performing in the pubs. 

Ketan Jain, Pianist, who has subscribed to the Playtoome shared: “As an artist, we get the needed appreciation. There are many icons present on the screen for the audience to appreciate the artist during the performance.” Keerthivasan, who also worked with musical giants like AR Rehman, shared that their company strives to identify the wannable talents. They also promote an artist with the company’s promoters. Even the music artists during the lockdown period have reached out to corporate houses for collaboration. Subir Malik, Founder, Organist & Manager, Parikrama, informed:” We targeted the corporates for our webcerts.” Chaturvedi of Event Crafter said: “We being the aggregators of happiness create those environments which bring in cult likeminded people, all kind of people get together to make experiences that lasts for lifetime.”

However, in general for the online performances, artists have expressed angst and disappointment that they are being asked to do free online concerts. Fouzia Dastango, Poet-Singer & Live Event Artist informed that people want them to perform for free due to the financial crisis everyone is facing, which is not easy for any artist. Sonam Kalra, Award-Winning Singer & Composer recommended all the artists to ‘stop selling themselves for free’. “We will survive this and the only way is that we can all come together with solidarity and no more free stuff,” Kalra added. On how artists are dealing with the pandemic challenges, she shared rather positively: “Experience of ours is normal’. “Artists loves deadline, multitasking. You could feel the energy if the room was palpable.”

Digitisation – Freedom from Conformity

Bollywood has long been the benchmark for music artists to kick-start their careers. By and large that’s still the case, however, drastic changes can be observed. Lalitya Munshaw, Singer, Performer & Music Entrepreneur, “I see a lot of light, hope, and scope because artists just don’t want to stick in the bollywood world.” Famous Bollywood Singer & Music Producer Benny Dayal pointed out a major struggle that an artist faces in the music industry: “It is sad when a label asks you to change your music or your personality as an artist.” Dayal stands that all composers should be given creative freedom so their music does not remain a product. The advent of digitisation, which has vastly accelerated due to pandemic, has arguably given more wings to explore and deliver content. Viraj Sheth, Co-Founder & CEO, Monk Entertainment, stated that one of the challenges faced by artists is discovery, and internet has provided a solution to the challenge. 

Manmeet Singh, Singer, Actor & Music Director argued that it is easier for artists these days to come and show their talent. “Social Media and Youtube have given an excellent platform to new artists. It is supporting all kinds of content, be it funny or musical. These days good content creators do not need any publishing houses for their content.” Arguably, the digital platforms have provided faster, wider reach of content along with more liberty on the nature of content being provided. In fact, many experts observe that whoever started the digital game earliest is winning now. Preeti Bhalla, Singer, asserted that the through technology and digital spaces the artists, who cannot associate with labels like T-series, can use the platform.

Priya Saraiya, Singer & Lyricist stated, “Now as an artist, I don’t want to sing similar kind of music, I want to be open to different choices.” The wider reach of digital space has democratised the music scenario in the country. Aayush Tiwari, Head of Music Business, Monk Entertainment said, “It is all about audience perception, what they love and want to hear.” Sherrin Varghese, Music Star shared, “There is a big hit at pricing, DIY (do it yourself), and need to collaborate in the future.” In fact, several industry experts emphasised the importance of collaboration in the coming days. 

Downside to Digital Space

The digital platform is far from a replacement of the physical platform. Instead, it may actually be harmful for an artist. Content Creator Rajat Sharma, who hosted IIFA great carpet last year, said, “Number becomes very derogatory for an artist.” Similarly, Lahiri, VP Content & One Digital strongly stated, “Internet has never been this toxic, there is so much hate. Bringing positivity to the platform is important.” Obsessive fame culture is one of the toxicities present on social media platforms. On that, Lalitya Munshaw, Singer, Performer & Music Entrepreneur stated, “The young generation is crazy for fame these days but they should remember that practice and patience is critical.” Many artists have been expressing that through online medium audience connect has been severely missed. 

Sudeep Lahiri, VP Content & One Digital argued, “The person that you are offline determines what kind of content you create.” Undeniably, the pandemic has caused a lot of irreparable damage to the musicians. One, being they have to continuously rehearsal in coordination with each other and they need to be maintain concert-fitness in order to continuously sharpen up their performance. Moreover, struggle to monetise the online space has never been more challenging and important at the same time. Dastango, shared: “There is no audience connect in the digital concerts.”

Many concerts such as classical and carnatic were mostly offered free to begin with and recordings of live shows were anyway available on social media platforms. Thus, suddenly asking for audience to pay for free stuffs isn’t going to go down well. Chaturvedi informed how ‘sponsorships’ are not paving the way virtually and how people are not paying through online platforms. Tandon firmly said with a deep hope that ‘Music has to go paradigm shift and not paralyses. Musicians should upgrade their bands using technology because it is easier to create than web series. Brands can marry technology and experts are foreseeing that brands will be more open to invest in music. He further stated: ‘Money going for outdoor events will shrink and that will come for digital mediums and affirm that the relationship ‘rishta’ between music and brands is here to grow.’ 

Manpreet Singh Kochar, Founder, A&M Studio strongly believes collaboration is the way forward in this dire times. In his opinion, collaborations need to be turned into visibilities, which will fruit into real monies and dollars in the future. For now, it   is by and large true that much of creative work being put out by the artists on the social media platforms have no revenue benefits in the present. 

Kochar pointed one an important observation made because of the pandemic that the physical costs in organising live performances of artist are way more than the digital costs. Indeed, organisers should be taking that into account. Moreover, Kochar advocates that artists need to make sure that the dependability on others have to be reduced. 

Shailaja Khanna, Music Veteran & Critic stated “The industry should be united so we know where we want to go. We can then address the problems we are facing in digital space.” “There is no replacement for live performances,” says Ronu Mujumdar, Flautist and Grammy award nominee. He thinks that the audience should always remember that the digital space is just a parallel platform. It is no doubt that a lot of transformation from the digital to physical is going to happen but to what degree the digital space is going to replace the physical space is yet to be determined and will only come to light once the pandemic is over and things start to become normal. 

Advice to Musicians in Changing Times

Famous Rapper, Pop Singer, Music Composer & Film Actor Honey Singh gave his perspective: “From the music industry’s perspective, it doesn’t matter where you are working from, the only thing that matters is your work.” Honey Singh shared that he is going to make music on the recent incidents. He also shared, “I try to hang out with youngsters to catch their pulse because it keeps on changing.” Honey adviced all the upcoming artists is to make good music. “Once the artists creates worthy music he gets accepted by the audiences. The audience is supreme and has the power to make an artist a star.” He believes that artists should incorporate recent issues that the world is facing in their songs. This way the songs can reach to a larger audience and create an even better impact.

Shibani Kashyap, Singer, Composer & Live Performer recommended artists to empower themselves with technology and adjust to the new normal. Reportedly, in the digital space, music covers are made by the rising artists to get a faster reach.The great classical singer Padma Shri Ustad, Wasifuddin Dagar stated“One alphabet needs another alphabet to be meaningful and hence we need the support of others.”   “Artists are the spine of the country; they connect every part of our system. But industry is neglecting them. If you’ll protect the artists, you’ll save the genre.”

Aleena Rehan Khan, Singer, recommeded the importance of cross-promotion - through this two or more artists can share their viewerships among each other. Chinmayi Tripathi, Musician & Poet, informed that 4,000 hours of viewerships is required on YouTube before one can monetise their content. She shared that if budding musicians can do unique covers of songs, it can provide rather faster coverage. Jasbir Jassi, Music Star reiterated, “In my opinion, remakes have a lot of advantages and the song reaches a new set of audiences.”

This article was first published in the print issue of (25 June- 09 July) BW Businessworld. Click Here to Subscribe to BW Businessworld magazine.

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