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Indie music must lose its snob value

It's for everyone, says music director Vishal Dadlani, ready to launch a record label to promote independent talent

Vishal Dadlani’s record label promises to be different. For starters, VLT (Vishal Likes This) is not going to own an artiste’s music. And that’s a first.

A musician will be expected to sign a contract with the rock head and Bollywood music director, but the copyright will remain with him.

Vishal Dadlani at his Bandra studio.
Vishal Dadlani at his Bandra studio. Pic/Atul Kamble

At his Bandra studio, Dadlani seems relaxed, despite his manager dropping in to appraise him of a packed week ahead. That record label owner has been added to his list of duties is hardly worrying. “I will be looking into every demo. I want to do that,” he says.

The thought has been with him for long, but when he chanced upon percussive guitarist Dhruv Visvanath’s work, he decided it was time to launch.

Visvanath has been named one of the world’s 30 Great Guitarists Under 30 by Acoustic Guitar Magazine, USA.

“The [music] scene needs this. There aren’t enough avenues, and most artistes end up putting their albums out themselves. But I know so many people who can deal with visual aspects, and those who handle promotions well. And there is sufficient talent. So it seemed natural to do this. That I know people in the business, and have earned a bit of respect, allows me to sort of pull in these favours. That’s my currency,” says Dadlani, sole investor in the project.

His kind of musician, Dadlani describes as someone who has found their sound; someone aware of market forces but able to ignore them when making music.

And because he is an artiste himself, he is keen to take care of the musician. Along with owning copyright, those who collaborate with Dadlani will also be free to move on after an album. “Whatever I invest in the artiste will be accounted for and later deducted from their revenue. After that, they are free. I plan to launch five artistes a year, and do my best for them. Revenue generated will be used as investment for the following year. It’s not about making money; it’s really about putting out working artistes. There is a slew of talent, and it’s only getting better.”

He is clear he won’t “poke his nose” into the creative process. No one will be asking them to change their sound to make it saleable, for instance.

It helps that he is not judgmental about the kind of music he wants to promote. One half of film music producing duo, Vishal-Shekhar, Dadlani used to front Pentagram, a four-piece rock electronica band started in 1993. “I grew up listening to all kinds of music, so it was never about good or bad. All music is a good music.”

Dadlani’s label will also help a musician produce videos that will be up on a YouTube channel that curates all content without owning it. “What we need is for indie music to drop its snob value. Only a niche audience likes this music — that’s not true, and some music festivals have helped prove that. People want to hear new things. We musicians must talk to listeners in a language that doesn’t alienate them; that’s key for an indie artiste to succeed.”

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