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Making money from music

Vanita Kohli-KhandekarMore than 70 per cent of all music sales in India is film music. More than 100 per cent of all discussion around music in India is focussed on film music.

The other genres such as devotional, pop, classical or ghazals are available. But it is the rare firm that can survive only on non-film music.

Now Durga Jasraj’s Art & Artistes (A&A) has turned the whole idea of non-film music as a poor business proposition, on its head.

In 2013 A&A hosted 21 Idea Jalsa Concerts in 12 cities like Lucknow, Dehradun, Indore, Hubli and Ahmedabad. Each of these drew anywhere between 4,000-6,000 people.

Durga Jasraj’s company Art & Artistes (A&A) has found a way of making money from non-film music, with concerts covering genres such as sufi, fusion, indipop or classical music ,among others
Durga Jasraj’s (below) company Art & Artistes (A&A) has found a way of making money from non-film music, with concerts covering genres such as sufi, fusion, indipop or classical music ,among others

The concerts covered genres such as sufi, fusion, indipop or classical music among others and were free. But their huge audiences drew advertisers such as Idea or Central Bank of India.

As a result, A&A did RS 14 crore in revenues in March 2013. More than 75 per cent of this came from concerts. The rest came from producing music shows for television. Over the full year Jalsa (the concert brand) brought in an average operating profit of 18 per cent across cities.

A&A is interesting because it shows the evolution of the music industry and also points very clearly to the future. Over the last ten years or so, digital has dominated all talk around the music business. But the growth of digital has had a corollary — because digital allows for huge amounts of sampling, it creates a huge need to experience the music you like through live performances.

There is now a fair bit of research globally that shows the correlation between the growth of digital and the rise of audiences for live performances. That is what the success of A&A’s concerts across small-town and big city India emphasises.

Pandit Jasraj’s daughter set up A&A in 1999 with the idea of integrating good alternate music, struggling musicians and the business. But for very long the firm just struggled with it. Jasraj meanwhile produced TV shows, hosted Antakshri on Zee and a did a whole lot of other things.

In 2008 Neeraj Jaitly a consultant with EY came on board to become the commercial and operational brains of the company. He reckons that what worked was Jasraj’s understanding of music and a market that was ready to change. A&A programmed, designed and marketed its concerts differently.

Unlike typical non-film concerts which rely on one singer or musician, A&A concerts use a blended approach. For instance in Lucknow it called in Hariharan and quawalli singer Munnawar Masoom, in Hyderabad it was the Wadali Brothers. The idea is for the bigger artistes such as Hariharan to draw the crowd and also to introduce a new talent.

And the firm doesn’t treat Lucknow or a Hubli as a small town. Jasraj reckons that, “People have multiple choices. There is no concept of a small city any more.” The venues are matched to the mood of the music and the town. These could be beach in Vizag or a mall in Bengaluru. The stage, lighting, giant LED screens are all just as they would be in any big city concert.

Third, has been its use of marketing hype, something that is rarely used in non-film music. In March last year just before a concert featuring Hariharan and mandolin maestro U. Shrinivas among others at Orion Mall, Bengaluru, the advertising was intense. Over 3.37 million people were reached through newspapers, 2.1 million through outdoor media and 2 million through the radio.

Add another 1.7 million on A&A’s Facebook page (then) and through other online forums. Against the estimated 3500 — 4,000 people more than 6,000 people walked in. Finally A&A had to deploy bouncers to control the crowd and stop people from coming in. It was one of the rare moments when bouncers, usually associated with film awards and rock concerts, were used at a non-film music event.

A&A’s next stop is a TV station, an FM channel and better leveraging of its two lakh odd video views on YouTube. It has however proven that there is a market for non-film music. You simply need to know how to tap into it.

The writer is a media specialist and author. Follow her on twitter at http://twitter.com/vanitakohlik

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