Music, freshly brewed

A dedicated channel, alternative venues, music festivals round the year and the Internet. Several buttresses are upholding the Independent music industry in the country today. Dhara Vora tunes in to what the community has to say

It might not be such a bad idea if your 18-year-old wannabe artiste son wakes up one day and tells you: “Mum, I want to be an Indie artiste.” From the sound of it, there seems to be a slow, seismic shift as far as the Independent music scene goes.

Peter Cat Recording Co’s Suryakant Sawhney gets lost on stage, with Rohan Kulshreshtha on bass in the background. Pic courtesy/Peyush Baranwal
Peter Cat Recording Co’s Suryakant Sawhney gets lost on stage, with Rohan Kulshreshtha on bass in the background. Pic courtesy/Peyush Baranwal

The driving force
While Mumbaikars might rue the fact that the city does not host big-ticket artistes (except from the EDM genre where every top-billed DJ has played in the city), the last two years have seen many ‘popular’ independent artistes such as Alt-J or Bonobo.

Raghu Dixit performing at NH7 Weekender, Pune, 2013  and A gig in progress at blueFROGRaghu Dixit performing at NH7 Weekender, Pune, 2013  and A gig in progress at blueFROG

“The current scenario for Indie music is going through a radical change in Mumbai and in India for the last four to five years. More young people are curious and interested in discovering new music, and are spending money to attend a concert.

Promotion is mostly done through social media, which is a very strong tool for musicians and promoters,” says Emmanuelle de Decker, the director of the music management agency, Gatecrash. Artiste Sanaya Ardeshir aka Sandunes agrees, “Now is a good place to be in as more artistes are making non-mainstream music.

The main exposure being the Internet, which has made it possible to do a lot of collaborative projects. It is a learning curve and the target is to challenge yet engage the audience.” Ruchika Tiku, programming head of blueFROG that has hosted new and established artistes alike, feels that getting in the crowds has as much to do with how much the artistes promote themselves and their shows, as it does with venue promotions so there is no guarantee with any one act.

“It is promising and thriving with a range of festivals, events, media visibility and sponsors. But how much of that translates to a sustainable professional career for an Indie artiste remains the question. Buying albums and songs of Indian Indie artistes and incorporating them as part of a regular playlist is not prevalent,” she adds.

It’s alive
The thrill and the connection during a live show has and will always be different. The city is now opening to streamed shows (a few sets from Tomorrowland will be served as a concert at NSCI this month) but artistes and managers agree that for new artistes, doing live shows is indispensable.

Rohan Kulshreshtha of Peter Cat Recording Co feels that live shows help one’s music get recognised and transport the true feel of one’s music to the audience. But programming plays an important role for new kids on the block as the right slot can open a whole new world.

Bobin James, head of programming, Pepsi MTV Indies says, “The right names always get in the crowds. While programming for our Ribbit gigs, the big act is the draw but we always have new artistes opening for them. And the Ribbit gigs are free.”

De Decker believes that the market for Indie music is different from Bollywood, music as people have to make the effort to discover music that they don’t already know, “I feel people are open to listen to new bands. Festivals and venues are always the best platforms for artistes to connect with the audience as a live performance is a unique human and emotional experience and exchange that is not possible to reproduce online.”

Video built the new star
Welcome news for several Indie artistes last year was the launch of Indie music channel, Pepsi MTV Indies. One year down the line the channel’s viewership has ranked #1 since the last five weeks in India’s metros in the Niche Entertainment Genre as per Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC).

“Earlier, the reason to invest big money in a video for Indie artistes wasn’t big enough. Today, because of technology, it is possible to make a song and a video on your desktop. But we have to curate the videos that we air as the song must be brilliant but might not have a good video or vice versa.

For such songs we look at alternative channels such as our website, where listeners can tune in. The duration of the video matters too,” says James . He adds that TV industry is not at a stage yet where they could pay the artistes for the video though.

Indie, and hot
With such a nurturing atmosphere, gigs have increased and so has the competition. But there are some names that always draw crowds. “The most popular name that comes to my mind is Raghu Dixit. Indian Ocean still, always guarantees a packed house.

The biggest crow-puller would be the Electronic genre that is broad; names such as Dualist Enquiry and Sandunes are popular,” says James. Tiku too feels that The Raghu Dixit Project meets all the parameters of an established act, Nikhil D’Souza’s Band is promising too.

As for the television, James says most popular block is Indie Hot that is a curated playlist of best-looking videos, as well as Indie Gold that showcases the best from the 1990s Indie Pop names such as Lucky Ali, Shaan and KK.

Mumbai radar
“As a city, the disparity challenges the artiste. The exposure is great because it is a media hub. Also, the community is dense, and though there is a broad range of music being produced, the audience is open,” says Ardeshir.

Tiku explains that Bangalore, where they’ve just opened shop, is receptive to fresh sounds and quality acts, which may or may popular, across genres. Pune is unpredictable.

Prima facie being a city of youngsters, more popular mainstream music works well, but it also has a segment of discerning listeners who love arts and culture and Sufi.

“Mumbai’s challenge is not finding an audience for all kinds of things, but reaching them given the number of things that keep happening in the city round the clock,” she feels.

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