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The music just got louder

Gradually, event companies have begun to realise the potential of India’s population and their love for music. Though still far behind festival circuits in Europe and the US, several of which boast of 800-plus acts and thousands of visitors daily, the number of these festivals (big-ticket and smaller Indie acts) in India have increased in the past few years. And they encompass not just Electronic Dance Music (EDM) but several genres of music.

Bacardi NH7 Weekender Delhi 2012
Bacardi NH7 Weekender Delhi 2012. Pic Courtesy/Kunal Kakodkar.

One of the most popular names, arguably, is Sunburn, the EDM festival that has been lighting up Candolim beach in Goa every December. Though now just a Percept property, the festival began in 2007 in association with Submerge, a music property by Nikhil Chinapa and his wife Pearl Miglani, and Harmeet Sethi.

The big leap
Chinapa accepts that he didn’t imagine that the Dance music scene in India would come this far, “When I started Sunburn, I was lucky to have found individuals like Devraj Sanyal and Aman Anand who shared the same mind set that I did. To find like-minded individuals who are willing to invest themselves in any project is a challenge. Promoters in India use the term festival loosely. The absolute soul-awakening, life-changing memorable experience that a great festival can be is lost when an outdoor event with a few thousand people and over-the-top production is termed as festival.” Chinapa has now announced a festival in Goa.

RIFF in session
A previous edition of RIFF in session. Pic Courtesy/Jodhpur RIFF.

EDM has made its mark, such that it has involved Bollywood in it too. “People have more disposable income, which is why the number of festival goers have increased. Besides, international names these days are happy to perform in India as they have realised the potential of burgeoning Asian markets. But what matters is a credible organiser who will keep up the reputation of the festival,” informs Jaideep Singh, Senior Vice President, INS, Viacom18. The announcement of the world’s largest Bollywood Dance Music festival was also┬ámade recently.

Sona Mohapatra
Sona Mohapatra

Small vs big
Big-budget events hope for big crowds while several ‘boutique’ festivals maintain the charm by having a limited capacity festival. One such debut destination festival is Magnetic Fields. Scheduled to be staged at Alsisar Mahal in Rajasthan, this festival has put a cap on 500 entries. We quizzed one of the founders about choosing Rajasthan as the destination and if music buffs would be ready to travel to experience a new festival. “We weren’t consciously looking for a Rajasthan locale — since it’s just a five-hour drive away from Delhi, we believe it will work, and we hope that our audience see value in paying more to escape the city and be transported into a three-day bubble. We’re not selling a ‘big-ticket event’ but would rather host an intimate retreat from the city,” explains Sarah Chawla of Wild City.

Sing along the milestones
Clearly, Rajasthan seems the second most popular destination as far as playing host to festivals, with Ragasthan and Jodhpur RIFF being huge draws on the itinerary. Sona Mohapatra who performed at RIFF in 2010 backs the setting, “Rajasthan serves as a glorious setting for a festival. While RIFF is held in the breathtaking Mehrangarh fort the locals are very warm and welcoming as hosts. I have performed at festivals abroad and feel that festivals like RIFF are just as well organised and curated.”

Singer Monica Dogra, another regular performer agrees with Mohapatra and feels that India’s locales can serve as great platforms for destination music festivals, “In five years, I’ve noticed a rise in the number of festivals. Several are on par with international festivals. The next step would be to make these more interactive and build communities through them,” she suggests.

Will travel for music
It is precisely this interaction that regular festival goers like filmmaker Ridhesh Sejpal long for, “I visited Belgian EDM festival Tomorrowland. Despite a nearly two-lakh capacity crowd, we could feel the oneness. Security and arrangements were great. Though getting big artistes is half the work done, I need to have a feeling of belonging to the destination, be it a small club or a large festival.” Ambreena Khan, another concert regular agrees that festivals are all about forming bonds. “I first went to a hyped EDM festival in Goa in 2010 but the crowd was bad. The music doesn’t matter if the atmosphere isn’t great. Quality matters for the loyalty,” reminds Khan.

In our backyard
One Indian festival that has managed to create this feeling of community is the NH7 Weekender in Pune that concluded yesterday. It began as an Indie music festival and is now a multi-city event packed with big and new artistes. “People come for the overall experience, which we’ve been building over the years. So, while fans like to watch specific bands and headliners, most return over the years for the happy vibe, the colour, and the little things — like being able to bring your dog to the festival, the design and being surrounded by happy people. People don’t mind travelling to destination festivals as they make a holiday out of it,” reasons Vijay Nair, CEO, Only Much Louder.

Play a different music
Mohapatra, who will be performing at festivals including Dussehra Mela and Delhi Shilpotsav, which are organised by the government adds an interesting insight, “The government has always been organising these Mahotsavs; as many as 20,000 people attend these. It’s exactly how one should reach the grass roots of the country’s audience. While commercial festivals get the column space in newspapers and have big sponsors backing them, Mahotsavs also do a great job. The media needs to pick up on these festivals and help publicise them among the youth.”

Money talks
This year, NH7 Weekender had packed in 9,000 revelers to retain the intimacy factor, compared to 15,000 in 2012. This opens up the question of economic viability as visitor numbers also help define the number of sponsors. “It is belief that commercial artists equals huge profits. This is untrue; the costs involved in putting together a mega show need to be considered. Production, multiple international flights, hospitality requirements, accommodation, artiste costs and other expenses are major investments,” reveals Chinapa.

Though Nair agrees that organising music festivals can be profitable, he shares that it takes a few years before one breaks even. Chawla feels that though they have limited the capacity this year, the plan is to have a steady and organic growth in numbers, “As much as this is a labour of love this also has to be a sustainable business model for us to think of this as a feasible long term project.”

The Global Music Map
“Travel for this segment is a voyage of discovery. We’ve observed an increase of approx 10% in queries for music-based travel itineraries with top demand for Bonnaroo, Big Day Out, Cape Town Jazz Festival, Glastonbury Festival in the UK, Lollapalooza in Chicago, New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, Tomorrowland and many more. Genres like Jazz (New Orleans and Montreal), Blues and Rock, concerts by performers like Madonna have traditionally seen uptake, the new age musical mélange includes more of Trance, Techno, House, Electronic and alternative destinations like UK, Brazil, Spain, Denmark, Berlin, Croatia.”
Shibani Phadkar, Thomas Cook (India) Ltd.

Your music travel Itinerary 2013
> Oktoberfest Goa, October 25, 26, 27
> Enchanted Valley Carnival, Aamby Valley City, December 6, 7, 8
> Sound Awake, Bengaluru, December 1
> Magnetic Fields, Rajasthan, December 13, 14, 15
> Sunburn, December 27, 28, 29

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