Musicians are losing jobs, as venues opt out of live music performances. Where will you party this New Year's Eve?
With less than a fortnight left for New Year's Eve and a week for Christmas, one would presume people in Mumbai would be scurrying around to reserve seats for those dates in their favourite diners and pubs that play live music. After all what's New Year's in Mumbai without music? But, it turns out, there may not be any music at all.
While the government, under then Finance Minister Narayan Rane issued a new entertainment tax in August last year, it is only now that its effects are being felt. According to the system, all permit rooms and beer bars that have orchestras playing in them have to pay a monthly entertainment tax of Rs 50,000, non-five star hotel pubs will have to shell out Rs 1 lakh and five star pubs, Rs 2 lakh. As a result, not only have many musicians gone jobless in the last few months, they have reportedly been getting very few invitations to perform at venues this December, which is otherwise considered a 'peak season'. Also, many pubs and hotels have entirely shut their live music section.
Rosette Furtado, a singer, who performs at Taj Lands End in Bandra and was supposed to sign a month-long (December) contract with the hotel, claims that the plan was called off at the last minute, because of the costs involved. "Since the tax structure has come into existence, few options of live music are available. The government needs to do something about it immediately," said Furtado.
According to the singer, while there are still some offers in the market, most bands are being offered measly sums. According to her, most bands are usually offered at least Rs 60,000 for a night's performance in Christmas and New Year's, this time around most are being offered sums like Rs 25,000. According to other musicians like Pravin D'souza, a member of the band In-Kontrol, the death knell for live music has already been sounded. "Every December, we would have more than 20 gigs, but this year we have been signed up for only four," he said.
According to a new directive that was issued on December 8, and is now being discussed between authorities and the hotel industry, party organisers will have to part with 25 per cent of their entry fee and an equal share of the sponsorship money for any do on Christmas Day or New Year's Eve.
Some popular hotels like Soul Fry in Bandra and Fort, ever since the new tax system was enforced, have completely stopped their live music sections. According to co-founder Meldan D'Cunha, who spearheaded a campaign against the new tax system called 'Please don't kill live music' on a social networking website, "It has been a year since the government promised to look into the matter, but nothing has happened."