Online platform for indie musicians aims to democratise the industry

Jan 06, 2018, 12:19 IST | Shunashir Sen

The indie music industry in India has its own caste bias, metaphorically speaking. That is to say, the movers and shakers of a big city are far more likely to get big-ticket gigs than those who haven't played the market adequately

Pranoy Kanojia, Dhananjai Sinha and Ayshwarya Sharma, three of the people behind Instrupad. Pic/Shadab Khan
Pranoy Kanojia, Dhananjai Sinha and Ayshwarya Sharma, three of the people behind Instrupad. Pic/Shadab Khan

The indie music industry in India has its own caste bias, metaphorically speaking. That is to say, the movers and shakers of a big city are far more likely to get big-ticket gigs than those who haven't played the market adequately.  This has led to a lack of democracy within the scene, despite the Internet having levelled the playing field to some degree. Instrupad - a "genre- and band-agnostic play space for musicians" - seeks to change that. But, the website is still in its infancy, taking baby steps towards creating an equal platform for indie artistes.

Fidel D'Souza in an Instrupad video
Fidel D'Souza in an Instrupad video

It was conceived during a class project that two management students, Dhananjai Sinha and Pranoy Kanojia, had to undertake four years ago. The idea is quite straightforward - create a digital space that connects musicians to others invested in the art form, including the lay audience and people who create custom-made instruments.

"See, you can break up the music industry into four parts: composition, production, distribution and promotion," Sinha, 28, tells us. "What used to happen earlier is that because of the big labels, distribution was centralised, which is why they had a lot of say in how much money goes to the artiste. But after the recent explosion of data packs and the Internet in tier-II and tier-III markets, distribution has become more de-centralised. So now, you can compose, produce and advertise your music yourself, because of which a lot of independent artistes have started pursuing it full-time," he explains.

The basic aim behind
Instrupad is to further that process of de-centralisation. The website calls for people to send in videos of their music, good or bad (but not ugly, since there is an elementary hygiene check). Someone making an instrument from scratch, if that's his or her calling, has an open door as well. The makers hope that this will start a large enough conversation to attract an active audience. And by "active", Sinha means listeners who actually go hunting for music themselves, instead of passively waiting for those pulling the industry's strings to spoon-feed songs to them.

There are other ways in which the Mumbai-based Instrupad team - Chirag Mediratta and Ayshwarya Sharma, apart from Sinha and Kanojia - hope to democratise the indie industry. They put up short documentaries that aim to place a finger on the pulse of the scene (such as one on the evolution of hip-hop in the country). There is also a database they are building with short bios of musicians who want to contribute their story. An accompanying YouTube channel is aimed at expanding overall outreach. And all of this sounds like music to the ears of Fidel D'Souza, the bassist for Parvaaz, a Bengaluru-based band that's an indie biggie.

D'Souza had contributed a bass playthrough - which meansplaying a song from the beginning to the end on an instrument, and he says, "I got my sister, who's a food blogger, to shoot a video and I sent it to them after they got in touch with me. I actually found it really interesting because no one had ever asked me for anything like it. And personally speaking, I should be putting out more such playthrough videos I think."

Now, if he and others like him do follow up on that thought, it will eventually help Instrupad grow out of its infancy. But the founders also need investor support. Sinha tells us that the only financial help they have had so far is from a crowdfunding campaign and the prize money they got after placing third in an international start-up competition. The website is thus still largely a DIY venture, with the four teammates pooling in their individual expertise. But - even as it remains a small step forward for Indian indie - the best option for the quartet is to just keep walking.

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