The curator of live entertainment

Oct 05, 2014, 12:29 IST | Phorum Dalal

Sanjay Ahire, founder of Artistivity, which has a database of over 2,500 artistes, hopes to reform the live performing arts industry in India

We sit in a room on the 16th floor of a high-rise in Khar, which overlooks the Arabian Sea against the Mumbai skyline. In a corner, on the floor, Karan Joseph, a keyboard player, who started his tryst with music at the age of three, makes soft, soothing melodies.

Sanjay Ahire
Sanjay Ahire, founder of Artistivity Pics/Nikesh Gurav

Another singer, Noopur Khedkar, strolls in, plops herself on a settee, and begins to hum to Joseph’s tune. The impromptu composition is mesmerising. A strum of the guitar joins this rhapsody. Its notes are almost inaudible, and you have to strain to hear them. “I am no musician,” Sanjay Ahire, founder of Artistivity, an artiste booking company, smiles. “But I am learning the guitar,” he adds.

The vibe in his two-storey residence-cum-office is relaxed but it is evident that something substantial is brewing here.
In March 2012, Sanjay thought of creating a platform to help consumers book performing artistes for live gigs. He began working on Artistivity to make the transaction between performers and clients transparent, sans a middle man. Today, Artistivity has a curated database of more than 2,500 musicians, singers, DJs, dancers, emcees, stand-ups and other new-age

Sanjay Ahire
Sanjay Ahire

Live performances
The 39-year-old calls his team and himself ‘live performance experts’. “We help our clients curate shows. Be it a mall, a restaurant, lounge, hotel, theme parks or a wedding, we understand the requirements, the occasion, study the budget and preference for talent, genre and language, and then suggest an artiste line up and combination of acts,” says Sanjay, who is a diehard fan of Queen, The Doors and Michael Jackson.

“There are plans to do more albums, collaborations and curation with some of our musician friends, including Arijit Datta, Vasuda Sharma, Sanjay Divecha, Sid Coutto, Rachael Varghese, Sonu Kakkar, Vineeth Vincent, Manish Anand, Kunal Naik and Karan Joseph,” says Sanjay. Thus, on one platform, one can find a wide genre of musicians ranging from jazz, blues, Bollywood, classical and even folk, along with a host of stand-up comedians, dancers and actors.

Ironing out delays
“This industry has no structure, and an artiste is paid only a small per cent of the total earnings, that too, three months after a gig. Most event management companies, artistes’ agencies and managers, work with only 10 to 15 artistes. What about the others who have talent and are looking for a chance?” says Sanjay, who has worked in programming, marketing, business development and strategy consulting roles with various media and entertainment companies over 15 years before quitting his last corporate job in August 2013.

Friends of friends
To implement the idea, all he did was shout out to around 20 musician friends, who in turn recommended 20 more fellow musicians. “That is how I have built this network. Every sign up on our website is screened. When a user signs up as a performer, an approval is required from the backend team. We go through their SoundCloud, YouTube videos and social media posts before featuring their profile on the site,” says Sanjay, who has also made a mobile app for artistes to map their availability.

He is also working towards setting up a ‘discount billing’ concept. “In this setting, an artiste won’t have to wait to get paid for three months. We have been speaking to financial institutes to make payment cycles stable,” he explains. By end of this year, Artistivity will offer booking services to large number of artists. “This should help artistes with better negotiations, collection of payments and contracts,” says the entrepreneur.

Artistes’ community
From doing two shows in the first month of their launch, today, Artistivity curates 50 to 60 gigs a week in six cities namely Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore, Pune, Chennai and Hyderabad. “In spite of the power of social media, it is very tough for an artiste to tap clients. Artistivity is a community for the artistes, by the artiste, of the artistes,” he adds.

The team is also working on a membership card exclusively for artistes. “This will offer benefits such as equipment and travel insurance, cheaper travel and accommodation solutions for artistes,” says Sanjay. Our last question about the name Artistivity brings a smile on Sanjay’s face. “The concept is creativity and festivity. Thus, Artistivity is a celebration of all things creative,” he signs off.

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