As an indirect consequence of the pandemic, several independent artists have signed deals with OTT films, series and Bollywood films like Gehraiyaan [OAFF]Dhamaka [Prateek Kuhad]and Jee Le Zara [When Chai Met Toast].
What a difference a month makes. In the first part of my column on how the live music industry has changed for Indian indie artists since the start of the pandemic, published the last week of January, I wrote about the return of gigs to antiSOCIAL in mumbai. I’m typing part two on a weekend when more than a dozen concerts are being held around town at more than half a dozen venues.
As you might expect, most of these are electronic music events, but they’re closely followed by those featuring hip-hop acts. And the list includes the first legitimate live music festival to be held since March 2020, Mahindra Open Drive, held on the outskirts. As promised, here’s another set of hypotheses I’ve tested by interviewing some of the country’s most prominent independent artist managers and promoters.
Observation: the tastes of listeners have broadened
While rock and metal have lost some ground, electronics and subgenres such as house and techno have maintained their status as the most popular indie music styles on our live circuit over the past few years. , while hip-hop has simultaneously become, arguably, the second biggest genre on the concert scene.
More recently, we’ve seen a noticeable increase in viewership for local funk, soul and R&B. “[International] artists like Anderson .Paak, Chet Faker, Jungle and Little Dragon, who have all toured India, have contributed to this,” says Tej Brar, founder of artist and event management company Third Culture Entertainment and from the Export Quality Records label. Their rosters include Kayan, RANJ and T.ill Apes, bands whose music falls largely within these associated styles and who have built niche but loyal fanbases. Notably, each of them was to play one of the stages of this year’s NH7 Weekender festival, the revised lineup of which will be released this week.
Last but not least, singer-songwriters, which, although not quite a genre, seem to be the fastest growing segment of Indian indie, at least in terms of the number of artists. emerging. Those who have successfully grown their following online over the past two years, such as Anuv Jain, Hanita Bhambri, Kamakshi Khanna and Raghav Meattle, are reaping the benefits offline. “Solo songwriters with large Instagram footprints are taking over the world,” says Yama Seth, Director of Artists at Big Bad Wolf Entertainment, which counts Prateek Kuhad and Khanna among its clientele.
Observation: business models are changing
Consensus: Partially True
The pandemic has provided the impetus for more venues, keen to recoup losses incurred from back-to-back closures, to shift to booking musicians on a shared-entry basis rather than a flat-rate basis. It’s something they’ve been asking for for a long time, because it forces artists to invest in ticket sales as well. In turn, the acts that are itching to get back on the road are more on board with this arrangement than ever.
“More artists are ready to take part in the gate now,” says Dhruv Singh, the founder of management company Pagal Haina, whose roster includes Lifafa, Peter Cat Recording Co and The F16s. “Quite honestly, they don’t really have an option because a lot of sites and promoters have been avoiding buyout deals since COVID-19 hit. That’s a good thing in the long run, because it forces them not to take gigs for granted and taking the time and effort to put some butt in the seats.
Some promoters have started offering deals where they underwrite the musicians’ fees instead of the venue and collect all the revenue from ticket sales. “The way we and a few others have been operating lately [is that we’re] just do off-the-shelf deals for a lump sum and take the entire gate,” says Third Culture Entertainment’s Brar. “The artist has to take care of their travel, accommodation, local transportation for their entire tour as well as other expenses such as freight charges and room service. [from that amount]. What remains is their performance fee. [We’re] still responsible for providing backline equipment and personnel. It’s a high-risk game because if you don’t break even, you’re automatically in the red.
Observation: Live artists are reducing their dependence on concerts for their livelihood
Consensus: Partially True
While gigs remain the primary source of income for the majority of independent Indian musicians, and as Brar points out, “especially regional bands that don’t have a national following”, many artists, out of necessity rather than choice , have found alternative sources of income. Streaming royalties, as has been well documented, pay too little except for a handful of acts. After the first nationwide lockdown, independent artists increasingly began to hold online classes and workshops and take on more commissioned business assignments such as composing and singing for advertising jingles.
In what has been an indirect consequence of the pandemic, several of them have been involved or have signed synchronization agreements with OTT films and series, even Bollywood films.
In 2020, producer Achint Thakkar achieved streaming success with his theme for the web show Scam 1992and in 2021, When Chai meets toast fans were pleasantly surprised when the band’s single ‘Firefly‘ was used in the social media announcement of Farhan Akhtar’s upcoming film Jee Le Zara.
This year, viewers saw and heard the acoustic version of Kuhad’s’Kasoor’ in the Netflix India Original thriller Dhamakaand the tracks of Sameer Rahat and Hybrid Protokol in the SonyLIV drama Back home. In the first week of February, singers Jai Anand, Mali and Kamakshi Khanna announced their Hindi movie soundtrack or OTT serial debut with their appearances on Netflix India Original movie OST. Lapeta Bucklethe theatrical release Badhaai Doand ZEE5 show Kaun Banega Shikharwati respectively.
Khanna scored something of a double whammy; in addition to ‘Chhan Chhann Chhan‘ from Kaun Banega Shikharwati, which also marked songwriting duo Parekh & Singh’s first foray into this realm, their 2021 collaboration with electronic artist OAFF,’Hard,‘ was part of the trailer for the Netflix India Original series which was just released The fame game.
Talking about OAFF, its chart topping titles and conquering short video tracks for Amazon Prime Video India Original movie Gehraiyaanwhich he co-composed with Savera Mehta, is the biggest indie-mainstream crossover since Ravine Boy . Then you can listen to songs from Indian Ocean, Prabh Deep and Taba Chake on the upcoming Lionsgate Play show Jugaadistan. Finally, our film and TV industries seem to spotlight indie, not just co-opt it.
Amit Gurbaxani is a Mumbai-based journalist who has been writing about music, particularly the country’s indie scene, for nearly two decades. He tweets @TheGroovebox.