‘Resilient’ indie artistes ready to face the music post-lockdown

<br>The big money-earner were the live shows, but now with the lockdown in place the struggle for independent artistes has become even more pronounced.

Amidst the ongoing lockdown, jazz drummer Tarun Balani's solo project Seasonal Affected Beats released the video of “Let the light in”.

Even during these dark times, he is trying to bring some light and hope in people's lives through music but it doesn't seem to be all bright and sunny for the indie music scene during and after the lockdown phase.

“The COVID-19 has deeply impacted the music industry globally, and to my understanding we'll be grappling with the rippling effects of this until may be Spring/Summer 2021. The independent music industry in India has also been affected adversely as most performing artistes don't have a way to earn a living anymore, with all concerts, live performances and venues closed until the foreseeable future. This will be an extremely difficult time for the industry and I truly hope that various stakeholders in the industry will come together to have a dialogue and chart a course of action in these times,” Tarun told IANS.

“This situation has also shed light on the abysmal payment rates that streaming platforms offer to artistes and hopefully there'll be a much necessary overhaul and innovation in how these platforms can bring the focus back on making themselves and the artistes more sustainable,” he added.

Mali aka Maalavika Manoj is a Mumbai-based singer-songwriter who tells personal stories through her music, finding unconventional yet relatable topics to write about.

“Before the lockdown, it seemed like we were in for a really good year, with a lot of great music expected to come out, and more independent events and festivals to look forward to. I believe that with every release, every artiste who pushes the boundaries, the bar gets set even higher, and that only helps us grow as an industry,” Mali told IANS.

“That said, it's still a very small industry and we need a lot more players, not only artistes but also promoters, managers and venues. If we want to call this an industry and not a scene, we need to make sure everyone has a shot at making a living from it,” she added.

Electronica music producer Tarana Marwah aka Komorebi, feels that the lockdown has put things on a standstill.

“Our capacity to play shows and reach out to a live audience is gone indefinitely. This is forcing us to think of new ways in which we can interact with our fan base, and also giving us time to reflect on the music we make,” said Tarana, who plans to continue to release music with content in ways that are sanitary and relatable.

Talking about the impact of the lockdown on the indie music industry, hip-hop producer PAV4N told IANS: “A massive part of the experience and income for most independent artistes is in the live sphere, you can network, hear new music in context and cherish the moments that we all really do this for… The concert/rave/show, you get to live it with all the people who love it, together.

“Aside from the existential experience, that's also where we finally get paid for the efforts we put into making the music. First we had our income massively slashed a few years from the advent of digital music. What seemed like the only saving grace was the live income but that has gone now too. But we are resilient, so once again we are in a situation where it's adapt or die. Fortunately for many independent artistes, we made the decision to roll the dice and go all-in anyway, so I feel mentally we are equipped to face the music.”

PAV4N has a plan to weather the storm.

“Focus on making new music, connections, catching up with everyone in the industry, and supporting and brainstorming together. I'm personally starting a new label and creating a platform to circumvent these geographical barriers and making sure all the music and artistes I love, get to bring their art to the world, and keep releasing my own music as well,” said the artiste.

Soumini Sridhara Paul, Vice President, Hungama Artist Aloud, said that COVID-19 has levelled the field across the board where all artistes of all genres, categories and calibre have been equally affected.

“The only difference as of now is the social community that each artiste has and how are they using it to engage and stay relevant. Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, YouTube, etc have all played a big part in helping the artistes do that. However, at least for the last two months due to the lockdown, that has not resulted in any revenue source. This holds true not just for the artiste but also for platforms like ours,” said Paul.

Her team is currently working on some ideas and technologies that they believe will help them to engage with artistes in a manner that will help them to continue to keep not only the business alive but also help artistes grow their fans and generate revenue.

“What is required right now is for a complete overhaul in the thought process by artistes as well. It is important to do a complete reboot and rethink of what needs to be done. It is an ecosystem and one has to understand that we are all part of the same chain. We have always believed that artistes are our partners and hence we have to come to a solution together,” said Paul.

Padmanabhan Nurani, Spotify's Head of Artists and Label Partnerships in India, has announced the launch of RADAR in India that will help to “amplify India's Indie music growth”.

“We are excited to start this off with three incredibly talented local artistes — Mali, When Chai Met Toast and Taba Chake. RADAR is our flagship programme that's committed to giving the up-and-coming artistes a stronger local and global audience through the platform. It's a stepping stone for artistes to work with an established music label, or even for the Indian film industry if they want to. The potential is huge. This initiative is another way in which Spotify is enabling the growth of the artiste community — a small but right step to amplify India's Indie music growth,” said Nurani.

Singer Taba Chake is hopeful and is working on some songs that he had written before, so “I can release them soon after the lockdown”.

(Natalia Ningthoujam can be contacted at natalia.n@ians.in)


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