From Strumming to Streaming-5 Chords that can Rock the Indian Music Audience.
At a recently concluded class on Media and Entertainment that I was conducting in a leading Business School in India, the whole class of 30+ students from across the country were unanimous on ‘free streaming’ as their choice for listening to music. This brought to fore the good and bad of the music industry in India:
•We are going digital in a big way – including music
•We are not willing to pay for music- not yet
Right from the early days of television in India in the 70s where ‘Doordarshan’ was the only channel and ‘Chitrahaar’ the only source of Bollywood music videos outside of films, we have come a long way.
India is the only country probably which has a popular tradition of ‘playback music’ since Bollywood music still contributes to more than 80% of the total music revenues. The rise of the independent music scene was phenomenal in the 90s thanks to the MTV culture that bloomed towards the end of the century. But what went up came down even faster in the beginning of the 21st century, shadowed by the big Bollywood brother gobbling up everything that came its way. While the artists faded, so did the cassette culture to the upsurgence of the CDs. Napster caught the industry napping and digital music slowly led to the demise of the music stores that were on the media planning ‘must have’ list of any serious brand launch in the country. The turmoil of the music licensing and distribution industry in the last decade has led to slow and steady burgeoning of the streaming audience, thanks to platforms like Saavn, Gaana, Wynk, Google and Apple.
Whileall of them have figured out a way to get their music libraryto multiply, they still haven’t arrived at a magic formula for getting the penny pinching Indian audience to pay for their ensemble. Uber and AirBnB have bred the culture of sharing rather than owning, and that has passed on to every sphere of life, including music. The consumer is happy listening to free steaming musiconline; downloads are far and few. Thanks to the increasing speeds and decreasing costs of the ubiquitousWi-Fi, the experience is uninterrupted. Music unavailable domestically is pirated or accessed through VPN.
Though the dishes laid out by each streaming platform are mouthwatering, some of the ingredients still seem to be missing in the Indian buffet.With USA, Europe and China dominating (81%) the $92 Bn global music industry, India is an infant at about $200 Mn, slated to double in the next five years (Source: The Ken). The situation is somewhat similar to that of the movie industry and hence some of the strategies adopted there will work in the music industry too.
Moreover, a consumer who is willing to pay almost $10 a month to Netflix, $20 for a dinner for two at a decent restaurant and hundreds of dollars in travel and leisure is unwilling to shell out even $2 a month for music in a country where the drum beats are second only to heart beats?
Keeping an ear close to the ground, this is what I gathered might help them rake the moolah:
1.Bollywood is just a big B!
For the music industry who hasn’t figured out why the consumer is not paying, Bollywood music is just an excuse for not having found the right strategy. Else how can one explain the fact that Bollywood’s share of 95% in the physical music market dwindles down to less than 60% in streaming revenues giving way to its lesser popular cousins – International, Indie and Regional music.Though still popular amongst the GenX and older generation, Bollywood music is fast getting relegated to the No.2 slot amongst the millennials who lap up everything that is available on the information highway of the internet. There is a strong latent gap for a platform who can occupy the ‘Non- Bollywood’ position and play a long game- a la Netflix in video.
Independent music has been growing in the Youtube generation, fostering a culture of music that transcends linguistic and geographical barriers.
A soon to be released movie by India’s highly profitable superstar, Aamir Khan, ‘The Secret Superstar,’ depicts the story of a muslim girl who rebelliously devises a way to become a singing sensation through Youtube, after her father restricts her from pursuing her melodious hobby. While every second millennial would dream of that, India lacks an organized system for fostering home bred talent. Investing in a ‘Catch them young and watch them grow’ culture would pave the way for a stronger indie revenue stream for the streaming companies.
3.Regional is the next National
Regional music, following the track record of its movies, is getting stronger day by day. While ‘Kolaveri di’ was an international sensation surpassed only by the Korean Gangnam style, the recent rage is of a hitherto unknown Malayalam song- Jimmiki Kammal.
Traditionally South India has had a culture of classical music and dance as a mandatory discipline for every kid. North East India has been popular for its borrowed culture from its Asian neighborsin addition to its indigenous music -and now its virgin landscapes and hills provide the perfect ambience for a mushrooming live music scene. Moreover, Indians have always had music as a staple diet in 22 official Indian dialects and all the 29 states boast of their own unique music heritage. With almost all the platforms focusing on Bollywood music, there is plenty of scope for differentiation by aggregating the regional and live music and increasing the revenue pie.
4.The Big ‘O’
A major success requires a major disruption.
Netflix and Amazon have invested more than $10 Bn in 2017 in original content worldwide, more than twice of the big six Hollywood studios combined. Netflix now has upturned the century old distribution system by premiering its movies on the platform, rather than screening them in theatres. The power has shifted from the century old studios to the decade old OTT platforms.
Moreover, Indians seem to be preferring ‘content driven independent movies’ to their poorly scripted Bollywood cousins and the trend seems to be replicating in the music industry as well. Besides, additional content like top 10 choices of indies from celebrities, biographies of music stars, documentaries, DIY content etc. can add much more value to the music content. We are seeing some of this already on FM radio channels in India.
For the streaming business to thrive, a leaf needs to be plucked from this success story. Only original content will be able to free them from the clutches of the music labels and spruce up their negotiation power. This will also enable them to further strengthen their ties with the artists by eliminating the middlemen.
5.‘T’ing the ball
While a diverse catalog is a ‘given’ for any music platform, the audience technology at the back end and the GUI at the front end is what gives it an edge. Log on to Google Play and it serves you music based on your mood and the time of the day. Spotify has its ‘Echonest software’ that lends it an edge to serve its ‘Discover Weekly’ dishes and ‘Rap Caviar’. Why would you want to wasteyour time on even deciding what music to hear, when the platform can almost read your mind like a magician and exactly tell you what you are thinking of and serve it to you immediately.
What is the future of the music industry? Can new technologies like AR make you sing and record music with your favorite singer? Can it allow you to have an ensemble with musicians performing live in different parts of the world? The possibilities are as endless as the limits of the human mind. The advancement of technology and the demands of the audience will push the boundaries of traditional models of monetization. When the teacher is ready the student will appear!
-Yogesh Karikurve is a global Media and Entertainment expert and has worked across MNCs, Indian Media Houses and Startups to build value oriented businesses in Films, TV and FMCG brands. He blogs on (www.indieyogi.in) on Entertainment and Travel, teaches at leading Business Schools and has been a speaker at various industry conferences internationally.
“I think music in itself is healing. It's an explosive expression of humanity. It's something we are all touched by. No matter what culture we're from, everyone loves music." Billy Joel. Allopathy, (the most commonly used system of medicine) is fast on the wane, with most people wanting to try something new. And the good news is that today people can choose from more than a 100 alternative medicines, ranging from traditional Ayurveda to Naturopathy to Aromatherapy to Music Therapy.
Music therapy however, is not a new therapy and has been around for centuries. In the Bible in 1: Samuel: 16:23 we read: “Whenever the spirit from God came on Saul, David would take up his lyre and play. Then relief would come to Saul; he would feel better, and the evil spirit would leave him”
So how does Music therapy work? Experts say it does two things:
1. It acts as an alternative for a sedative, drug or tranquillizers which would be prescribed in allopathy.
2. It is believed to increase the metabolic properties of the human body. It is also said to accelerate our breathing and improve the body’s muscular activities, soothe the Central Nervous System and Circulatory System of the listener as well as of the performer. Music therapy is believed to heal both physical as well as psychosomatic disorders.
Music therapy can be divided into two broad categories: “Active” and “Receptive”. In active music therapy, the therapist and patient (after discussing the problem) get together, and the patients are actually encouraged to create their own music, using their voices, musical instruments, or even everyday objects like, spoons, bottles, pans and pots etc. Therapists say this allows patients to explore their creativity, shed their inhibitions and express themselves through the music they create. This therapy is said to work well for people who are introverted, facing mental blocks, personality disorders or those who have problems expressing themselves.
It has also been said to have achieved good results with autistic children. Receptive therapy on the other hand, needs a more controlled environment and normally takes place in a more relaxed, soothing setting. It is said to work best when the patient is lying down in a dimly lit room and relaxed. Then the therapist plays pre chosen music, to which the patient is asked to listen to with eyes closed, or if they like they can doodle or imagine happy scenes in their mind.
The music used in receptive music therapy could range from calming ragas, classical western music or nature sounds (like waterfalls, wind in the trees etc) for people who are hyperactive, to peppy, happy, feel good uplifting music for people who are depressed or feeling low. Later, once the therapist determines which receptive music works best for them, patients are given recorded CD’s which they can listen to at home.
Corinne Heline (1882-1975) once prophetically quoted: “…man is a musical being. One day he will recognize music as a vital factor in the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual growth of the whole human race.”
I personally feel that the day has arrived.
- Noel Keymer
The President elect of America in his speech on winning the elections after thanking his family, his team, the people of America, the only person non American he thanked was our very own Desi Rapper, Baba Sehgal.
Baba of course had been glued to the TV and when he heard Trump say out His name, among the people he wished to thank for his victory, he was totally trumped sorry stumped. So thrilled was he that he did a jig around the room ecstatically rapping Trump Ka Mania, at the top of his voice.
He was still at it when his phone rang and some was yelling at the other end, Baba you did it! Baba you did it. Baba said, Hullo who is this? This is Trump, shit man, the new President of the United States of America, thanks to you man thanks to you…remember we met at the golf course…your song did it man...Aakhir USA ne bol hi diya, Trump pam pam pam. Baba couldn’t believe his ears, Donald J Trump?, he stuttered, momentarily lost for words (imagine that). Yes man this is Trump, and Baba said, man this is a great honour, shit, sorry…sir I knew there was something about you, I always have…but man well not US President material. Shit man, I know, Trump screamed, neither do I, but f*** who cares, we did it…you did it, you glorious rapper…Yes! Together we will make America great again.
And screw the Hispanics and the Muslim terrorists, the African-Americans and Beyonce and Jay Z and screw the IT Indians stealing American jobs and all the people who call me an imbecile and a bigot. You think I am huh? My IQ is one of the highest, you know it and I am now the President of the U S of America. I will build a bigger wall across the USA than the Great Wall of China and throw millions out over that wall. Taken aback Baba thought, I did say there was something about this guy, but I didn’t know it was maniacal.
As for you Baba, you are going to be my Chief White House Spokesman and Rapper and you are going to rap at my swearing in…Live to the world, from Mumbai to Kenya to Calif***infornia…and man we’ll grab some beautiful p**sy while you’re here, hey…so be seeing you soon. There, Baba said, he’s not such a bad guy after all.
Of course the news of Trump’s statement in which he thanked Baba, sent shock waves around the world. What did you expect? Even his closest friend Boris Putin sorry Vladimir and the Russian Parliament was dumb struck for a complete minute. India PM Narendra Modi was scratching his head, wondering how Baba beat him to it and Xi Jinping the Chinese President was brooding on whether to takeover Trump’s Business Empire or learn to play golf.
This news was a bigger shock than Donald Trump winning the election. There was consternation within political circles and government agencies, wondering, who is this Baba. This was something that needed to be investigated pronto and the Head of True Lies Department was called to immediately get to the bottom of the matter. And so, the chief investigative reporter of TLD was packed off to meet with our Baba Sehgal and this is what unfolded.
TLD: It was a scoop to the world to know that you knew Donald Trump?
BS: Yo, it was some time ago, I had gone to play golf and this guy comes up to me and tells me he is a big fan and kept singing Ba ba Ba ba Ba ba and he would love to rap like Baba and win over his Afro-American audience which Beyonce and Jay Z have mesmerized and gone over to that H bitch.
So I asked him, is he standing for Mayor, Senator, or what??? He tells me that he is he standing for the President of the US of A.
In my mind I was thinking what this old man with a weird hairstyle, can he possibly win? Ha. He seemed like a nice guy so I said I will help you out. He was so thankful that he flew me back in his private jet back to India. I told him I can't teach him to rap my style (which even those black dudes can’t do) but I would make a monster hit video for him.
TLD: So you traveled in Donald Trump's jet?
BS: Yes, he was so happy he opened the best champagne and invited me to grab some pussy. I looked over at Melania but then thought better of it. He promised me when he wins the election he would thank me and would also invite me to the White House.
TLD: Tell us about this monster HIT video you made?
BS: I told him when I make the song and video, there will be a Maniacal craze for Donald J Trump. He would be bigger than the biggest RockStars, bigger than the Beatles, Michael Jackson and Elvis put together. So I did the song and it was titled Trump ka Mania, and it rapped like this.
Just like I said, the Americans just couldn’t sit at home enjoying my 'rape' music, Trump mania gripped them and they came out and voted for him, it had an unbelievable effect, it changed the world .
My song…Changed the World.
TLD: Now that you have Changed the World what's you next plans?
BS: I am going to be his Chief White House spokesman and rapper, God, ah Trump willing and I will be advising him on when to rap and when not to rap. But, it hardly matters if he raps when I tell him not to and doesn’t when I tell him to, either way he’s gonna do his thing and the whole world is gonna get screwed.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to make preparations for the President's swearing in ceremony…get a new jump suit made in time for my performance and a tuxedo for the President’s Ball at the White House.
(With these words the poet/rapper whose song, 'Changed the World' rapped his way out. Maybe very soon he too will be a candidate for the Nobel Prize for Literature).
Believe me! Remember when you were twelve years old and your grandmother washed out your mouth with soap and
water for using foul language and then threatened to wash your ears out too for listening to and singing songs like “Cocaine” or “Love to Love You Baby” by Donna Summers”? Yes, our grandparents are constantly reminiscing about the “good old, clean, romantic, wholesome music”, music of the 30’s 40’s and the 50’s”. And you too may have been a victim of having being “brainwashed” into feeling that, yes, the music of the 80’s, 90’s & 2000’s (heavy metal, punk, soul, rap and hip hop) are really full of violence, drugs and sex!
Talking of violence, sex and drugs, every generation thinks they had the right value system during their times and that with every new generation it was going to the dogs. Well, we’re here to break a few age old myths and to enlighten you about the real truth as to why those days were called the “Good Old Bad Days” and how your grandparents lied to you!
“Sometimes she gets unruly;
An she act like she just don't wanna do;
But I get my 22-20;
I cut that woman half in two;
Your .38 Special;
Buddy, it's most too light;
But my 22-20;
Will make ev'rything, alright;
No, this isn’t a song of 80’s or the 90’s. These are the violent lyrics of a song where Skip James sings about cutting a woman in half in this blues number called "22-20 Blues" and he sang it way back in …1931! Compared to this the lyrics of “Ma Baker” sung by Boney M in the 70’s seem positively “tame”.
Couldn’t possibly get more violent than that right? Wrong! Check out the lyrics of Blind Willie McTell singing the "A to Z Blues" – circa 1956
“I’m gonna cut your head four different ways;
That's long, short, deep and wide.
When I get a rhythm of this rusty black handle razor;
you're gonna be booked out for an ambulance ride;
Cause I'm gonna cut A, B, C, D on top of your head;
That's gonna be treating you nice, like mama you ain't gonna be dead.
I'm gonna cut E, F, G right across your face;
H, I, J, K, that's where runnin' bound to take place;
Cut L, M, N cross both your arms;
You'll sell an' peddle gal your whole life long;
Cut N, O, P, Q that's gonna be trouble too;
Cause I'm gonna grab you mama and turn you every way but loose;
Cut R, S, T to hear you cry;
That'll be the last time tears a run from over your eyes;
Cut U, V, W on the bottom of your feet;
That'll be the last time you walk up an' down 25th street;
Marking cross your bosom with X, Y, Z;
When I get through with this alphabet;
You'll quit your messing with me”.
Let’s all be thankful that Blind Willie wasn’t a KG teacher teaching little kids the A to Z of the alphabet!
And if the “bad blue” boys of the 1930’s, 40’s & 50’s thought they were going to get away with violence against women, they were absolutely wrong! Because Josie Miles and her sister “blues” singers proved that they too were equally blood thirsty (if not more) and didn’t even need a reason for getting violent! Compared to these “bad mamas, the so called “bad girls” of today come across as “pristine virgins”.
In the following song "Mad Mama Blues" Bad sister Josie Miles is out to wreck the city, and there's absolutely nothing you can do to stop her.
“Now I could see blood runnin'
Through the streets;
Could be everyone;
Layin' dead right right at my feet.
Give me gunpowder;
Give me dynamite;
Yes I'd wreck the city;
Wanna blow it up tonight.
I took my big Winchester;
Down off the shelf;
When I get through shootin';
There won't be nobody left.
Violent enough? “But hey”, I hear you say, “maybe they were violent, but at least they weren’t doing drugs!” At least they didn’t have songs like Eric Clapton’s “Cocaine” or The Beatles “Lucy In the Sky With Diamonds” encouraging people to try LSD or snort coke! Wrong again sister! just check out the lyrics of this next song -
Dreamed about a reefer five feet long.
Mighty Mezz, but not too strong.
You'll be high but not for long.
If you're a viper.
I'm the king of everything.
I've got to be high before I can swing.
Light a tea and let it be
If you're a viper.
When your throat gets dry you know you're high.
Everything is dandy.
Truck on down to the candy store.
Bust your konk on peppermint candy.
Then you know that you’re body's spent.
You don't care if you don't pay rent.
Sky is high and so am I
If you're a viper.
Name of the song? ‘If You’re A Viper” sung by Stuff Smith in the year 1936 and I’m sure he was really flying super duper high if he smoked five foot reefers!!
Do I hear a few voices still protesting, “OK fine, they had violence and drugs in their lyrics, but at least they didn’t have any “F” words or explicit sex in their songs, like “Oh Me So Horny,” by “2 Live Crew” who Broward County Police had to haul into court, because their album “As Nasty As They Want To Be” had been banned for its obscene lyrical content.”
So Wrong again!
Lucille Bogan, a very motherly, plain looking woman was not called the queen of the "Dirty Blues" for nothing. Yes, this “plain Jane” was the writer and singer of such dirty classics as "Sloppy Drunk Blues," "Tricks Ain't Walkin’ No More" and the "Bull Dyke Women's Blues’s”.
And the lyrics of her most famous song, “Shave ‘Em Dry” which she sang live in pubs in 1935 are too explicit to even print here. But if you don’t believe me you can go to Goggle and type out “Lucille Bogan – Lyrics of “Shave “Em Dry” and check them out. But don’t blame me if you’re scandalized!
And yes, dear child, if you still don’t believe that your grandparents lied to you, then I’m sure you’ll also believe that “Madonna” is still a virgin, that “Michael Jackson” is still alive and “moon walking” and that “The Beatles” are practicing hard… for their next gig!
- Noel Keymer
Located in a former mill, the Mumbai outpost of the US chain of resto-bars has a mixed reputation among the city's musicians. In the first couple of years after opening, in 2006, indie rock acts were often asked to include a stipulated number of cover songs in their set lists. These days, Hard Rock Café, which hosts gigs every Tuesday and Thursday night, sticks mostly to cover bands, with a couple of dates a month spared for indie groups. Skip these gigs, and come here only for the ticketed events, when one of the seating areas is cleared to make room for a larger stage, for performances by Indian indie icons (folk-fusion veterans Indian Ocean, electro-rock superstars Pentagram), international chart toppers (Wyclef Jean, Jay Sean) or club-packing DJs (Bob Sinclair, Paul van Dyk). Be warned, though: the waiters break into a synchronised jig every time the Village People's "YMCA" comes on.
Bombay Dyeing Mill Compound, Pandurang Budhkar Marg, Worli, + 91 22 2438 2888, Hardrockindiablog.com. Open daily noon-1.30am. Performance times and entrance fees vary