The Artist Management scene has seen unprecedented growth in the last few years and showing a continued uptrend. Raga to Rock caught up with Anurag Rao, Founder of Canvas Talent Co. who has in his roster some of the biggest Actor/Singers in Bollywood, including the likes of Farhan Akthar & Ayushman Khurana. Anurag Rao has a long history with Music , he was the Guitarist with the band Pythagorus & the Right Angles, A&R head at MTv, Head at Reliance Big Fm before he decided to set up his Artist Management company. Here Anurag shares his views on Artist Management, Artists, Music and the way ahead.
Tell us how Canvas Talent Co. came about?
I had spend about 7 to 8 years at MTv, my primary role was Artist Management, Artist Development & Programming, so when I moved out I got pulled by Reliance Big FM, which took around 2 years to set up but by the time I had lost interest. We started off in 2006-2007 and would look out for Event opportunities and sign new artists. Most of the Artists in those days had secretaries or agents. Even though we had the Knowledge & Knowhow to help develop an Artist, there were deterrents and people who would not let you help the Artist. Then I started Canvas Talent Co. with Fardeen Khan & Zahid Khan, friends from back in the days, when I got into doing events.
What did you learn when you started off?
It was a rough start but the relationships in the Film & Music Industry are crucial. We did gigs and we learnt it was not easy to make a profit organizing events. It was a ‘Peoples Business’, it was all about relationships and these relationships counted when we started off. Also those days you had to be politically correct and play ‘Good cop Bad cop’ so you could make your bread and butter or living as a sole operator.
How did you get Farhan Akhtar on board?
Farhan came much later in my life. I knew Farhan from his ‘Dil Chata Hai’ days then along the way became friends somewhere in 2012, when Maa Durga happened Farhan wanted to set up an initiative with gender equality, he started M.A.R.D (Men against Rape & Gender Equality). I was having a telephonic conversation and he mentioned he wanted to bring awareness to MARD, that’s when we started working together. We got Salim–Suliaman to create a song ‘Chu lien Aasman’ and we tied up with an NGO HNGO (Helping Women get Online), we did a 6 city tour across colleges. This initiative got us the Channel V award that year. This is where it all began.
Why do you think there is a need for Artist Management?
I realized that the Artists were not able to achieve success or stardom as some of them did not look out for the right representation and some of them don’t know how to find the right representation. There are Management companies that have come a long way, OML (Only Much Louder) being one of them is the best with Independent Music and I don’t think that anyone who has done that kind of stuff but again they went into the Event space. They have managed to develop a few acts.
What is the change you would like to see in the Artist Management scene?
The change I would like to see in the Artist Management scene is from the Artist side. Unless the Artist feels
a) there is a need for them to develop
b) there is a need for his sound to be more cooler & hipper
c) more competitive compared to what is happening out there
or else they will be stuck with Booking Agents cause they want Live shows.
The Music business is not only about Live shows, you will be able to make more if your Music is reaching out to other parts of the world touching few thousand people elsewhere also. The thing they are not realizing is that it is not about the Music only anymore. It is the experience and the experience not only comes from the Music you create but also comes from who you are as an individual, what part of you is in your Music. It is cause of this experience that the listener would want to put the Song on repeat play, want to go get your Merchandising and get you engaging with fans. You could have a #1 hit and still be broke Live Musician.
What do you think is the weakness in the Artist Management space?
The only possible gap in the eco-system is the lack of A&R which is a key factor to what the Artists become. Some Artists want to do Live, Live, Live…and not interested in developing themselves and some of them may not have the capabilities to develop an Act and might not understand what it takes and probably that only comes from the experience of being in the Music business and that could be a few decades.
What do you think of the other Artist Management companies?
Most of the Artist Management companies are doing a great job, most of them have come up in the last 5-8 years, and their Artists are happy and as long as they are happy, the company is happy obviously they are doing a good job with the Artist. We also deal with other Artist Management companies hence we know they are doing a great job with the Artists they have.
Those of you who have been around from the 1960's through the 1990's will remember the vibrant live music scene in almost every starred hotel in India. Those were the days when you walked into a nightclub like 'Rendezvous' at The Taj Mahal hotel and 'Supper Club' at the Oberoi Sheraton in Mumbai to see curtains going up on a band that was the prime focus of these outlets. Every seat in these restaurants allowed an unobstructed view of the band that performed every night on resident contracts. Today all this has disappeared thanks to some ridiculously high entertainment taxes on live music. Today, non off these hotels have complete bands playing save for a few that feature small duos or solo singers. The Lodhi in New Delhi, recently listed among the world's best hotels, decided to step in and rewind to the good old days. They got Goa's premier jazz quartet 'Jazz Junction' to move to Delhi on a resident contract and the decision has paid off in terms of footfalls generated by the band. Jazz Junction featuring singer Daniella Rodrigues, pianist Tony Dias,
bassist Colin D'Cruz and drummer Angelo Colasco began playing at The Lodhi in June 2018. Four months into the contract the band generated a sizeable following, with quite a few high profile guests choosing to celebrate their special occasion at the Elan bar where the band performs. Against all odds the rewind option proved to be a huge success and hopefully other properties around the country takes the cue to trigger a whole new revival of live music.