Digital Has Empowered Independent Artists in India
The penetration of the internet has added new meaning to the Indian music industry
What drives an Indian film? Well, apart from its storyline, screenplay and actors? The music, of course. The Indian films have been known for its songs for years and many a time, it is the music that pushes a movie's success, take Aashiqui for instance. India's music scene has been dominated by Bollywood for a far longer time than one would like to believe. But, it's changing.
Having the vibrant domain with the presence of folk, pop, rock, Hindustani classical, Carnatic and the recently recognized, indie music among others, India never had the dearth of singers. The penetration of digital media, however, has empowered musicians to acknowledge the scope of their art beyond films. While the west has always been ruled by independent music, India is steadily adopting the culture too.
The nation has witnessed an explosion of talented and distinct musicians emerging around the country, thanks to the surge in online platforms. Entrepreneur India got candid with Manmeet Singh of the vivacious music director duo Meet Bros and Punjab's musical prodigy Sunanda Sharma on how the online platforms have empowered the community of non-Bollywood artists:
The Stigma of Independent Music
Having started recording songs 18 years ago, Meet brothers have witnessed the time when a song's popularity was determined by the number of CDs sold by the music label. The con though, an artist was unable to estimate how many people were actually listening to his creation. The emergence of digital has empowered artists to determine how many clicks their song has received in reality.
"It is very sad that no one thinks about an artist," Singh expressed. In the west, artists are bigger than movie stars. That culture is now seeping inside the Indian boundaries. "If you pick up top 20 songs of 2018, at least 6-7 were independent songs. The journey has just started. In the coming 2 to 3 years, independent music will be at par with Bollywood music because people have realized the importance of owning their artists, their songs."
Power of Music
Giving an example of his eccentric hits Baby Doll and Chittiyaan Kalaiyaan, Singh stated, "It is remarkable that 30-35 per cent of the music heard all over the country is hardcore Punjabi. People don't understand but they are all listening to it. Whether it is Mumbai, Gujarat or South India, music lovers are freaking over Punjabi tracks and no one understands even a word of it." That's the power of music.
"Kids who don't even speak Hindi properly are singing Sone sone patole lakkha de, that's the barrier independent music is crossing now." Digital has removed the need for a mediator between the artists and the audience by directly connecting them.
"Whom am I making songs for? For you and they have to come to you directly. Referring to his upcoming song, Trendsetter, he stated that the moment it gets released, the audience can hear it without needing to go through the long process of possessing the audio tape or CD first.
Bollywood or non-Bollywood
Having produced music for Hindi cinema for years, Singh holds a special place for Bollywood. When asked about what's most preferred for him, he joked about being married to Bollywood music but having an affair with independent music.
"Bollywood music asks for a different kind of creativity when you have to think and create. When you are making an independent song, it is all from the heart, when your mind is not working. Sometimes you don't even know what you are creating but in a movie, you have to create songs according to the situation. The product is a combination of the mind and the heart," he stated.
Relatively new to the music industry, Sunanda Sharma started her career merely 3 years back with the launch of her first song Billi no. Having just started her journey, she understands that while a lot of hard work has gone into pushing out lovable content, digital media has dislodged many obstacles she might have faced on her path to the immense popularity she currently enjoys.
Referring to music streaming apps like Gaana, Saavn and the latest entrant of India's music scene Spotify, the Punjabi music sensation stressed that these platforms have helped artists to get their music heard throughout the world, without any boundaries of time and space.
YouTube specifically has empowered actors, singers, dancers, comedians and other artists by allowing them to put out their work without waiting for a big label to sign them up. "I, myself started with YouTube and it has given identity to a lot of people."
"In today's date and time, a person can't do anything without social media. In order to reach places, social media is the only way." With 3.9 million users on Instagram, Sharma believes that social media has given a platform to artists like her to connect with their fans and followers.
An active user herself, she often conducts live chat sessions, promotes her upcoming songs and albums on social media. "Fans are very inquisitive about an artist's life and routine. I am able to reach them, quench their curiosity about myself through these platforms only. Instagram, Facebook and Snapchat, all have played a crucial role in my career," she concluded.