The turn of the decade was viewed with a lot of optimism by the Indian music industry. With fantastic year end festivities which witnessed most artists occupied in shows, the event industry was gearing up for what would be a busy year ahead. Artist managers were working out of their skins. Fetching the right shows at a good fee, ensuring mass appeal on social media and over all up keep of the artist’s image was their focal point. Suddenly all the plans hit a wall amidst the COVID-19 pandemic which has currently engulfed humanity.
It is common knowledge now how COVID-19 spread, is spreading and the fatalities it can cause. This has forced all gigs, recordings, sessions and even jam ups to cease till an unforeseeable future.
Where does this leave the artist managers? How are they analysing the current situation?
“Right now as a company and as an artist manager, we are just thinking to support the country and get out of this. Nobody knows when this will be over. We are more worried about the daily wage earners and people who don’t have a secured life,” said Alaap Gosher, TM Talent Management.
In recent weeks, COVID-19 has devastated the music industry leaving thousands of music creators and professionals without work and an uncertain future. In spite of this more and more artists are coming forward to spread awareness about COVID-19. Not only that, senior musicians and executives have stepped forward to help artists and artist managers utilise this self quarantine period.
“In the current scenario where the world is in crisis and there is a lot of panic, I think it’s a great opportunity for all the creative people to isolate themselves and work on their creativity and create fresh content. They can go back to their roots and start working on what they are looking for and develop as much as original content they can. Meanwhile they should also pray for the world,” stressed Varun Gupta, Founder & Managing Director, Republik of Music and Amplify Times.
Is there a bright side?
This break might have come as a relief to artists. They are generally overworked and hardly find time to let their creative juices flowing. The family time is spent in the studio and the professional timings are stretched.
“This is the right time for artists to sit at home, create new content, and spend some time with their family. All our artists are currently doing the same, so once we are over this difficult time, their content is ready. Everyone is clueless as to when this period will end so we are pushing our artists to create new content right now,” added Alaap.
Echoing his thoughts is Mourjo Chatterjee, Owner/Sole Proprietor, On Stage Talents,
“Well honestly it’s a great time for all of us to be home and spend time at home which otherwise as a manager and as artists we miss! Firstly I’m asking all my artists to be productive, create content. We have got Amaal Mallik and Akhil Sachdeva to create original content. Rameet Sandhu is busy working on something new. Every artist is busy doing something. We will make sure we have content lined up for the entire year even after this is over.”
COVID-19 and its effects
While artists will create and release new content, a main source of their revenue has dried up. Live shows. Pubs, performance arenas, college fests are ordered to be shut. These were the avenues for artists and their managers to rake in the much needed ‘moolah’. Of course artists earn through streaming platforms, advertisements and other outlets, this was where the bigger piece of pie was. With the live music event industry practically shut till no one knows when, how are managers dealing with it?
“As an artist manager there is nothing much one can do about the revenue side. Right now we don’t know when things will be normal. What we can do is be prepared with a plan, enough content and ideas with our artists so we can go all out once the business is up and running. The focus is to keep the artists engaged in writing and creating music, collaboration and revisiting old work to check what can be reused and put out,” quipped Nikhil Udupa, Director, 4×4 Experiences.
Developing engaging content
This shutdown has pushed artists to utilise their social media platforms. Artists which formerly didn’t take these platforms seriously may be worse off during these testing times. An artist needs to be in touch with his fan base. Now with a lockdown seeming apparent, social media remains the only platform. But this is where the creativity of an artist and artist manager will be tested. A run of the mill interaction is something no one in a lockdown is looking for.
They will have to develop content which keeps the audience engaged and coming back for more. Something like those daily soap operas.
“A lot of our revenue comes from live gigs which have shut down. However we are in talks with some agencies to curate some online content. We are trying to stay away from the basic ‘Hey I am going to live from my bedroom on Facebook’ kind of content. Instead we are looking to build content which is interactive and enjoyable. We are going to get our artists prepared for the long haul. I don’t see the situation improving in a month or two. Whatever we do, we got to think long term. That is pretty much it,” explained Mo Joshi, C0-Founder, Azadi Records.
Musicians like Coldplay’s Chris Martin, John Legend, Pink, Keith Urban, and Diplo have been ‘live-streaming’ music and posting concert videos on social media since shows started getting cancelled. Back home too, musicians like Ustad Zakir Hussian, Meghna Mishra, Amaal Mallik, Ankur Tiwari, Richa Sharma, Shashwat Singh and many classical and independent musicians have already taken to performing on social media.
Explaining the trend, sitar maestro Purbayan Chatterjee said,
“If an artist like Ustad Zakir Hussain performs live on social media, it will inspire other artists. An artist just doesn’t want to perform, he also wants an audience for his performance.”
“Right now the only place to find an audience is on social media. It is very informal, with artists going live on their page, as it is at a nascent stage. This can be formalised by involving streaming platforms as partners. The live digital gigs won’t be any different than the real one. With no real end to this COVID-19 situation, digital gigs are the immediate future.”