Gatecrash’s Amplify Music Incubator is a fine balance between the business and creative side of being an artist

For the past decade, Vel Omazic, co-founder and executive director of Canada’s Music Incubator (CMI) has been helping artists, managers and industry professionals navigate the country’s music business. When Omazic mentored Tanish Thakker and offered his experience to replicate CMI’s success in India, the latter was only too thrilled to bring some of the Canadian music business’ infrastructure and organisation to the Indian independent music scene.

For three editions now, Mumbai-based agency, Gatecrash – founded by Emmanuelle de Decker and Thakker who’s director –has been organising a rare opportunity for artist development in the country, Amplify Music Incubator (AMI). “We’re really hoping to change the way in which the indie music industry looks at knowledge sharing, building communities and making the artist growth journey easier, inclusive and less lonely,” says Thakker. “By enabling artists, we want to change the way in which they view and navigate the music industry as well. A support system for artists in India has been missing for a long time. We are going to keep developing Amplify, not just for artists but also for the larger ecosystem that exists for the indie music landscape in India.” 

So far, the programme has helped artists such as Ranj x Clifr (who got signed to new media and entertainment company, Third Culture); Till Apes, Many Roots Ensemble and Second Sight (who all bagged PAN India tours); Bawri Basanti (who released her music internationally); and more get a leg up in their music careers. “I believe that we are stronger when we are together,” says de Decker. “I believe that networks and exchanges create invaluable interactions that are deeply inspiring and last for a life-time. The Amplify Music Incubator is a unique platform for young musicians to facilitate and encourage this. It is also a great experience for speakers to share their journey and expand their own networks. This initiative is both inclusive and is going beyond borders and we can only be very proud of that.”

AMI showcase at Hideaway in Goa. Image Courtesy: Gatecrash

Buoyed by the success of the first two editions AMI’s third programme, more ambitious than the two previous ventures, recently culminated in a showcase at Hideaway in Goa. More than 35 industry professionals from India, Canada, France, and the UK — including artistes, artiste managers, vocal coaches, entertainment lawyers, financial planners, and marketing specialists — hosted discussions and workshops. The mentorship will continue even after AMI has concluded.

Music Plus had a chat with Thakker about the pressing need to develop artists’ skills beyond creating art, building a support system and what’s next with Amplify.

Tanish Thakker, Director, Gatecrash

How did this year’s programme expand from the previous two editions? 

With 15 artists collaborating over a six-week run, the not-for-profit initiative added a one-week residency to their curriculum.

We have scaled up the number of artists that we are working with exponentially for the third edition. We went to 15 artists this time. The physical aspect of being with everyone at the same time was missing from the programme. In order to mitigate that, we added a one-week residency to the programme which was hosted at the beautiful Jamboree Creek in Ashwem, Goa. 

What are the sort of opportunities available for artistes who make the cut?

Once an artist goes through the programme, they end up getting all these tools in their arsenal that they can use whenever they need to. Every artist is going through a different journey and growth trajectory, and hence the insights and knowledge that they gain from the programme can be used at any point in their careers. The programme also provides access to a wider network of mentors and collaborators from the industry in India and globally.

A lot of artists feel like they are alone in their journeys so we also create a sense of community that helps them realise that they are all in the same space, and need to help each other out.

But we lay special emphasis on understanding the business side of what it is to be an artist – PR, Promotions, Brands, Copyrights and Royalties, Touring, Labels, Streaming, etc. Artists in India are not very proficient in these areas and don’t think that they need to do. They believe that a manager or team will sort out all their business needs. Amplify also helps artists get clarity on tangible steps that they need to take so their projects can get to the next level.

Could you tell us a little bit about the funding for this programme? 

There have been some partners without whom this programme would not be possible. First is Vel Omazic of CMI who has been super helpful and forthcoming in sharing what they have been doing for the last 10 years in Canada. He mentored me and our programme gets a lot of inspiration and structure from the CMI model. Vel and his team have been super transparent and open to sharing as well as encouraged me to start the programme in India.

Then would be Institut Français (India and Paris offices) who have supported us financially in enabling this programme to launch in India. They believed in the mission of professionalising the indie music industry by knowledge sharing and infrastructure building. The French music industry went through a similar process around 30 years ago and they believe in enabling similar transitions here as well, and hence without their support we could not have made this happen.

What went down during the six-week 180-hour professional development incubation period? 

The programme is a fine balance between the business side of being an artist (they’re also entrepreneurs) and the creative side of being an artist. When you run you own business you need to know all the components that go into making your business successful. So, we cover a range of topics (not limited to) – Business Registration, Accounting Practices, Bio Writing, Audience Development, Touring India and Internationally, Content Strategies, Publishing, Distribution, Data Analytics, Copyrights, Royalties and more.

As for the creative side, we don’t necessarily teach them how to play better, but we host workshops and sessions that enable them to look at their art and craft in a different way. For that, we host workshops like collaborative songwriting, producer consultations, vocal health and performance, performance enhancement and psychology, etc.

We also enable a lot of peer-to-peer learning, one-on-one mentor interactions and encourage sharing and vulnerability so that one can really experience growth.

Our mentors and facilitators are from within the music industry as well as from outside it. It is important for us to provide all perspectives to the artists. When we work with mentors, we identify a skill/ function that they are really good at and ask them to come and speak about that specific area of work that they do. The idea is for us to go deeper on the subjects that we delve into. 

What does it take to be accepted into AMI? 

The programme looks at artists beyond the indie music landscape, that are working in the larger genre base of contemporary music. The artist has to have released music (multiple singles or EPs, albums, some music videos or performed a substantial number of shows). They need to show that they are serious about their project and are willing to dedicate time and energy towards learning, sharing and self-growth. So far, the artists are handpicked by me, but going ahead we will be looking at an application-based model along with recommendations from jury members.

However, we are quite genre agnostic, but try to stay clear of Bollywood and commercial music because those industries already have a lot going for them. The Indie music ecosystem is where we aim to be in. Also, since the programme is mostly online, we can work with artists from all across the country. As a matter of fact, last year – we didn’t have the offline part of the programme – we had a band from Sri Lanka called The Soul who were a part of the programme. I hope that going ahead we can also get artists not only from India but from our neighbouring countries as well.

What’s next on the horizon? 

We want to host multiple programmes in a year, mixed with boot camps across the country and we want to start developing a programme for artist managers sometime next year. However, beyond programmes, I really want to see how we can develop an artist fund, similar to those that exist in the West, so that we can fund and support artistic projects in India like helping artists tour, develop case studies and industry reports, as well as find ways in which we can really build stronger infrastructural support for the indie industry.

But all of this needs money, and we are constantly fundraising so that we can keep the ball moving in the right direction, with the aim to build a stronger and more inclusive indie music ecosystem for the country.

Visit Gatecrash for more details

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