The Covid 19 pandemic and nationwide lockdown forced people to stay indoors and changed the way music was consumed. Live music performances came to an abrupt halt. Music venues were all shut. Artists, musicians and the music industry as a whole were faced with an uncertain future.
Music television channels, radio stations and even music streaming platforms were forced to explore new and original ideas for their programming. Programming being the practice of organising and/or ordering (scheduling) of broadcast media shows.
9XM, a leading music television channel, created a lot of content which was aimed at connecting with artists through video conferencing and promoting it by uploading snippets of the video on digital platforms. These videos gave an insight on how artists and musicians were creating content during the lockdown.
“Film music releases had dried up so the independent music space really thrived. Through our independent music label SpotlampE, we launched the 9XM Indiefest, where we released a new independent song every week. We had a lot of activities around a song release like artist interviews, digital shout outs, contests etc. Artists like Shreya Ghoshal, Babul Supriyo, Amit Mishra, Ankit Tiwari and Bhoomi Trivedi released new songs through this platform,” said Amar Tidke, Chief Programming Officer, 9X Media.
Radio Music Programming
One of the most popular and readily accessed platforms for entertainment and information is Radio. It has always been a primary local medium that allows for quick and correct dissemination of information. With the country under a lockdown, listeners turned to radio to understand the information simply and effectively. From interviewing local authorities and medical experts, to busting myths and fake news, along with being a medium that repeats important messaging in regional languages, the RJs on these platforms did it all.
“The two thought processes we have realigned ourselves to during this pandemic, was Diversity and inclusion. Red FM is a Nat-Local brand – A National brand with local presence. The biggest trap we can fall prey to, especially during a bad year economically, is to have a one size fits all or a cookie cutter kind of programming which is national in nature,” stressed Nisha Narayanan, Director and COO, RED FM and Magic FM.
“During these trying times with the average person under immense duress, as a brand, we focused a lot on meaningful engagement and entertainment. Some key IPs such as The Care Concert in collaboration with T Series and the Rise India Awards in collaboration with Music Plus were executed over the year. These shows brought together the best of musicians from across the country to raise funds and to celebrate Corona Warriors. These were all done innovatively from home, and our goal was to keep hopes up and the music going.”
Music Television Programming
Though the overall music consumption increased, new film music had dried up due to the lockddown. With the film industry downing its shutters, there were no new music releases for months. The lock-down resulted in lesser productivity, slower work rate and an overall atmosphere of uncertainty. It adversely impacted the production, distribution, marketing, and sales chain too.
But one man’s loss is another man’s gain. The independent music space received fresh impetus and the artists utilised this opportunity to the hilt.
“Film music has the largest following and content but the independent music space has grown rapidly over the last year. This growth was eminent but the pandemic has been a catalyst in the rapid growth. Not just the Hindi independent space but also the regional independent space has witnessed a great surge. So there will be a lot of programming involving independent music,” assured Tidke.
The independent music space thus witnessed a surge in numbers across music streaming and other digital platforms. Several artists became household names as Indian audiences started discovering more non-film/indie music. The growth in listeners compelled many streaming platforms to incorporate these artists into their playlists, while radio stations started giving them more minutes than ever before, as did music television channels.
“The year gone by has seen a shift in audience music preferences and has added more power to the independent music scene. Red FM as a brand has always focused on emerging Indie talent and voices, from across the country. However, with so much new music coming in, we took our promise further, to launch a daily show Red Indies Shuffle which plays this brilliant music across the country. In association with T-Series, we have also launched the season 2 of our flagship IP, Indie Hain Hum Season 2,” said Narayanan.
Film music has always enjoyed unparalleled success on the music streaming platforms. But the change in people’s consumption patterns has not gone unnoticed within these platforms. Independent music saw a spurt in streaming consumption too. Users were now consuming content they hadn’t previously heard of or were falling back on their old favourites. The ‘work from home’ phenomenon also drastically changed the consumption timings as users could access the content at any given time.
Programming on Music Streaming Platforms
Sharing further inputs, JioSaavn’s spokesperson said,
“The start of the pandemic saw an increased interest in retro content, largely attributed to a feeling of nostalgia for better times, coupled with fewer new releases. Consumption of retro content has gone back to pre CoViD levels. The quantum of new releases has started increasing, particularly regional. A lot of projects that were stalled because of CoViD are now making their way to DSPs. During the lockdown we also saw an increase in night time consumption with travel time music listening dropping. We are seeing this reverting to pre CoViD levels as well.”
Innovation is the way forward
In an extremely competitive market like India retaining one’s consumer base is of paramount importance. All platforms understand this fact and planned their content to suit the mood and need of the consumers. Non-music genres like podcasts and shows across comedy, storytelling, and devotion, that can be played in the background throughout the entire day received significant traction. The platforms were quick to jump on the music podcast bandwagon with tailor made content for their consumers.
“Amongst broadcasters we have been one of the earliest adopters of podcasting and we have four extremely popular podcast shows clocking close to 200 episodes. It is heartening to see the response our content is garnering and we hope to go from strength to strength with our offering. The music fraternity has been really supportive and helped us in putting this together. Through this small but meaningful endeavour we really hope to spark the imagination of young musicians and help them realise their dreams. We let the music and the musicians do the talking and believe in creating and curating content that spreads joy!” asserted Tidke.
Film music has always had the largest following amongst people in the country and is expected to retain its share comfortably. The segment’s star appeal, high production quality and wider reach is difficult to compete with and will ensure that it retains a larger chunk of the market pie as always.
However the surge in the independent music space is expected to continue due to the huge interest it has generated in the past year, besides several independent labels have emerged to serve the needs of the Indie artists.
Moreover, with many Bollywood music composers such as Amit Trivedi, Vishal Bhardwaj, Salim-Sulaiman, and singer Arijit Singh entering the independent music label business, it augurs well for the future of independent music in India. All these developments along with the keen interest of radio stations, music distributors, and music streaming platforms, are sure to buoy the growth of the Indie music segment in the coming years.
Text by Hardik Joshi