Interview of the Week – Mahendra Soni, Co-Founder and Director, SVF Music

The state of Bengal has a rich culture and history of music. It has given India some of the biggest musicians the country has ever seen. Bengali music also has dedicated followers be it Indian Classical Music, Rabindra Sangeet, folk music or even contemporary (Adhunik) music. Like other regional music markets, the Bengali music industry has been affected by COVID-19. But now as the music industry and market reopens the music labels and artists are optimistic once again.

One of Bengal’s leading music label is SVF Music. The label produces not just film-music, but non-film original music as well, organises concerts, and produces content on OTT and web streaming platforms.

For our Interview of the Week we spoke to Mahendra Soni, Co-Founder and Director, SVF Music about the road ahead for the Bengali music industry and the various initiatives of SVF Music.

How big an impact has the lockdown had on the Bengali music industry?

There are two sides of the story. Undoubtedly, the Bengali Music Industry has had a major impact in terms of film songs not being released at a usual pace. But then, content consumption digitally witnessed a hike, especially on YouTube. People listened to / watched videos of independent new singles, old hits, discovered underrated undiscovered music gems during this period.

Given the slowdown and no immediate rise in revenue imminent, how do you think the music labels will survive? What are the necessary steps they should take?

It is surely a grave situation we all are in right now. But having said that, SVF Music’s repertoire consists of thousands of songs from different genres, by various artistes from different parts of the country and globe. This huge library is still consumed by a large section of audience on a daily basis. A large section of the society never really stopped consuming content. So, generating new content, getting the fresh talented artistes on board- is the key.

Shouldn’t the government introduce a bail-out package? If so what should it contain?

I really do not believe in or support such thought. Most importantly, we need to address the content part first as I have mentioned. The help that the industry requires from the authority is in terms of piracy control and illegitimate exploitation of content – both online and offline.

Bengali music industry is heavily reliant on recorded music. Now with movie shoots and music recording opening up how much of a positive impact will it have?

Things are gradually getting back in shape. For us, we have a set of web-series and originals lined up which has a number of new songs. Also, we have upcoming films’ slate scheduled, that too consists of new songs. Independent singles are there as well, of course. So, again, cracking the new content making part is the most essential of all.

How helpful have the OTT platforms been for the Bengali music industry? How have you been helping the musicians through your platform, ‘Hoichoi’?

As I have said, ‘Hoichoi’ has a series of new shows lined-up consisting a number of songs by new sets of talented composers, singers, arrangers, sound engineers and so on. Like our show, ‘Tansener Tanpura 2’, it is a music-heavy show which was a major hit when it’s first installment was out and the songs in the second season too is getting a lot of appreciation.

Also, the ‘Charitraheen’ franchise, in all its seasons: 1 and 2, had songs that went viral. Now, with the upcoming third season, we are set to deliver yet another hit album. Apart from the new productions, ‘Hoichoi’ also has a music streaming service which redirects to the vast library that we possess.

Though, the scenario with the audio streaming platforms here in Bengal is quite different. The platforms should ideally promote regional songs more to cater to a larger section of the audience.

What do you think are the major issues with the Bengali film industry that needs to be solved for it to grow?

One thing that needs to be put into light is the treatment of the National and International audio streaming platforms towards regional music, especially Bengal. We are growing, but slowly. It requires the support to be showcased on a larger area worldwide. To be heard, is one of the essential factors for this industry to grow and grow stronger. Apart from churning out fresh talent and new content from the producer’s end, the platforms should support us with dedicated Bengali playlists and highlighting the artistes from Bengal music industry and their work.

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