‘We’re doing what we’re doing to put Indian music on the map,’ said Badshah at the Brands and Entertainment conference

Rapper Badshah thinks singer-songwriter Prateek Kuhad is good looking. He said that during the culmination of Brands and Entertainment, the first edition of Create and Collab’s B2B conference dedicated to, well, brands in the Indian entertainment industry. Curated by Kommune, the two-day event took place on June 1 and 2 at Taj Lands End in Bandra, Mumbai.

Badshah was having a fireside chat with Devraj Sanyal, MD & CEO of Universal Music India and South Asia, in a packed conference room, to figure out the role of pop stars in branded content. They were talking about how Kuhad sells out venues in America in spite of singing in Hindi. Music, both agree, is language-agnostic and Kuhad is testament to that. “We’re doing what we’re doing to put Indian music on the map,” said the rapper. “The problem wasn’t with the artists; it was about representation. Now that’s changing.”

As a self-proclaimed ‘24/7 walking billboard’ the superstar rapper recounted his journey so far, personal branding, the impetus to make music and what propels him to continue doing what he does best. Hint: It’s not money. In fact, it doesn’t figure among the top three reasons to make new music. It’s all about doing something because you simply want to do it.

In a conversation that overshot all the discussions at the conference, clocking in at close to two hours – with nary a complaint – Badshah and Sanyal’s intimate chat with the attendees became the highlight of the two-day event. It’s no wonder this segment saw more hands shoot up for a chance to ask Badshah and Sanyal questions than any other discussion. Evidently self-aware, the rapper was game to offer insights into his life. He admitted to having been plagued by depression and anxiety. “Mental health is the most important. Be selfish to be mentally happy,” he said.

When it comes to music in branded content, though, Sanyal is of the opinion that, “leading brands all over the world know that working with musicians is one of the smartest and fastest way to talk to millions of people.” He added, “You can’t have authentic messaging or authentic storytelling if you’re not authentic.”

According to the rapper, if a brand wants to be successful, they have to be culture creators and not culture borrowers. “A good brand is all about the story behind it,” said Badshah. “It’s storytellers working with storytellers and it makes more sense for it to be authentic. If there’s no story, then it’s really superficial.”

Music and branded content

Authenticity was a theme that overarched nearly every speaker’s address. The first edition of Brands and Entertainment aimed to create a community that could network, connect with each other and discover new opportunities. The conference brought the top brass from Indian media together to delve into the status quo of branded content along with the world of opportunities that lie ahead, spanning OTT, music, cinema, influencer marketing, the metaverse, gaming, sports and more. There were panels, workshops, keynote addresses and a robust networking station.

And the music industry is primed to capitalise from the dynamic media landscape. As Deepak Choudhary, Founder and Director of XPRNC, put it during a workshop on developing IPs, music, comedy and gaming are the three top choices. “Focus on your consumer, they’ve changed from what it was earlier,” he said. “If you have a consumer, brands will come through.”

On a panel exploring avenues in subculture, Preranaa Khatri – Executive Vice President, Brand Solutions at Only Much Louder said, “It all starts with what you want to do on your journey. It’s important to believe in the idea and change it when needed.”

In the same vein, there’s a lot of potential for advertising in the audio industry. “When you’re integrating brands, you’re seeing something that resonates with the creator,” said Mae Mariyam Thomas, Presenter, Podcast Producer & Founder of Maed In India. “You have to be in it for the long haul. It’s something you need to invest. Results will come but it will take time. And the audience is so loyal. People are super nerdy about this.”

“It’s all about building communities and then brands will follow,” said audio creator and founder of Mantramugdh Productions, Mantra adding that the investment in 3D Binaural audio has given an edge to creators. Similarly, Amit Doshi – Head, IVM Podcasts – Pratilipi said, “Advertising is the way to go. I think podcasting and most audio content will be dependent on brands. I have belief in Patreon models and merchandise. I believe in these kinds of additional add-ons to content but the vast majority of audio content is going to be ad supported.”

Music also emerged as one of the best ways to forward for content marketing. Preeti Nayyar, Vice President – Brand Partnerships, UMG India and South Asia put it succinctly, “Talent is the heart of it. You can build science around [branded content] but the focus is on the talent,” she said recalling the brand integration between Zomato and singer-producer Tesher on ‘Jalebi Baby’. “Branded content has evolved for us in many ways. Brands have started looking at music and branded content is here to stay. We also believe that people are trying to be brands and brands are trying to be human.”

They also stressed on the value of short form video in India and no surprise that it’s here to stay for the foreseeable future. “In the influencer marketing space, the consumption of content on short video platforms is so high, there’s a demand for new audio, music and video as well,” said Rahul Khanna Director, Barcode Entertainment alluding to the complementary services required to buoy the creator economy.

Going forward

From the two days at Brands and Entertainment, it’s clear that advertising takes the Indian entertainment industry to new heights. Music may not always be at the centre, however it certainly permeates most areas of entertainment.

Brands and Entertainment also had speakers such as included Brian Tellis, Director Fountainhead Promotions & Events Pvt. Ltd; Vinit Karnik, Head – Entertainment, Sports & eSports – South Asia at GroupM Media India; Owen Roncon, Board of Advisors at BookMyShow Live; Ashish Pherwani, Partner & Leader – Media & Entertainment at EY; Deepak Choudhary, Founder at XPRNC, Dubai and MD at EVENTFAQS Media; Bhavana Pandey, Marketing Director at LEGO Group; Anshul Rustaggi, Founder of Totality Corp; Nitin Raj, Director at KPMG India; Blaise Fernandes, President at Indian Music Industry; Preranaa Khatri – Executive Vice President, Brand Solutions at OML; Siddharth Roy Kapur, Founder & Managing Director at Roy Kapur Films and President at Producers Guild of India; Amit Doshi, Head of IVM Podcasts; Shreya Sachdeva, Head of Marketing at Puma (India); Varun Duggirala, Chief Content Officer at The Glitch; Mae Mariyam Thomas, Presenter, Podcast Producer & Founder of Maed In India; Shreyansh Pandey, Head at TVF Originals; Aakash Shah, founder of One Hand Clap Media among many others.  

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