From Strumming to Streaming-5 Chords that can Rock the Indian Music Audience
At a recently concluded class on Media and Entertainment that I was conducting in a leading Business School in India, the whole class of 30+ students from across the country were unanimous on ‘free streaming’ as their choice for listening to music. This brought to fore the good and bad of the music industry in India:
•We are going digital in a big way – including music
•We are not willing to pay for music- not yet
Right from the early days of television in India in the 70s where ‘Doordarshan’ was the only channel and ‘Chitrahaar’ the only source of Bollywood music videos outside of films, we have come a long way.
India is the only country probably which has a popular tradition of ‘playback music’ since Bollywood music still contributes to more than 80% of the total music revenues. The rise of the independent music scene was phenomenal in the 90s thanks to the MTV culture that bloomed towards the end of the century. But what went up came down even faster in the beginning of the 21st century, shadowed by the big Bollywood brother gobbling up everything that came its way. While the artists faded, so did the cassette culture to the upsurgence of the CDs. Napster caught the industry napping and digital music slowly led to the demise of the music stores that were on the media planning ‘must have’ list of any serious brand launch in the country. The turmoil of the music licensing and distribution industry in the last decade has led to slow and steady burgeoning of the streaming audience, thanks to platforms like Saavn, Gaana, Wynk, Google and Apple.
Whileall of them have figured out a way to get their music libraryto multiply, they still haven’t arrived at a magic formula for getting the penny pinching Indian audience to pay for their ensemble. Uber and AirBnB have bred the culture of sharing rather than owning, and that has passed on to every sphere of life, including music. The consumer is happy listening to free steaming musiconline; downloads are far and few. Thanks to the increasing speeds and decreasing costs of the ubiquitousWi-Fi, the experience is uninterrupted. Music unavailable domestically is pirated or accessed through VPN.
Though the dishes laid out by each streaming platform are mouthwatering, some of the ingredients still seem to be missing in the Indian buffet.With USA, Europe and China dominating (81%) the $92 Bn global music industry, India is an infant at about $200 Mn, slated to double in the next five years (Source: The Ken). The situation is somewhat similar to that of the movie industry and hence some of the strategies adopted there will work in the music industry too.
Moreover, a consumer who is willing to pay almost $10 a month to Netflix, $20 for a dinner for two at a decent restaurant and hundreds of dollars in travel and leisure is unwilling to shell out even $2 a month for music in a country where the drum beats are second only to heart beats?
Keeping an ear close to the ground, this is what I gathered might help them rake the moolah:
1.Bollywood is just a big B!
For the music industry who hasn’t figured out why the consumer is not paying, Bollywood music is just an excuse for not having found the right strategy. Else how can one explain the fact that Bollywood’s share of 95% in the physical music market dwindles down to less than 60% in streaming revenues giving way to its lesser popular cousins – International, Indie and Regional music.Though still popular amongst the GenX and older generation, Bollywood music is fast getting relegated to the No.2 slot amongst the millennials who lap up everything that is available on the information highway of the internet. There is a strong latent gap for a platform who can occupy the ‘Non- Bollywood’ position and play a long game- a la Netflix in video.
Independent music has been growing in the Youtube generation, fostering a culture of music that transcends linguistic and geographical barriers.
A soon to be released movie by India’s highly profitable superstar, Aamir Khan, ‘The Secret Superstar,’ depicts the story of a muslim girl who rebelliously devises a way to become a singing sensation through Youtube, after her father restricts her from pursuing her melodious hobby. While every second millennial would dream of that, India lacks an organized system for fostering home bred talent. Investing in a ‘Catch them young and watch them grow’ culture would pave the way for a stronger indie revenue stream for the streaming companies.
3.Regional is the next National
Regional music, following the track record of its movies, is getting stronger day by day. While ‘Kolaveri di’ was an international sensation surpassed only by the Korean Gangnam style, the recent rage is of a hitherto unknown Malayalam song- Jimmiki Kammal.
Traditionally South India has had a culture of classical music and dance as a mandatory discipline for every kid. North East India has been popular for its borrowed culture from its Asian neighborsin addition to its indigenous music -and now its virgin landscapes and hills provide the perfect ambience for a mushrooming live music scene. Moreover, Indians have always had music as a staple diet in 22 official Indian dialects and all the 29 states boast of their own unique music heritage. With almost all the platforms focusing on Bollywood music, there is plenty of scope for differentiation by aggregating the regional and live music and increasing the revenue pie.
4.The Big ‘O’
A major success requires a major disruption.
Netflix and Amazon have invested more than $10 Bn in 2017 in original content worldwide, more than twice of the big six Hollywood studios combined. Netflix now has upturned the century old distribution system by premiering its movies on the platform, rather than screening them in theatres. The power has shifted from the century old studios to the decade old OTT platforms.
Moreover, Indians seem to be preferring ‘content driven independent movies’ to their poorly scripted Bollywood cousins and the trend seems to be replicating in the music industry as well. Besides, additional content like top 10 choices of indies from celebrities, biographies of music stars, documentaries, DIY content etc. can add much more value to the music content. We are seeing some of this already on FM radio channels in India.
For the streaming business to thrive, a leaf needs to be plucked from this success story. Only original content will be able to free them from the clutches of the music labels and spruce up their negotiation power. This will also enable them to further strengthen their ties with the artists by eliminating the middlemen.
5.‘T’ing the ball
While a diverse catalog is a ‘given’ for any music platform, the audience technology at the back end and the GUI at the front end is what gives it an edge. Log on to Google Play and it serves you music based on your mood and the time of the day. Spotify has its ‘Echonest software’ that lends it an edge to serve its ‘Discover Weekly’ dishes and ‘Rap Caviar’. Why would you want to wasteyour time on even deciding what music to hear, when the platform can almost read your mind like a magician and exactly tell you what you are thinking of and serve it to you immediately.
What is the future of the music industry? Can new technologies like AR make you sing and record music with your favorite singer? Can it allow you to have an ensemble with musicians performing live in different parts of the world? The possibilities are as endless as the limits of the human mind. The advancement of technology and the demands of the audience will push the boundaries of traditional models of monetization. When the teacher is ready the student will appear!
-Yogesh Karikurve is a global Media and Entertainment expert and has worked across MNCs, Indian Media Houses and Startups to build value oriented businesses in Films, TV and FMCG brands. He blogs on (www.indieyogi.in) on Entertainment and Travel, teaches at leading Business Schools and has been a speaker at various industry conferences internationally.
'Gangnam style' the pop single by the South Korean musician Psy, that took over the world by storm in 2012. Was it just a storm in the tea cup or the beginning for the world to notice K-Pop music is here and come to stay. At least Vh1 thinks so the time has come and they have launched the country’s first ever K-pop music block 'K-Popp’d' premiering September 16,8 PM.
For the non -initiated K-pop is a music genre originating in South Korea iand characterized by a wide variety of audiovisual elements. Although it includes all genres of "popular music" within South Korea, the term is often used in a narrower sense to describe a modern form of South Korean pop music drawing inspiration on a range of styles and genres incorporated from the West such as Western pop music, rock, experimental, jazz, gospel, Latin, hip hop, R&B, reggae, electronic dance, folk, country and classical on top of its uniquely traditional Korean music roots. The experimentation with different styles and genres of music and integration of foreign musical elements helped reshape and modernize South Korea's contemporary music scene.
Modern K-pop "idol" culture began with the boy band H.O.T. in 1996, as K-pop grew into a subculture that amassed enormous fandoms of teenagers and young adults. After a slump in early K-pop, TVXQ and BoA started a new generation of K-pop idols that broke the music genre into the neighboring Japanese market and continue to popularize K-pop internationally today. With the advent of online social networking services, the current global spread of K-pop and Korean entertainment known as the Korean Wave is seen not only in East and Southeast Asia, but also Latin America, India, North Africa, the Middle East, and elsewhere in the Western world.
5 K-pop numbers to convert your Non K-pop friend into an ardent fan
Ask anyone with even the scantiest knowledge of Korean music, and they will say it out in one breathe - Not knowing K-Pop is a crime! Everything, right from the music, to visuals, and not to forget, the boys, are unique and absolutely un-miss-able. We understand your pain when you have to deal with people who do not have knowledge of the genre, and hence bring to you the ultimate savior-
Next time when you come across w/men who do not understand the K world, calm yourself down, and share this list of tracks to convert them into your kind.
1. Fantastic Baby by Big Bang https://youtu.be/AAbokV76tkU
"Fantastic Baby" is recognized as "one of the biggest K-pop hits ever. Its music video broke several records for K-pop groups on YouTube, including being the first to surpass 200 and 300 million views and being the most-watched video. The song was well received by music critics, with Rolling Stone naming it one of the greatest boy band songs of all-time.
2. Gee by Girls Generation https://youtu.be/U7mPqycQ0tQ
"Gee" is a fast-tempo song about a girl who has fallen in love for the first time. The title is supposed to be an exclamation of surprise, an expression similar to “Oh my gosh”, or more similarly, "Gee!" in English.
3. Growl by Exo https://youtu.be/I3dezFzsNss
"Growl" is a song recorded by South Korean boy band Exo for the edition of their first studio album XOXO. It was released in Korean and Chinese. The song is known as Exo's breakthrough single, having sold over two millions copies.
4. Bad Girls by Lee Hyori https://youtu.be/kLyfHxNDeVM
"Bad Girls" is a part of the album “Monochrome” is a dance tune only consisted of acoustic band sound. Lee's self-written lyrics depicts the reality, in which confident women are considered bad.
5. Blood Sweat and Tears by BTS https://youtu.be/hmE9f-TEutc
The video features Rap Monster reciting from a passage of Hermann Hesse’s Demian, which was an inspiration for the album. Tamar Herman described the music video as one that explores ideas of fate, reality, life and death, and falling from grace.
Believe me! Remember when you were twelve years old and your grandmother washed out your mouth with soap and water for using foul language and then threatened to wash your ears out too for listening to and singing songs like “Cocaine” or “Love to Love You Baby” by Donna Summers”? Yes, our grandparents are constantly reminiscing about the “good old, clean, romantic, wholesome music”, music of the 30’s 40’s and the 50’s”. And you too may have been a victim of having being “brainwashed” into feeling that, yes, the music of the 80’s, 90’s & 2000’s (heavy metal, punk, soul, rap and hip hop) are really full of violence, drugs and sex!
Talking of violence, sex and drugs, every generation thinks they had the right value system during their times and that with every new generation it was going to the dogs. Well, we’re here to break a few age old myths and to enlighten you about the real truth as to why those days were called the “Good Old Bad Days” and how your grandparents lied to you!
“Sometimes she gets unruly;
An she act like she just don't wanna do;
But I get my 22-20;
I cut that woman half in two;
Your .38 Special;
Buddy, it's most too light;
But my 22-20;
Will make ev'rything, alright;
No, this isn’t a song of 80’s or the 90’s. These are the violent lyrics of a song where Skip James sings about cutting a woman in half in this blues number called "22-20 Blues" and he sang it way back in …1931! Compared to this the lyrics of “Ma Baker” sung by Boney M in the 70’s seem positively “tame”.
Couldn’t possibly get more violent than that right? Wrong! Check out the lyrics of Blind Willie McTell singing the "A to Z Blues" – circa 1956
“I’m gonna cut your head four different ways;
That's long, short, deep and wide.
When I get a rhythm of this rusty black handle razor;
you're gonna be booked out for an ambulance ride;
Cause I'm gonna cut A, B, C, D on top of your head;
That's gonna be treating you nice, like mama you ain't gonna be dead.
I'm gonna cut E, F, G right across your face;
H, I, J, K, that's where runnin' bound to take place;
Cut L, M, N cross both your arms;
You'll sell an' peddle gal your whole life long;
Cut N, O, P, Q that's gonna be trouble too;
Cause I'm gonna grab you mama and turn you every way but loose;
Cut R, S, T to hear you cry;
That'll be the last time tears a run from over your eyes;
Cut U, V, W on the bottom of your feet;
That'll be the last time you walk up an' down 25th street;
Marking cross your bosom with X, Y, Z;
When I get through with this alphabet;
You'll quit your messing with me”.
Let’s all be thankful that Blind Willie wasn’t a KG teacher teaching little kids the A to Z of the alphabet!
And if the “bad blue” boys of the 1930’s, 40’s & 50’s thought they were going to get away with violence against women, they were absolutely wrong! Because Josie Miles and her sister “blues” singers proved that they too were equally blood thirsty (if not more) and didn’t even need a reason for getting violent! Compared to these “bad mamas, the so called “bad girls” of today come across as “pristine virgins”.
In the following song "Mad Mama Blues" Bad sister Josie Miles is out to wreck the city, and there's absolutely nothing you can do to stop her.
“Now I could see blood runnin'
Through the streets;
Could be everyone;
Layin' dead right right at my feet.
Give me gunpowder;
Give me dynamite;
Yes I'd wreck the city;
Wanna blow it up tonight.
I took my big Winchester;
Down off the shelf;
When I get through shootin';
There won't be nobody left.
Violent enough? “But hey”, I hear you say, “maybe they were violent, but at least they weren’t doing drugs!” At least they didn’t have songs like Eric Clapton’s “Cocaine” or The Beatles “Lucy In the Sky With Diamonds” encouraging people to try LSD or snort coke! Wrong again sister! just check out the lyrics of this next song -
Dreamed about a reefer five feet long.
Mighty Mezz, but not too strong.
You'll be high but not for long.
If you're a viper.
I'm the king of everything.
I've got to be high before I can swing.
Light a tea and let it be
If you're a viper.
When your throat gets dry you know you're high.
Everything is dandy.
Truck on down to the candy store.
Bust your konk on peppermint candy.
Then you know that you’re body's spent.
You don't care if you don't pay rent.
Sky is high and so am I
If you're a viper.
Name of the song? ‘If You’re A Viper” sung by Stuff Smith in the year 1936 and I’m sure he was really flying super duper high if he smoked five foot reefers!!
Do I hear a few voices still protesting, “OK fine, they had violence and drugs in their lyrics, but at least they didn’t have any “F” words or explicit sex in their songs, like “Oh Me So Horny,” by “2 Live Crew” who Broward County Police had to haul into court, because their album “As Nasty As They Want To Be” had been banned for its obscene lyrical content.”
So Wrong again!
Lucille Bogan, a very motherly, plain looking woman was not called the queen of the "Dirty Blues" for nothing. Yes, this “plain Jane” was the writer and singer of such dirty classics as "Sloppy Drunk Blues," "Tricks Ain't Walkin’ No More" and the "Bull Dyke Women's Blues’s”.
And the lyrics of her most famous song, “Shave ‘Em Dry” which she sang live in pubs in 1935 are too explicit to even print here. But if you don’t believe me you can go to Goggle and type out “Lucille Bogan – Lyrics of “Shave “Em Dry” and check them out. But don’t blame me if you’re scandalized!
And yes, dear child, if you still don’t believe that your grandparents lied to you, then I’m sure you’ll also believe that “Madonna” is still a virgin, that “Michael Jackson” is still alive and “moon walking” and that “The Beatles” are practicing hard… for their next gig!
- Noel Keymer
April 30, is International Jazz Day. Jazz is the African-American’s gift to the World of Music. It has its roots in the Blues and Ragtime Music of the late 19th century which sprung from the work songs of the African slaves in the plantations of the American South. From its beginnings in the New Orleans region of Louisiana, it evolved into a distinct form of musical expression and subsequently giving shape to a form of independent traditional and popular music styles, encompassing several subgenres linked by the same roots, like the dance oriented Swing Music, Kansas Jazz, Bebop, Cool Jazz, Free Jazz and so on.
But whatever form that Jazz music took as it evolved, improvisation was central to the Music, besides the spontaneity of the Musicians performing the Music. It widened the scope for Musicians to explore and interpret the Music in their own individual styles and interact with each other as a group, whether they were playing within a formal musical structure or without.
Jazz, or Jas/Jass, as it was called by some in the early years, today has a huge global following and is hailed worldwide as, “one of America’s original Art forms”.
Jazz came to India in the 1920s, when African-American musicians like Leon Abbey, Crickett Smith, Teddy Weatherford (who recorded with the legendary Louis Armstrong), Rudy Jackson and many others came here and started performing in Calcutta and Bombay. Their audience comprised mainly the British colonialists, Europeans, members of the Indian elite and Anglo-Indians. They also became the inspiration for Musicians from the westernized Goan community and the Anglo-Indians, who started playing at the clubs and 5-star hotels of Bombay and Calcutta and later spreading to other places like Mussoorie, Delhi, Shimla and Madras, the railway towns and cantonment areas all over the country.
The era from the 1930s to the 1950s has been called the golden age of Jazz in India and it produced some legendary Indian Jazzmen (and women) like Micky Correa, Frank Fernand, Hal and Henry Green, Anthony Gonsalves, (the man behind Amitabh Bachchan’s name in Amar Akbar Anthony) Rudy Cotton (a Parsi), Chris Perry, Chic Chocolate, Lucilla Pacheco, Joe Santana, to name just a few.
In the years that followed jazz continued to survive, nurtured by later day jazzmen (and women) like Braz Gonsalves, Louis Banks, Pam Crain, Anibal Castro, Johnny Baptist, Carlton Kitto and many others, but times were difficult and a lot of them veered into the world of film music. Then Elvis happened and the Beatles and Rolling Stones happened and slowly the audience for jazz declined. But jazz has always had its diehard following and has been steadily attracting new and younger fans over the years.
Today there are numerous bands and musicians in India who play jazz, but they are a lot more experimental and fusion driven, than exponents of straight jazz. Then again that’s what jazz is all about, improvisation and exploring the boundaries of musical expression. Not surprisingly, many talented musicians like Ranjit Barot, Sanjay Divecha, Colin D’Cruz, Amit Heri, Gautam Ghosh, Trilok Gurtu, Adrian D’Souza, Dhruv Ghanekar, Merlin D’Souza, dissatisfied with the limitations of popular music, have transitioned to jazz, a platform that offers them the scope for their creative drive. They are the flag bearers of the next level of Jazz in India.
Finally no write up on Jazz music can be concluded without mentioning India’s Jazz impresario and founder of the annual Jazz Yatra festival, late Shri Niranjan Jhaveri, whose passion and dedication brought some of biggest names from the world of jazz to India, including Sonny Rollins, Don Ellis, Clark Terry, Joe Williams, Sadao Watanabe, Stan Getz, Herbie Mann, Stephane Grappelli and many many more. The Jazz Yatra festival which began in 1978 had an uninterrupted run till 2004 and since then its legacy has continued as the Jazz Utsav. Mention also must be of Naresh Fernandes who has chronicled the history of jazz music in India in his award winning book, 'Taj Mahal Foxtrot'. Today the mantle has been passed on to the next generation as youngsters like Neil Banks take on the responsibility of organizing The World Jazz Day, Piano Day and programming many upcoming jazz shows.
Jazz will live on, because there will always be enough people who are frustrated with the music that comes out of the conveyor belt. Jazz will live on because there will always be enough fans and musicians who want that bit more. They may not be many but they will always be enough to keep alive the heritage of the legendary Indian jazzmen for many generations to come.
- Stanley Paul
Located in a former mill, the Mumbai outpost of the US chain of resto-bars has a mixed reputation among the city's musicians. In the first couple of years after opening, in 2006, indie rock acts were often asked to include a stipulated number of cover songs in their set lists. These days, Hard Rock Café, which hosts gigs every Tuesday and Thursday night, sticks mostly to cover bands, with a couple of dates a month spared for indie groups. Skip these gigs, and come here only for the ticketed events, when one of the seating areas is cleared to make room for a larger stage, for performances by Indian indie icons (folk-fusion veterans Indian Ocean, electro-rock superstars Pentagram), international chart toppers (Wyclef Jean, Jay Sean) or club-packing DJs (Bob Sinclair, Paul van Dyk). Be warned, though: the waiters break into a synchronised jig every time the Village People's "YMCA" comes on.
Bombay Dyeing Mill Compound, Pandurang Budhkar Marg, Worli, + 91 22 2438 2888, Hardrockindiablog.com. Open daily noon-1.30am. Performance times and entrance fees vary