Switching Chords

Despite a thriving Bollywood music industry,music giants are going back to investing in the non-film music sector,thanks to a market that is adopting new voices and edgy sounds

Written by Suanshu Khurana | Published: July 17, 2012 1:35:53 am

Despite a thriving Bollywood music industry,music giants are going back to investing in the non-film music sector,thanks to a market that is adopting new voices and edgy sounds

London-based 25-year-old singer Shivali Bhammer’s voice does not suit the conventional Indian bhajans and chants. The anglicised pronunciation of the mantras in her videos floating around on YouTube,in which she praises the Lord with Jag mein sundar hain do naam,chahe Krishna kaho ya Ram,also sounds slightly awkward. But Bhammer’s is the newest voice that has flooded the mornings of many Indians and is being played at the jagrans in evenings after Sony Music bet on it some months ago. “This is the era of high bandwidths where people have access to numerous content. So we need unique voices and music. As India matures and responds to new sounds,focus has shifted to a listening experience,” says Shridhar Subramaniam,President,Sony Music India,who adds that the new range of non-film music albums will definitely buck the trend of dipping sales that was a problem in the past.

Bollywood fixation changed the game for the non-film music industry almost 10 years ago. Ghazal,the only music genre that could challenge Hindi film music in terms of popularity lost ground in the late ’90s after meaningless poetry began dominating the soundscape and there were no fresh voices. As for pop,it stopped being the force that it was in ’90s,long ago,while classical music was always confined to a niche audience. But investments in all these genres by various music industry giants is only reinforcing the fact that the idea of non-film music is being considered as commercially viable. While Universal is going to publish 36 artists this year,SaReGama and EMI are planning a host of non-film music albums. Sony Music’s 15 per cent investment is now going to non-film music . The label has also launched sub-labels such as Day 1 and Folktronika to release pop,hip hop and rock albums. They also tied up with National Centre for Performing Arts (NCPA) to release Indian classical music albums from NCPA’s archive.

Sunil Mishra,owner of Delhi-based Mercury Audio Video Store says,“There is a definite increase in the number of people asking us for non-film music albums. Since Bollywood songs are readily available on television,a lot of clients are interested in buying devotional and other albums.”

Adarsh Gupta,Business Head of SaReGaMa says that the changing trend is also because of an increase in digital sales. “Not many people buy physical albums. The trend dipped thanks to lack of good content. With social media playing an important role,many new voices are coming up,” says Gupta,who is looking at the release of sitar player Shujaat Khan’s upcoming album,apart from some new ghazal albums.

For Mumbai-based English pop rock band The Colour Compound,which is only several gigs old,an album offer from Universal in May was quite a surprise. The band will release its album later this year under Universal’s sub-brand Contraband — a joint venture between VH1,Blue Frog and Universal. “What is endearing is that music giants are willing to invest in less-popular genres,” says Rohan Mazumdar,lead vocalist of the band.

“Ask any TV or radio station to play NFM and they’ll shamelessly tell you they won’t,” says Devraj Sanyal,MD,India and SAARC,Universal Music Group. “We look for anyone who has some talent hidden. We will give them a chance to be published,marketed and distributed like any mainstream musician,” he adds.

The recent entry of Nokia Music Theatre in collaboration with Universal is also looking at shoring revenues as it focuses on folk artistes. “It is all about marketing the product. We can’t give a shoddy deal to bands and folk artistes as compared to a major artiste,” adds Sanyal

Sony Music has also brought out albums of season 1 of Coke Studio @MTV recently and is all set to bring out the second season. “It’s not a circus or a 30-second hook. Coke Studio is an engaging concept. Bollywood does not have the luxury of tracks that last for 15 minutes” says Subramaniam.

Bhammer says,she isnt expecting much. “In India,you are either Bollywood or classical. But this mindset is changing,” she says.

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