Like other performing artists, contemporary musicians too have been hit hard by the pandemic, unable to earn through live gigs. In terms of music output, however, it has been a productive period, with young artists exploding on the digital music scene.
They need some guidance, however, on marketing themselves and scaling up their presence. Udaan, a new initiative, hopes to do just that, offering mentorship and some monetary assistance to help them reach an audience more effectively. It has decided to choose one artist, who has released at least two songs on a digital streaming platform, every month—for at least the next six months. For August, Udaan picked Mumbai-based singer-songwriter and composer Ananya Sharma, who has been a musician for three years, is one of the vocalists in Queendom, and band leader of Funan and Gang, a collaborative project.
Akshay Kapoor, an Udaan founder and editor of The Indian Music Diaries, an online platform dedicated to indie music, clarifies that it’s not a platform for artists who are looking to enter the field. “As the tag line of Udaan mentions, this is a level-up fund. We are not developing or creating an artist from scratch,” he says.
The other founders include NukeSound, an online sound design and engineering services platform, and OK Listen!, an online platform that distributes and helps sell the work of indie musicians. NukeSound will contribute its expertise in sound mixing and production, while OK Listen! is offering monetary assistance and its digital-streaming platform know-how.
The programme will provide the artist, who is working on releasing a song or album in the next month or two, with resources and funding. There will be weekly workshops on facets of the music business, like pitching, marketing, sound mixing and quality, building a brand, planning. The artist will be given ₹7,500 for the project. “The aim is to provide holistic support to musicians, thereby giving them a boost,” says Kapoor.
The team sifted through 75 applications. “In fact, we are seeing a lot of activity in tier II cities, which was not the case four-five years ago,” says Kapoor, who also works as an artist and repertoire manager at the music record label Believe.
“I see a lot of new musicians having a DIY (do-it-yourself) approach to the music business. Many are ill-informed about the various nuances…for instance, understanding how the editorial team of a digital-streaming platform works. You can’t pitch your song a few days or a week before the release. So, you need to plan better,” says OK Listen! founder Vijay Basrur.
“Digital music is largely for discovery; artists don’t make a lot of money out of it unless the musician is immensely popular. And this takes time. We are hoping that this (the initiative) will help them get discovered by equipping them with creating better music and marketing it right,” he says.
Since the pandemic, OK Listen! has seen a 150% increase in new artists signing up with them. They claim almost a thousand artists sign up in a year. Their only criteria: The songs should be original and the musician should hold all the rights to the music.
“I feel we are (only) scratching the surface. People are consuming and exploring new artists in digital-streaming forms. Also, a lot of closet musicians started creating music, along with existing artists collaborating and writing better songs now,” Basrur believes.