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Here come the boy bands

The last year has seen 1990s’ boy bands performing in India, with nostalgia and spending power driving the trend

Backstreet Boys during their performance in Gurugram on 5 May
Backstreet Boys during their performance in Gurugram on 5 May (BookMyShow)

It has been a great year for those who grew up on a slew of boy bands in the 1990s and early 2000s. In November, Ronan Keating, who fronted Boyzone in the 1990s, will be launching the Tape Deck music festival in Bengaluru. Irish boy band Westlife, formed in 1998 and known for hits like My Love and Swear It Again, will be performing in Mumbai, Bengaluru and Delhi between 24-26 November.

Earlier this year, on 4-5 May, 1990s stars Backstreet Boys performed in Mumbai and Gurugram, Haryana. They had performed in Bengaluru in 2010 but this time, there was much greater excitement. Fans, new and old, of the five-member band were ready to spend on tickets, priced at Rs. 3,500, Rs. 8,000 and Rs. 18,000, as well as fly down to watch them live.

“India kicked the ball out of the park,” says Owen Roncon, chief of business–live entertainment, at the organisers BookMyShow, which brought the Backstreet Boys’ DNA World Tour to India. “The India Tour witnessed a footfall of 25,000 fans across both cities, with packed shows brimming to full capacity.”

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In December 2022, when Michael Learns to Rock played in Bengaluru at Byg Brewski, over 3,000 people turned up to hear the Danish band that gave us hummable soft-pop tunes, and memorable music videos like Paint My Love, Actor and Sleeping Child, in the 1990s. As the band performed for close to 90 minutes, there were moments when the crowd sang along, rewinding to simpler times.

What is driving this trend? Essentially, the pre-teens and teens of the 1990s have grown up, are earning, and can spend on listening to the bands that provided the background music to their early years. “I think this craze started with the U2 concert in 2019. I remember bumping into so many of my friends from school and college,” recalls Anupam Mukerji, partner at the Bengaluru-based event management company Absolem Professional.

Event organisers have been quick to cash in. Mukerji’s company will be launching the Tape Deck festival on 18 November with the concert by Keating, who provided the lead vocals for Boyzone, the popular 1990s boy band from Ireland. The festival aims to celebrate the music of the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s, says Mazher Ramzanali, marketing in-charge at Absolem and the Tape Deck Festival. “Starting next year, we plan to bring artists from those years every quarter to India because we believe there is a trend and there is money to back that trend,” he says.

“India has a dedicated fan base for boy bands. I remember watching their videos back to back on MTV and VH1, so it is pure nostalgia when it comes to their music. Of course, you will find more millennials in the concert because the rise of boy bands was around that time,” says Alex Mathew, 34, a Backstreet Boys fan. 

Sharing details of ticket sales, Mukerji says that the first ones to sell out were the Fan Pit tickets priced at Rs. 4,999. “This response shows us that this is an audience that is ready to pay for a good experience,” he says. Roncon of BookMyShow, which is bringing Westlife’s Wild Dreams Tour to India in November, says: “The fanbase of these 1990s boy bands has evolved over the years. It’s not just ’90s kids who are attending these concerts; younger generations have also discovered and fallen in love with their music, making these events a cross-generational experience.”

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