Current Issue : July - August 2021




To The FREE Digital Magazine And Newsletters

Articles May-June 2021

Pursuing the Pro Audio Trail

In conversation with Caroline Moss and Sue Gould

PT got in touch with the Pro AVL Asia magazine core team of Editor - Caroline Moss and Sales Director - Sue Gould, who between them boast of over three decades of experience in the pro audio industry..... read more

NJSM Marks a Milestone in the Business of Sound

From Rental Company to manufacturer and innovator, Nixon Johnny has guided and grown NJSM from a two-person company to a fifty-person company, continuing to expand into virtual events with NJSM Virtual Studio..... read more

Tech Savvy Environment for T-Systems

Eyte Technologies installs high-tech AV Solution at T-System’s Experience Center facilitating brand value and delivering superior customer experience..... read more

Conversations with SudeepAudio

Sudeep Audio, one of India’s first pro audio web store selling studio software and equipment online commenced its YouTube Channel, ConverSAtions, in 2011 to share the journey of Indian Sound Engineers..... read more

Show More

The Rise of Indie Labels

by Abhimanyu Malhotra, The Sonic Arts Co.

My previous column was an insight into how the music industry adapted to the fallout of the pandemic and how we navigated such new and turbulent waters. And now, as we start assimilating to this ‘new normal’, we are seeing certain trends across our industry that have developed over the past few months. The sheer amount of talent in this country, across genres or skill level, has been hard at work while stuck at home, and this is reflected through the amount of content that has been created and released over the past few months. It is without a doubt that India is a goldmine of musical talents just waiting to be discovered, but the flip side of that coin is that a massive percentage of this talent pool still goes undiscovered and unappreciated. There is still tremendous opportunity in breaking new artists and giving them the necessary resources, knowledge and guidance in order to establish themselves and build a following, and the pattern we have seen over the past few months is the emergence of music labels that aim to fill this very gap in the industry and take advantage of this ripe opportunity.

Let us first look at the role of a music label and how it has transformed over the years. Traditionally, a label was responsible for producing the artist’s sound, marketing and distributing a physical product (CD or cassette tape) and setting up tours. They were seen as the backbone for an artist’s career, but signing with a label did come with it’s own set of drawbacks. Labels had a tendency to push their commercial agendas over artistic vision, take advantage of royalty monetisation, and there are countless artists that were locked into contracts that were detrimental to their music and careers. Thanks to technology and the advent of social media, the roles that label was supposed to fulfil have now become decentralised. The artist gained power and could engage with all these roles in a direct manner, executing their vision as they pleased. Nowadays, digital distributors offer 100% royalties to artists and platforms such as Instagram and Google Ads are massively utilised for music marketing by individuals. Access to producing music has become cheaper, no longer requiring million dollar studios, and has become prosumer facing (where you don’t require technically advanced professional gear in order to create a piece of music and multi-million dollar music hits are being produced and written on iPhones and Apps such as GarageBand). This decentralisation has transformed the traditional roles played by a label, but a key component left behind is the element of moulding an artist, and the artist’s sound. The ability to take raw talent and mould it into something world-class is not as easy to replicate, and this producer role has been a missing key element all along. It is a vital role that determines the overall quality of the music landscape, and pushes the bar higher not just for individual artists, but for audiences as well.

Over the last few months a number of Indian record companies, both mainstream and independent, have launched with the intention of being modern record labels that give artists creative freedom and investing in platforms that promote the sounds of the unheard masses. AT Azaad (Amit Trivedi), Oriyon Music (Arijit Singh), Merchant Records (Salim-Sulaiman), VB Music (Vishal Bharadwaj) are examples of labels launched by prominent and accomplished individuals over the last few months. VishaI Dadlani and Emiway also have their own imprints soon to launch. The very scope of the styles and genres that will be covered here is immense, and for these industry tastemakers are taking upon a big responsibility on their shoulders by launching such initiatives, which is to be the torchbearers for the next generation of musical talent. They have taken upon the responsibility to find, nurture and provide a platform, which is the need of the hour. What also sets such initiatives apart, is that the label is no longer in the hands of corporates but artists themselves, who know the struggles and who know the sheer amount of work that goes into making a mark in the industry. The creative and corporate angles are now balanced by individuals who are musicians themselves, and who have their own audiences and fan following. This drastically changes the dynamic that previously deterred musicians from signing over their careers to music labels. Creativity and vision is now a core value, rather than just a marketing strategy. Artists now own their own masters (which is a huge step forward) and are also given a lot more flexible contract options, such as signing over individual tracks as opposed to deals which used to lock them down for years at a time and leech on every possible income stream.

This decentralisation has transformed the traditional roles played by a label, but a key component left behind is the element of moulding an artist, and the artist’s sound. The ability to take raw talent and mould it into something world-class is not as easy to replicate, and this producer role has been a missing key element all along.

The last few months has even seen artist talent agencies such as Krunk and Third Culture launching their label initiatives, focusing on developing niche sounds, yet with the same intention of ushering in and moulding the next generation of musicians. Music studio Salt Haus in Chennai, again run by artists and musicians has also launched their label imprint, with the idea of filling the role of the producer in the industry. No matter the genre or style of music, the pattern we are observing suggests that tastemakers have identified this gap of who will curate the next generation of sounds and are now actively building an answer to the question.

Looking at label releases from a monetisation stand point, they are definitely not replacing the income streams provided by live events (which unfortunately are going to continue being on hiatus for quite awhile), as the sheer number of streams required across video and audio platforms is in the millions (YouTube approximately pays out .01 INR per stream, while Apple, Spotify and others range from .04-0.6 INR per stream for audiences in the Indian sub continent. These payout rates differ from country to country and are determined by a number of factors, and the range between rates is ~0.7-0.10 INR). And that’s why it makes sense for music companies and artists to launch labels as a secondary arm to what their primarily role is. Whether it is a booking agency like Krunk or music studio like Salt Haus, the label aspect is being shaped to feed the primary objective of that respective company. It becomes a marketing arm, a digital extension of the brand that can keep their audiences constantly engaged and grow the fanbase.

This genre-wide emergence certainly gives a lot of promise and hope to all those musicians just waiting to be discovered. What’s most exciting is, that it is not a group of corporate individuals behind the curtain, but artists and musicians who have decades of experience. As a musician myself, I have worked in all sorts of environments and the journey is a lot more fulfilling and motivating when mentored or guided by an experienced artist. Seeing and hearing the material that will be released by such labels is definitely going to be interesting and something to keep an eye out for. Despite the impact of the lockdown on our industry, it is certainly re-emerging and maturing with new and promising avatars.