Pitch perfect

Pitch perfect

You’ve got the fancy guitars and amplifiers, you’ve channelled the loose energy of your jam sessions into a couple of original songs and are now itching to get up on stage. Hopefully, you’ve kept your day job. If you have, it’s a fun ride—hit cities with regularity, build up a fan base, play gigs as often as you can at pubs and college festivals and pocket the extra income.

If you haven’t, here’s how you can keep your musical finances afloat:

Keep it fresh

“Think of it as competing with Star Plus," says Jishnu Dasgupta of Swarathma. “Package your music, design a flashy website—have a hook for your audience." A MySpace or Facebook (www.facebook.com) profile is a must. As are samples of your music. If you have videos, blogs, pictures—put them all up for people to see. Keep updating your online presence with new content. “You can’t play the same tune again and again—it’s like a channel playing the same episode of a sitcom on repeat," he says.

Dasgupta also recommends looking abroad for shows, where your music can fill a certain niche. “There’s a global interest in music that is honest and is rooted in the place where it comes from," he says. “Take Indian Ocean—they’ve pretty much captured the Indian NRI (non-resident Indian) audience in the US through regular touring."

Know your revenue streams

“Ninety per cent of your money is going to come from concerts—that’s what bands need to focus on the most. The rest is useful, but mere window dressing," says Vijay Nair of Only Much Louder. Live shows in India require bands to haggle for their cut, unlike the West, where there’s a flat fee depending on how many people you pull in. Apart from the clubs and pubs, there are college festivals, which are both lucrative, as well as “right at the heart of your core audience", according to Dasgupta. Corporate events are another source, but these depend on the kind of music you play.

Don’t expect to get called for formal company events if you’re a metal band. “Bands can also create music for corporates—jingles and spots, for example," says Dasgupta. “Swarathma also did some music for an upcoming TV channel that wanted a distinct ‘audio identity’—music for interstitials and logos, for example." Dasgupta reckons that tie-ups with brands is the way to go.

“Take Thermal and a Quarter’s recent tour for the ‘Shut Up and Vote’ campaign. You had an NGO, Janaagraha, which wanted to spread this message. The band, which vocalized it with a song, and Tata Tea with their ‘Jaago Re’ pitch. It was a perfect fit."

Monitor the right metrics

Album sales are passé. “It’s next to impossible to make money from album sales, even if you’re sold internationally," says Sahil Makhija of Demonic Resurrection. Fellow metalheads Kryptos, riding a wave of critical acclaim for their last album ‘The Ark of Gemini’, could only manage 800 copies in three years, a “pretty pathetic figure" by Makhija’s own admission. “We sold 4,200 copies of our album since 2008, but it’s little more than a visiting card," says Dasgupta. “But it’s not useless. It gives you legitimacy and it has the essence of a band more than an MP3 ever will."

Dasgupta suggests a new set of metrics that a band must monitor. “You have to check things like the number of MySpace hits your site gets," he says. “Or how many fans will turn up if you announce a gig on your blog, or how many will make the trip from other cities if you say you’re going to play a single new song."