NEE DELHI: The coronavirus pandemic is a watershed moment for the Indian music industry, with live events and traditional modes of reaching out to audiences such as playback having come to a standstill. Artistes and music labels, however, have risen to the occasion, taking to virtual concerts across platforms like Zoom, Facebook, and Instagram that started slow but have now begun to command both substantial fan engagement as well as brand sponsorship.
Younger artistes are able to make between ₹8 and ₹10 lakh for a show on these digital platforms.
“Live events were the largest revenue earner for music artistes and that’s reached a dead end," said Roshan Abbas, president elect, Event and Entertainment Management Association (EEMA).
Although it is difficult to make up for the atmosphere, energy and impromptu surprise element of a live show, audiences are becoming more and more comfortable paying for online concerts. Artistes, too, have invested in creating the right digital persona for themselves making it possible to monetise the space slowly but steadily. Brands are a little slow on sponsoring such events but catching up, with some like Vodafone, Rupay and Fastrack having collaborated on shows.
Vikram Mehra, managing director at music label Saregama, said the company had released songs by artistes like Armaan Malik, Sonu Nigam, Mika Singh, Pappon, Sanam, Shirley Setia and others during the lockdown, which are available on both audio streaming platforms and YouTube.
The company recognises that demand for entertainment has gone up over these three months and that there has to be some sort of replacement for events such as live concerts and weddings, said Mehra.
On 6 July, music composer Vishal Bhardwaj brought out a song called Dhoop Aane Do with singer wife Rekha and lyricist Gulzar. For now, Bhardwaj plans to release the song on his YouTube channel where it will garner its share of advertising. But increasingly artistes and labels collaborating with streaming platforms such as Spotify, JioSaavn or others for monetization.
Meanwhile, ticketing and payment sites too have jumped on to the bandwagon. BookMyShow has launched a video streaming vertical which will host music concerts, among other events. Paytm Insider has been conducting concerts with singers such as Arijit Singh and ambient pop band Cigarettes After Sex, which were sell-outs.
But the artiste's thirst for more intimate experience remains.
Ehsaan Noorani, of music composer trio Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy for instance, has consistently been live on Instagram, jamming both old and new tunes on his guitar besides discovering new talent who may want to join him in these sessions. As has Shalmali Kholgade, known for hits such as Baby Ko Bass Pasand Hai, from the movie Sultan.
“The attendance for virtual events may not be on par with live events as of now but these definitely are encouraging signs of revenue," said Parikshit Dar, co-founder and director, at BookMyShow. A one-time ticket to an online music show could cost anything between Rs. 500-5,000, Dar said, depending on the artiste. At this point, music industry experts say virtual concerts and shows can command an attendance of 300-400 people which is an encouraging sign.
Abbas said it helps that top singers have brought down their fee by nearly half, knowing the constraints of the nascent virtual concert space right now. Pre-covid, a top artiste could command anything between ₹25-50 lakh for a live show.
“The costs of producing an online show are obviously lower since you’re not really investing in crew, lights, food and beverage and other overheads," said Priyanka Khimani, entertainment, music and intellectual property rights expert. But the future of online shows will depend on the role technology can play in bringing an experiential quality to people’s home screens, since top dollar is primarily paid for the physical presence of top names. Better sound, acoustics and an accompanying crew will be required.
“Big format productions are likely to be shot better soon," Abbas pointed out.