LEGENDARY ROCK guitarist Jimi Hendrix had once said, “If there is something to be changed in this world, it can only happen through music.” Thousands of budding musicians across the country follow Hendrix’s advice, as they embark on musical journeys in an industry that was estimated at around R1,080 crore in 2015 in India, as per reports. But not all are able to bring about the change they seek. Their major impediments? Lack of access to the right audience, no recognition and hence difficulty in finding work.
But now, some digital platforms and start-ups are acting as hiring portals, giving these artistes work on demand and access to the right audience. Take, for instance, Gaanabajaana.com, a digital platform for musicians and performers, which was launched in January this year. It helps event organisers, wedding planners, etc, find talent that suits their budget, as well as struggling musicians the chance to get hired. Mumbai-based musician Gaurav Kotian, who plays the glass harp, is a case in point. “The glass harp is a very old instrument and many people don’t know about it, so it was tough to find work,” says Kotian. But after Gaanabajaana.com approached the musician in April this year after watching some of his videos on YouTube, things started improving drastically.
Since then, the website has helped the 19-year-old shoot a cover video of him playing English and Hindi songs on the glass harp for Gaanabajaana.com’s YouTube channel. He also has many live performances lined up—one on September 26 in Mumbai and another in October in New Delhi. His profile on the website has had 1,140 views so far. “I am sure I will be able to reach out to the right people through Gaanabajaana.com,” Kotian says.
Gaanabajaana.com, available across India, was conceptualised by Ashish and Sachin Bhandari of UMW, a digital projection/exhibition company, and Anil and Ravi Bohra of movie production company Bohra Bros. More than 3,000 artistes have signed up already with them. The idea, say the people behind Gaanabajaana, was to streamline the process of booking artistes for events. “We have helped more than 100 artistes already. Our major business comes from the metros and tier I and II cities as of now,” says Sachin Bhandari, who is one of the directors at Gaanabajaana.com. “We simply play the role of a facilitator,” adds Anil Bohra, another director.
Some portals like Happydemic, a Mumbai-based live entertainment platform, have gone a step further by creating a community of struggling artistes. “A music reality show has just one winner, but the other contestants are great too,” says CEO and founder Radhika Mukherji, who is the wife of playback singer Shaan. “The core reason for starting Happydemic was to create a buzz around such talent, get them more work and provide a direct connect between the audience and performers,” she says.
Launched in April this year, Happydemic has around 600 artistes onboard, including Pawandeep Rajan, the 2015 winner of The Voice India reality show. A lot of these artistes have no alternate jobs. “Music is their bread and butter,” says Mukherji, adding that of the 600 artistes they have onboard, around 400 have gone ‘live’ on the website so far. Going ‘live’ means their profiles have gone up on the Happydemic website, which potential employers can view.
Registration with the website is free. Registered artistes can upload their videos, tracks, sounds recordings and photographs, and these are vetted by the Happydemic team. They check every track, video, etc, to analyse the quality of singing, stage presence, etc. Once all this is done, the artiste goes live on the website. The platform has also tied up with event management companies, which provide these artistes work opportunities. “Happydemic is very artiste-centric. We also have music bands onboard that perform at music festivals and are getting a lot of projects,” says Mukherji.
While Happydemic and Gaanabajaana.com are bringing musicians closer to work opportunities, some other platforms are helping artistes hone their skills. A big Dev Anand fan, Nagpur-based Deepa Buty launched TheSongPedia, an online music portal providing trivia and facts about Hindi and English songs, in 2014. Passionate about music, Buty realised there was a lack of good content in this space. She also came across a lot of talented artistes who struggled to reach a wider audience. So she also decided to profile struggling musicians on the website to get them more views. “We thought a digital media platform in this space would be perfect,” says Buty, who founded the website with Bal Krishn Birla, a Bengaluru-based techie who looks after the website’s technical aspects. “We feature artiste profiles on our website and this gives them exposure,” says Buty.
The profiles usually have an elaborate write-up that describes the artiste’s journey and some useful links to their Facebook page or other social media handles. Profiles also have YouTube videos of performances and songs. So far, the website has profiled about 10 performers, some of whom have found good work after being featured on TheSongPedia, says Buty.
In Bengaluru, techie-turned-singer Sunil Koshy has brought about a revolution for bathroom singers with his venture. Started in 2013 by the former IT engineer, From Mug to Mike, a platform for bathroom singers, has so far helped around 4,000 artistes through its workshops, which focus on professional singing, vocal exercises and studio exposure—their youngest participant is four years old and the oldest 93 years old.
“We have thousands of musicians onboard. Some of them have also trained, but don’t know what to do next or how to contribute to the music industry. The various levels of our workshops help participants get studio exposure and train them in the finer nuances of singing,” says Koshy, who designs and conducts these workshops himself with wife Archana Hallikeri, a music connoisseur. He has conducted around 300 workshops so far in cities like Kochi, Bengaluru and Chennai.
From Mug to Mike also launched Bathroom Singers Anthem, an original music video, which featured eight participants of the workshops. The music video was launched by renowned playback singer KS Chithra in October last year and can be found on her official YouTube channel. The ultimate plan, says Koshy, is to revive all forms of music in India. “We want to gift everyone the freedom to sing… anyone can learn to sing,” says Koshy.