The Business of Music - Hard selling lifestyles since 1991
June 07, 2012 @ 00:00 am
Liberalization is a term most used by post graduate students as a go to word when the big bosses come questioning. Anything under the ambit of growth, opulence and accelerated economics can be attributed to Manmohan Singh's bold move circa 1991. Seve
Liberalization is a term most used by post graduate students as a go to word when the big bosses come questioning. Anything under the ambit of growth, opulence and accelerated economics can be attributed to Manmohan Singh's bold move circa 1991.
Enter life post the nineties where decadence was lifestyle and grandeur a necessity; sound wasn’t sound till there wasn’t a visual explosion to follow. Port-a-radio was a quaint old notion, every consumer worth his salt needed to watch music. Melody be damned. Why would one tune into Prasar Bharati sans an accent for Pancham when one can have an electric guitar yielding, Pancham in Diesel jeans from Jhankaar beats? The Industry of music; I say industry because any group of individuals that churns out preprogrammed beats over a conveyer belt at the click of a button is in fact an industry; is under the stronghold of kingpins, a business empire that has the power to serenade anyone into the lull of purchasing power dynamics.
When I say that the Music Industry is under the stronghold of kingpins, I do not necessarily mean the long haired mafia dons of yore; the people I refer to are the established captains of Billboards across the globe who with one strum of the fret board can change inertia into unadulterated movement. One often sees the unfaltering take glorified leaps into this industry, entrepreneurial ventures taking birth in the crammed garages of tier A, B cities but the much needed cash influx remains with the hard selling stellar stars.
The business structure of the music industry favours the saleable. Let’s go back a few years when reality television brought the rich, famous and melodious right into our drawing rooms. Playback singing was so passé, if you weren’t out and about donning a crisp Abu-Jani – Sandeep Khosla bandhgala, you weren’t playing with the big wigs, in fact you were so far out of the league it made Rebecca Black look like an insider; excuse the pop culture reference. Every element of the music business is aspirational, whether it is the bejeweled car an artist is driving or the spandex gown a certain Gaga is donning. If the industry can set a price to it, the artist can rule the roost, if not he can stay far out of the coop.
Like the five families in yesteryear New York, there are the Big Four that call the shots when it comes to music - Universal, Sony, Warner and EMI. These big wigs make over 43% of the worldwide music sales across genres. A similar parallel in the Indian Music industry would be TIPS, EROS, Universal and Sa re ga ma. It is no surprise that if an artist isn’t represented by these labels, he is far out in the cold. I do not mean to sound dire but the truth remains – the sale-ability of the artist increases with the sound of chimes in his pocket and the “hum-value”. An artist peaking out of a modest home in the country by-lanes does not a lifestyle icon make. In our country, The Adeles and Adams of the world attract packed houses whilst the audience still claims to enjoy the somber tunes of Avial and Faridkot, will the audience ever dish out the greens and brave the winds to applaud them, Maybe not; In our books, if it is straight out of a household, it ain’t worth paying for. If it doesn’t cost in the long run, it isn’t music.
Music videos determine the order of the day and the Grammys define I-pod playlists; a rapper somewhere south of the end of the world determines what a young adult in Haryana finds dapper. It is the lifestyle that sells. The business of music isn’t about music, not yet at least. Here’s hoping that music, real full throated music, doesn’t remain in bootleggers’ clubs and speakeasies. Here’s hoping that movies are the only influence on our naive minds, let music remain music. Lifestyle be damned.