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This Music Business

By Ritnika Nayan | August 18, 2009

As mentioned earlier, this is the first in a series of columns by Ritnika Nayan that aims to answer your questions about the music industry and independent music in India. If you have any questions about how things work in the music industry, or are looking for advice about specific issues, please write in to us at edit@split-magazine.com.

The author of this article is the founder of Music Gets Me High, a company that’s involved in artist management, live concerts and artist merchandising. MGMH is dedicated to helping artists develop their sound and provide them with guidance and support. Along with management of local artists, the company is also involved in getting international artists to India and taking Indian artists abroad.

Split MagazineFor an indie artist or band in India that needs a record label, where would you advise the band to go and what would be the ideal deal? — Stuart DaCosta (Bombay, India)

Hello, Stuart. If you are an indie artist in India, the first thing would be to understand what your final goal for your music is. Do you want to make money from it? Do you just want people to get to hear your music? Do you want people to go to stores and pick up your album(s)? What I would advise would be to just give your music away to your fans, because the revenue generated by the sales will hardly help you to make a living. However, here are some of the various ways you can release your music in India:

The DIY Method: Record your album yourself at one of the various studios in the country, get it printed yourself and just sell it at gigs or just give it away to people.

DIY Online: The album can be made available online via your website, so that fans can download the songs for free. This saves on your CD printing costs.

Magazines: Another good way of getting your music out to the fans for free is to release the CD with a magazine like RSJ. We just did that for Sajid Akbar and it was great. But this would mean you still have to record your album yourself.

The last option, I would say, is to talk to companies like Counter Culture Records and Blue Frog. These companies might want to release your album and even offer you management. Do try to keep the management and label separate if possible, and the best deal would be a 50-50% profit share. Some labels would like to recover the printing and promotion costs from the money you get from sales first — I would try to avoid giving that as you will really end up with no money.

You can also try to work out a profit sharing deal with a studio who can get publicity (by pushing their studio name on the album) and in return let you record or cheap or free.

Another method can also be to get a sponsor on aboard to sponsor the entire album. You can give away the album for free but have the sponsor’s name and logo on it. Say, Kingfisher presents ‘Your Album’. This is probably the hardest one to pull off, but the best option, as you don’t have to spend much from your own pocket. You can also avail of web sites like Tunecore.com that help you distribute your music through various online channels for a flat fee. This can help you get your music on iTunes and Amazon (but it won’t help you to promote the album).

I have a rock band named Manefus, based in Baroda, Gujarat. We have been around for four years now and are well known in Gujarat. We have created our own space in the rock industry by winning various competitions across Gujarat and are the only band to have won the IIM Campus Rock competition for the past two years. This year we have also released our EP. But that too doesn’t solve our purpose, as we fail when it comes to the business aspect of being in a band. We have tried to contact a few people, but all we get is advice to participate in competitions and when it comes to getting gigs (outside of competitions), somehow things do not click. Please guide us as to how we can proceed and extend our road into the industry. — Hiral Bagadia (Baroda, India)

Hi, Hiral. After listening to your music, I think that the best solution for you would be through RSJ. You should contact the people in RSJ like Sid or Anoop and send them your press kit. The press kit should include a good biography, pictures of the band, your songs, videos from gigs and any press articles you might have. It may be difficult in the beginning, and unfortunately, not a lot of bands actually make it in the business, but that doesn’t mean you should give up. RSJ has now expanded their Pub Rock Fest to include a number of cities and hence provides lots of opportunities to bands.

Besides this, why don’t you try contacting venues/pubs in the cities that you want to play in. Sometimes, if you can club two or three cities that are close by and not ask for any fee except travel and lodging, the venues and promoters might be interested in trying out a new band. Also, if you and your band are planning on taking a vacation, choose a city that has a venue you can play at and ask them if they would let you play for just food, drinks, and promotion, and call as many people you know for the gig.

Another option would be to contact promoters like Subir Malik (of Parikrama, Inc.) as he tends to do the booking for a lot of bands. You can search for these people online or contact them via social networks such as Facebook or MySpace.

Hi, I’m just wondering why in the music industry there are band managers as well as business managers. Why shouldn’t band managers act as business managers? — Tulsa Pittaway (South Africa)

Great question, Tulsa. I think that most people don’t even have a clue that there are separate band managers and business managers. Basically, the band manager is someone who has experience in the music industry. It should be someone who ideally has a lot of contacts, knows how the music industry works and how to sell the artist. This applies to any artist whether it be musicians or actors. The band managers runs the artist’s career from start to finish. However, the band manager doesn’t always have the expertise to advise his or her clients about other business matters like accounting, investments, taxes, etc., and that’s where a business manager comes into play. This is usually the case with bigger, more established artists, who have the kind of money that needs to be managed. A lot of musicians and actors later want to produce movies, build their own recording companies, buy houses, boats, cars, etc. and this is where they need the advice of someone who knows business.

Business managers know how to manage the overall business and money aspect of things, and may not have any idea about the nitty gritties of the music side of things. Hence, there is sometimes a need for both band managers as well as business managers.

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