As Steve Tyler and Joe Perry make Aerosmith walk this way later today in Bangalore, we won’t notice that this super group has been around for a while. Peaking in the Seventies and having a second coming during the Nineties, no one will deny the Bad Boys of Boston their place in the Rock’n’Roll Hall of Fame. But as we flick our lighters open (if they are not confiscated at the gates of the Palace grounds in Bangalore) to classics like Dream On, Sweet Emotion, Crazy and Amazing, we could wonder why it took so long for Aerosmith to hit our shores. Artistes with a long pedigree (read: dinosaurs of rock) have been touring India quite often of late. Apart from classic outfits like Deep Purple, Jethro Tull, Pink Floyd (or at least bits and bobs of it), Elton John and, most recently, Iron Maiden, we |got to see the Rolling Stones in 2003. Barring the last act, which still draws humongous crowds whether in Morocco or Madison Square Gardens, it would be fair to say that the bulk of the rest of the bands from the exotic West are has-beens perpetuating their appeal in new markets — like India.
To be fair, there is a sprinkling of contemporary big names dropping by, as the gigs by Shakira, Flypside and Nelly Furtado show. But why do big, contemporary acts — whether they be the Arctic Monkeys or 50 Cent or Black Eyed Peas, or even established artistes like Eminem or Radiohead — give India the miss even while they have undertaken ‘Asia tours’? The answer to that question is actually terribly simple: there are hardly any monetary returns to be made by performing in India.
Part of the reason why international acts baulk at the prospect of performing to a desi crowd is that ticket pricing is an issue. But while tickets might be considerably more expensive in Europe, Japan and America than in India, even in these places the bulk of returns is made from corporate sponsorships and advertisements. Unfortunately, India is still prohibitive in its entertainment taxes when it comes to foreign acts. And very rarely does an organiser decide to forego profits for the love of music, especially in a country where international music sales make up only three to five per cent of the total market.
Places like Bangalore and Chennai have attracted most of the artistes simply because the taxes and red tape are less daunting than in other Indian metros and there is some money for the bands to make. Mumbai is realising the nature of the obstacles and is slowly clearing the path. As for Delhi, free passes for its VIPs will see to it that only sarod recitals get a fair play.