Mumbai gets a miss again | music | Hindustan Times
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Mumbai gets a miss again

Like several other international acts in the past few years, American boy band, Backstreet Boys, which will perform in India on February 20 and 21, has given Mumbai a miss too.

music Updated: Feb 11, 2010 18:26 IST
Nikhil Taneja

Like several other international acts in the past few years, American boy band, Backstreet Boys, which will perform in India on February 20 and 21, has given Mumbai a miss too.

While that may be a reason for the city’s metal heads to celebrate , it says something about Mumbai, when every huge foreign act, from the Black Eyed Peas (2006) to Aerosmith (2007) and now, Backstreet Boys (BSB), skips it to play at other metros of the country.

In fact, though it hasn’t been officially confirmed yet, Deputy Editor of Rolling Stone India, Bobin James, tweeted yesterday, “Lamb of God live in Bengaluru in May.” If the organisers pull off getting the Grammy-nominated death metal act to play in Bengaluru, it would add another insult to Mumbai’s ever-growing injuries.

Too many problems
While entertainment tax is supposed to be the major reason behind this, New Delhi also has a similar tax structure on live shows and tickets, and yet BSB is performing there at the Rock ‘N India music festival. Explains T Venkat Vardhan, Managing Director of DNA Network, which organises Rock ‘N India, “Mumbai is missing out mainly due to infrastructure and operational costs, as opposed to entertainment tax.”

Mumbai has been losing out as a must-perform destination for international acts because promoters and event management companies think it’s too expensive.
“There are three reasons for why Mumbai is losing out on international acts,” says Owen Roncon, founder and partner of OranJuice Entertainment and Fountainhead Promotions and Events Pvt Ltd, which organises the yearly One Tree Music Festival, and brought Akon and 50 Cent to Mumbai.

“Firstly, after the recession, sponsors have completely dried up. No one wants to put in that kind of money, and we can’t do shows without funding,” he continues.
“Then, there are no venues that can house 15,000 people or so. For a gig with more that 3000 people, I have to spend ridiculous costs on production, and I’d need double the sponsorship to break even.”

Not impressed
“And finally, nothing really impresses Mumbai that much. They’d pay Rs 300 on tickets to watch a live act at Blue Frog and then spend Rs 5000 on drinks. But ask them to spend Rs 1000 on a concert ticket on MMRDA grounds and they refuse to. Mumbai is too used to a comfortable lifestyle, the crowds here don’t want to stand in open fields.”

Agrees Farhad Wadia, CEO of event management firm, E-18, which holds the yearly rock festival, Independence Rock, recently rated among the top 10 music festivals across the world by MTV USA: “Mumbaikars have too many options for entertainment now. Earlier, there were no clubs or music channels, so Bryan Adams would fill a stadium of 20,000 people in minutes, because they hadn’t ever seen such a thing before. There’s no novelty left.”

All these issues spell doom for the live-event industry in the ‘cultural’ capital of India. Best-selling acts don’t include India in their world tours because they can’t gauge their fanbase owing to CD sales.

In an interview with HT Café in December, Porcupine Tree frontman, Steven Wilson, had said, “We’d have liked to come to India long ago, but our CDs don’t sell much there, and we didn’t know if we were popular.”

Lone act
The Porcupine Tree concert at Mood Indigo, IIT Mumbai’s cultural festival, was the city’s lone major international gig in the past four years. Acts including Bon Jovi and Roger Waters, scheduled to perform in 2008-09, were cancelled because of the 26/11 terrorist attacks. “We could make Porcupine Tree happen only because the band drastically cut their fee for the sake of the college community,” says Aditya Gandhi, Public Relations Head of Mood Indigo, 2009. “They charged only 1/6th of their actual fee.”

“Things will change only if the Maharashtra government steps up and creates infrastructure for such concerts in the city,” says Roncon. “But that’s very low on the priority list of the government, which is struggling to provide citizens with water. Hopefully, they’ll understand that their coffers will fill faster if they capitalise on these opportunities and build the infrastructure.”

“They should also change the oppressive tax regime of 25 per cent and bring it down to 10 per cent like Bengaluru,” adds Wadia. “And while they are at it, they should increase the time limit of live shows from 10 pm to 12 pm. It’s a tall order, but I’m hopeful it will happen in my lifetime.”