Music: Ballad of bargain
When 28-year-old NCR-based pianist and keyboardist Archit Anand started getting concerned calls from people in and beyond the industry on how he was managing to handle his finances during the lockdown, he realised most people don’t know that instrumentalists can earn via composing and teaching.
So, he started writing a newsletter, Music Monthly, with one clear aim – to create awareness about earning avenues beyond on-stage performances.
Archit caughts his family unawares when, in 2016, he dropped his plans to study chartered accountancy and chose a career in music, instead. They were quite encouraging.
Supporting himself by teaching music at the Performer’s Collective and picking up Bollywood commercial sets with The Delhi Indie Project, he used his spare time to pick the brains of other music teachers.
“Gigs were a bonus. I didn’t have the guts to reach out to people and ask if I could play at their events, nor did I have music society connections during college. It was intimidating and tricky,” says Archit.
The main problem in the indie scene is the lack of conversation about finances when it comes to private gigs. “There’s usually a decided fee at pub gigs, but private gigs fall in a grey area due to the sheer number of people involved,” Archit explains. But private events pay really well and teaching provides a stable income. Archit scheduled rehearsals around classes and rescheduled classes on gig days. Even the students’ parents understand that gigs are a form of livelihood.
“But indie music is still not considered a career,” he says. He’s dealt with a number of family members disappointed that he is not a Bollywood composer, even though he has just released his second single, Along Came You (feat. Shashank Singhania). “People want to listen to one type of music, but we have so many good players outside of it,” says Archit. “What people don’t realise is that when they make their children learn one kind of music, they are preventing them from knowing about the other aspects of music.”
More awareness and education is needed for the indie music industry to be more inviting, Archit adds. So, his monthly newsletter answers questions such as where you can have your keyboard serviced, your piano tuned, and so on, showing readers that playing music does not mean inconvenience and, in fact, can be a household thing.
Own your music
It’s important for musicians to understand finances and take responsibility for their music, says Archit. That’s because the live performance and independent scene was in a pickle even before the pandemic hit, with good venues shutting down.
“No disrespect to anyone, but there is little sense of ownership in music,” he says. “I’ve seen musicians give their bare minimum when they do sessions work – that’s privilege talking.”
Even musicians have bills to pay, he reminds us. “Where do you get capital from?” he asks. “From sessions work, because bands don’t have a very long shelf life.”
He’s been part of a band called Inalab since October 2018. This started off as a one-off session, but bloomed into a band, which is why, he says, it works.
“But it’s not an easy industry and I want people to have a real idea of it. It’s about time music became a career option,” says the pianist.
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From HT Brunch, May 9, 2021
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