Coronavirus hits Indie music scene, artistes take gigs online
Independent music artistes have been facing a cash crunch due to cancellation of gigs during lockdown, and worry about finding paid audience online.Updated: Apr 17, 2020 00:08 IST
Independent musicians around the world have dealt a body blow as they continue to struggle to maintain their footing under the coronavirus pandemic. In the run-up to the festival season, all upcoming events – including Coachella – have been cancelled or postponed. When Covid-19 began tearing through India in March, lockdown measures forced the independent music more underground than it ever was.
Tours have been abandoned mid-way, bands have lost out on sold tickets, and many have had to pay out of their pockets to find a way back home. Musicians — who inspired the word ‘gig economy’ — have been hit hard due to the lockdown. Mumbai-based alternative rock-fusion band Anand Bhaskar Collective aka ABC, one of the biggest names in the Indie music scene, agrees to this. Bhaskar says, “We had planned quite a few dates in March, April, and a big tour in June-July, especially because we released a brand new song on March 31. There were big plans for both online and offline promotions, but because of the corona pandemic, everybody is understaffed and therefore unable to do their deliveries on time.’’ The band was recently in the line-up of performances at Kerplunk — a seven-day crowdfunded online festival, which featured around 50 acts to aid lockdown affected independent musicians.
While a lot of artistes are going online with their scheduled shows, not many are in the position to monetise the content on social media. For most, their regular live gigs, which have now dried up due to F&B outlets being locked down, were the only source of revenue. Live streaming of performance is not new, but it’s not an alternative to the live music economy at large. Delhi-based singer-songwriter Hanita Bhambri shares that the lockdown is unfortunate, but also presents artistes with a few opportunities. “It’s unfortunate that many of my tours got cancelled, and I had to pay for the flights and conveyance that had been booked for me. But, I’m focusing on building my social media [engagement]. Once the lockdown is over, I’ll have a larger online audience to cater to,” says Bhambri. In the light of things, she is engaged in a 21-day songwriting series of turning people’s experiences into lyrics.
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I really enjoyed reading everyone’s childhood memories yesterday, thank you to everyone who shared. Today’s winner is @awkwardbongishani who shared her favourite memory is her mother rocking her to sleep at night as a kid. I’ve tried to capture how peaceful that feeling was through this song . . I’m doing a 21-day series where I’m writing songs - one every day of the lockdown, based on stories/thoughts people share with me about their lives or suggest theme. It’s an extremely distressing time and I’m trying to bring comfort by expressing stories and thoughts of people in songs that they can’t on their own. If you want to take part, check my stories - you can share your suggestions on the sticker or DM me. The people whose suggestions get picked also get a signed copy of the EP and a handwritten postcard 🌸 . . Lyrics: Aankhon se neendein ab udd gayi hai Teri baahon ki jo kami hai Maa tu bachpan mein le jaa phir mujhko Jhootae jhula ke sula de ab Roshan si muskan ab ghum ho gayi hai Chinta satati, bechani bhi aati Maa tu bachpan mein le jaa phir mujhko Sar sehlake ke sula de ab Maa teri baahon mein sukoon hai Maa teri baahon mein sukoon #21days21songs #day14
Akshay Kapoor, from Delhi-based poly-genre band Cha’bi, accounts for people’s unwillingness to pay for online live gigs. “There is an acute cash crunch in this already fragile industry. Organisations are moving fast towards monetisation of live performances online, but income through these streams will remain quite low for the coming few months due to lack of proper audio quality, and people paying for such kind of content.’’
Live streaming of concerts has been used to complement or advertise existing events, but the void left by the cancellation or postponement of these events brings into relief the need for online alternatives. The future seems bleak and uncertain for now, but there might be some light on the other side of this tunnel too. “The lockdown has given people time and incentive to pursue new genres of music. That’s the only relief, I guess,’’ adds Kapoor.
Author tweets @bhagat_mallika
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