How lockdown has pushed the growth of indie music

Hindustan Times | By, New Delhi
May 09, 2020 01:08 PM IST

Ever since the lockdown was implemented, streaming platforms indicate a change in the listening habits of Indian audiences, who are now discovering more non film /indie music.

With the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, and the lockdown situation, which has put films along with any new film music on hold, people have turned to listening to independent/non-film music, which was arguably the secondary source of listening to music for many Indians.

With no new movie music being released, listeners have turned to the non film space and streaming sites report a big spike in the number of listens for non film songs.
With no new movie music being released, listeners have turned to the non film space and streaming sites report a big spike in the number of listens for non film songs.

At least, up until the lockdown was implemented in the final week of March. 

“Ever since the lockdown I have seen more than 20,000 subscribers to my channel on Spotify. So yeah, I think its correct to assume that people have started listening to the independent stuff more,” says singer Neha Bhasin, who released her project Folktales Live (Season 1) recently. 


According to a report in, the music streams, although dipped at the start of the lockdown, but were on par once again, with as many as five non-film songs - Badshah’s Genda Phool, Darshan Raval’s Bhula Dhunga, Neha Kakkar’s Jinke Liye, Tony Kakkar’s Goa Beach and Vishal Mishra’s Aaj Bhi- featuring in the top 10 most played list, across three different streaming platforms. 


“Non-film music has seen a significant growth and is now consumed by mainstream users at par with Bollywood on our platform. To this effect, we started adding non-film music to our most popular Top Charts [category] and have renamed it to Hindi Top 50 from Bollywood Top 50,” Prashan Agarwal, CEO of Gaana tells us. 

“In today’s age listener is more reactive than active. They are listening to recommendations because consumption is online, on streaming platforms, which recommends music, instead of going out and listening to music in cassettes or CDs. Now, since no new movie music is being released, so the AIs and algorithms are resetting, and are suggesting people to try to listen to music from the non film space,” says singer-songwriter Ankur Tewari.

Music labels, with no new movie music and the lockdown situation, have turned their attention to the non film music and doing things digitally, such as shooting music videos at home, and promoting music on the Internet.

T-Series’ Bhushan Kumar has revealed that the label is encouraging artists to shoot videos of their upcoming song, “at home”, and is planning to release a lot more music, than they had originally planned. “Our videos are mainly ‘shot at home’ videos like the recently released Dhvani’s song and Akhil’s song and many of our next songs are shot by our artists at home. We have received a lot of love and support for this attempt and people love these songs as well,” he tells us.


“ This unprecedented crisis has taken a toll on businesses across the board. Due to the lockdown, the entertainment industry and specifically Bollywood has put release of new music and movies on hold. [But,] we have continued with our endeavour and have consistently released new music in this period with our artists. Our teams along with the artists have worked from home relentlessly to reach the audiences and entertain them, “ says Vinit Thakkar, COO, Universal Music India & South Asia.

The future, therefore, looks better for a lot of musicians who have been trying to strengthen their position as a mainstream musician, and not just get restricted to making film music. “It’s actually an amazing time for musicians to experiment since the audience demographics have vastly been altered over the last few months and a lot of varied content is being consumed on a daily basis. There is a lot of scope for independent music,” Raftaar, who recently released his album, Mr. Nair. 


“Today the situation is such that you don’t need heavy promotions or a label to market your music. A lot of bigger names from the industry are timing their releases and not going full throttle which gives an excellent platform to upcoming talent to showcase their music. You don’t need to be a well marketed musician with a heavy PR machinery to garner a brand recall. You just need to build a connect with the audience and be authentic,” he adds.

“Every artist staying home is definitely creating new music. They keep creating music. I am sure post this crisis is over, there is going to be a lot of independent music,” says singer Shilpa Rao.

The absence of new movie music, is also pushing those musicians who are more popular for their film music, to release songs in the independent space, thus blurring the lines between indie and commercial pop music in the country. “I think it’s gonna make hardcore film artists also take that jump and move into creating music just for themselves and an audience that is craving for more,” says music composer Amaal Mallik, who is working on three independent singles which he plans to release within this year.


“Armaan (Amaal’s younger brother) just released his song, Control, and the numbers are wonderful. His Hindi audience has managed to lap on to an entirely English song because it’s new age, relatable, well written and well composed. I’m glad that so many popular artists like Badshah, Akull & MellowD, Darshan Rawal, Prakriti-Sukriti, Yash Narvekar, Lost Stories, Zaeden, Vishal Mishra, Asees, Lisa Mishra, Prateek Kuhad, Nucleya, Dualist Inquiry, Akasa and The Yellow Diary all are putting out their music and getting a lot of love from the audience,” adds Amaal.

The shift in listening sensibilities has also meant that streaming platforms push more indie artists and non film music. “We launched a series of multilingual, multi-genre and multi-talent digital concerts that featured several artists rendering acoustic performances from their homes and interacting with their fans live on our Facebook page. As social distancing becomes the norm, we will continue to explore and launch several such properties in the coming few weeks,” says Neeraj Roy, the CEO of Hungama music.

Similarly, JioSaavn, started an initiative with artists going live from wherever they are, during this lockdown, and the streaming service witnessed an upward trend in artist streams for all those artists who have been a part of the initiative, ranging from 5-30% increase, on the day they performed.

Interact with the author on Twitter/@sammysamarth


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    Samarth Goyal writes on Hollywood and music, for the daily Entertainment and Lifestyle supplement, HT City.

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