RadioandMusic
| 17 Jul 2019
We are not chasing big names, but good talent: Ankit Khanna
 
30-year- old Ankit Khanna, founder of DNH Artists and AK Projekts is considered as one of the most versatile and dynamic artist agents and producers in the Indian terrain.
 
He commenced his entrepreneurial journey as a DJ cum music producer in New Delhi and thereafter hit the road in three years. Without any professional accolades, he learned the ropes of the music industry organically and from a talent representative, he assumed the role of a producer. Interestingly he also revived the career of artists like Manj Musik and helped build independent underground artists into a worldwide phenomenon.
 
With more than a decade of experience backing his enterprise, he started off with a base investment of close to USD 8,000 and today the company's turnover stands at approximately USD four million.
 
To know how Ankit Khanna has built this empire, do check his exclusive interview with Radioandmusic.com.Excerpts.
 
When and did you make your way into the music scene?
 
Owing to the fact that I was a DJ and a programming head for some of the biggest night clubs in the country when I started out, I enjoyed a firm foothold in the business. I understood the talent and the agent side of the business. However, at one point I decided on pushing my boundaries and expanding with new goals. I was making ends just meet, my job was not a permanent one but I knew music was my calling and I could add strategic value to the industry. So, I decided to take a big leap of faith.
 
What was your ambition as a kid?
 
As a kid, I always dreamt of being in concerts. I pretty much have lived up to my childhood expectation. However, I am blessed that IÆm an entrepreneur and not just making the millions for myself but also funding projects and people who may not have the financial backing. I think itÆs important to give back to the world; it becomes a better place, not just monetarily but also imparting knowledge. Music and working in the music industry is the best thing that has happened to me. 
 
Please elaborate on your first business deal.
 
With regards to talent management, I got a raw deal when I signed on RDB who at the juncture was a huge hit in India and ever since everything has been history. We hustled our way through and became the hottest selling acts at shows and weddings. We had the best line-up of collaborations in the film and music industry. Luckily with talent management, I got hands-on experience with other departments such as legal, technical as well. It was a one man show when I started out.
 
What was the intention to start DNH Artists and AK Projekts? 
The intention to initiate DNH Artists was to introduce a more systematic and strategic talent management form in the music business which is highly unorganised and scattered. We want to lead by example and break typecasts. A K Projekts launched when we wanted to explore the digital side of the business and focus on curating quality content.
 
How do artists benefit once associated with the company? 
Well to be honest our company model is very different. When we sign an artist exclusively, we just don't sign every talent that walks through the door, or for a stipulated time frame or to fulfil a particular objective. We shape the artistÆs overall market value and image with a 360 degree perspective. We ensure we create a top of the mind brand recall and not focus on the competition but create milestones as we go along. Take the case study of Raftaar. We invested in him when no one believed in him. Today he is worth over a few millions and has still stuck to us because our values are the same. From music singles to ad jingles to reality shows to brand endorsements, he is doing multiple things
 
What does DNH Artists and AK Projekts believe in? 
Transparency, authenticity and loyalty. The core belief is that to grow as a company every client needs to be treated as a family member and embrace their dreams as yours.
 
What helped the company soar?
 
Well the initial push came from RDB and later launching Raftaar and Akriti Kakar as talent and building them into the act they are today. I think the main idea has been the loyalty and trust that our artists have invested in us. They knew that as a team they're working with some really passionate and hardworking people in the business and their dreams were ours too. Today we are not chasing big names, we are chasing good talent. If everyone begins to chase the names and the money what happens to deserving candidates. 
 
Whom do you truly admire?
 
I truly admire Scooter Braun, Justin Bieber and Ariana GrandeÆs manager, who started off with nothing and have built an empire and someday I will have a company as respectable as SB Projects.
 
How did your career in music translate into a company with a massive turnover?
 
I never thought of owning a brand or company when I started out but in 2009, almost a decade back I took the risk. I put in my 100 per cent, spent sleepless nights away from family and invested all of my hard-earned money to enjoy the branding we have in the market today. It was built brick by brick with a lot of patience and perseverance and not overnight like a fly by night operator. I'm extremely grateful to my core team who have been with me since the start and supported my vision. We are currently doing a four to five million USD turnover and looking at VC funding over the next three years. We are also planning a home-grown hip hop festival as well as a music label in partnership with Raftaar.                                           
 
What does it really take to be an artist agent?
 
Well, in my opinion, there isn't a fixed success formula; however, the only learning I've discovered is that one has to be madly passionate about what he/she is doing along with the creative artist they're involved with professionally. The opportunities and boundaries are countless but it takes two to tango and that's how this business works. Unfortunately, our industry and the artists haven't explored much beyond traditional tried and tested methods; but off late especially with the internet being such a powerful tool, this has been changing. With the digital era booming now artists also understand how important it is to have a manager or a team and in sync, they've to work together for their respective successes. Unlike the West, we still need to bring in more structure to the various roles in the administrative office such as talent agent, booking agent, tour manager, etc.
 
Can you share an instance from your childhood that cemented your desire to be a go getter?
 
I remember attending a wedding with my parents where I saw a person on a console and a singer bringing such happiness onto the dance floor. It somehow struck me that being an entertainer can definitely be a full-time career because youÆre bringing joy even if it means for a few hours. Today with our insipid lives we all want that extra dose of entertainment where we can let all our worries rest aside. I just happened to follow my calling.
 
Is there competition between artist agents?
 
To be honest, competition exists everywhere. I believe you are your biggest competition; the minute you start following what your peers are doing you will be investing most of the time being unhappy about what they have that you donÆt. ItÆs important to support one another and not pull down one another. I have always supported other agents whether it is bringing business to them or advising them on strategies. The industry should grow as a whole and remember the mantra is always 'empowered, people empower otherÆ.
 
What changed in your life post DNHÆs success?
 
Well, work has always been my first love since it has been a 24/7 365 days kind of a job.  Marriage brought about a huge change where I understood that having a work-life balance is important. If one can't draw a line between hustling between the shows and also taking those detox vacations, you will never be truly happy. Holistically speaking, today people look at me differently than ten years back. It feels good to have earned that respect and admiration.
 
You are the youngest promoters and talent scouts in the urban music scene across North India, what are your thoughts on the current music industry scenario? 
 
 Currently India as a country has been so diverse when it comes to content creation and consumption. I believe the past 10 years have seen a lot of expectation on content creativity. Today it is no longer about that one flashy song or cheesy lyrics. Audiences want meaningful content and well curated sound. In not time India would be a par with its western counterparts and crossover collaborations would be more organic. 
 
Khanna has gone onto becoming one of the youngest promoters and talent scouts in the urban music scene across North India. He also focuses on importing hit talents from the UKÆs desi music scene, including the hit squad from UK û RDB.