RadioandMusic
| 24 Aug 2019
BalconyTV India too soon launch in Kolkata and Bangalore

MUMBAI: Founded in Dublin, Ireland, the online music show- BalconyTV, has been in existence since June 2006. Since then, it has featured a diverse range of music acts on balconies around the world. Talents like Ed Sheeran, Mumford & Sons, Jessie J and The Script were all featured on the show, before they could go on to become mainstream names.

Likewise, BalconyTV India has also featured a diverse range of Indian music acts like Madboy/Mink, Coshish, Spud in the Box, Nikhil D’Souza, Tejas Menon and others. It launched in India in February 2012 and is produced by Oijo, a new media company founded by Pragya Tiwari, Rishi Majumder and Kavi Bhansali. Radioandmusic.com’s Aashay Dalvi spoke to BalconyTV India Chief Producer, Kavi Bhansali about starting BalconyTV in India, the music artistes they have roped in and their long-term goal. 

Excerpts:

How did BalconyTV India happen? How did it BalconyTV start here?

Pragya Tiwari, Rishi Majumder and I are childhood friends from Calcutta - we were all in between jobs and were keen on working on a space/platform for music together. However, some friends put us in touch with the folks at BalconyTV, and we were bowled over by the energy and reach of the collective. In addition, it came with the luxury of being totally independent while being part of this kind of a worldwide network. So, we agreed to bring BalconyTV to India, and launched the first city in February 2012. 

How does BalconyTV work? How do you develop the jam sessions?

In a concert, the artistes perform for a crowd of live people - here, the performance is intimate and there is no planned audience. Often the performance is acoustic and not amplified at all. We work very closely with the artiste before the scheduled appearance on the choice of song, arrangement, and production.

Sound is a big challenge. Given that ambient sound in our cities is very high - we set the bar for audio very high, and most of our very limited resources go into ensuring a high audio production standard. A key element to this is a lot of discussion with the band before the shoot on the arrangement and choice of song. Sometimes, we leave a little of the ambience in the mix to give a more real and tactile feel to the sound, or use the ambience as a key character in the soundscape - for example, with Tritha and Space, their track is timed to the passing of a goods train with a loud siren, and they work it very well into the performance.

When and how do you rope in the music artistes?

A lot of the music you hear on the platform will actually be a first public release of the artistes’ music. This is in keeping with the larger idea of featuring both, well-established as well as ‘rookie’ acts. We have a two-pronged strategy in our curation of artistes-

One is our own research and curation - this involves being cued into the music scene and getting a lot of first hand information about exciting sounds and artistes. Some are suggested to us by musicians, well wishers and friends who have heard something exciting (either at a concert or informal event), and many are discovered by attending concerts, festivals, rehearsals and jam sessions in person. In addition, we tap into organisations and people who work with folk, regional and classical music to explore collaborations and contemporary sounds.

The other is bands/artistes are encouraged to write in to us with samples of their music or links to their work online. Any music act can email or contact us on social media with links or samples to their music - provided it is original. It goes on the ‘curation list’ - a majority of these artistes do not have studio recordings or proper albums but a really good composition, which must be original. As of now, we receive between 100 – 150 requests/submissions a month over email/social alone. We make it a point to listen to everyone who writes in.

Is BalconyTV India a platform to showcase talents of lesser known Indian music acts?

Yes. As BalconyTV India, we present a diverse spread of music, delightfully difficult to define— folk singers, indie bands, pop, rock, acid funk, resistance poetry, qawwals, and more-a smorgasbord of talent, which we feel is representative of the wealth of music and culture available in India today. The performers range from the raw, young indie finds, to high-profile artistes and collaborations, with only one agenda: original music. So, although we regularly feature lesser known Indian music, the stature and profile of artiste varies greatly. 

We define ‘independent music’ very broadly - to include original music by folk and classical artistes from smaller towns and villages, in addition to the plethora of urban ‘indie’ bands/artistes that exist in the cities.

Were you actively involved with promoting lesser known music artistes even when BalconyTV was still in development?

Yes, previous to this, we were working as Editors with Tehelka.com, where we introduced and produced a video series called ‘The Music Project’, which featured small independent musicians in intimate, acoustic recordings.

What are the various means of revenue generation for BalconyTV?

In India, we run BalconyTV as a passion project, and not a revenue generator. At the same time, the concept must sustain itself, and cover production costs and ensure quality - to do this we are now licensing the content to television. MTV Indies airs our latest releases simultaneously with us, as well as showing older videos.

Worldwide, different producers in different cities do things differently, but the brand has monetisation from online channels as well as licensing. 

Do you have a primary investor on board?

In India that would be us, as we are investing our resources and efforts to make the brand widespread. However, globally, BalconyTV has recently been acquired by The Orchard Group, a large, established music company with interests all over the world.

In your opinion, what is the investment required to promote an artiste’s original composition?

It is very difficult to say as it depends on the following and status of the artiste, the social media outreach the artiste is able to personally do, etc. It also differs significantly if the artiste is promoting his own work or showcasing it on a platform like ours that has a captive audience.

In addition to Mumbai and Delhi, do you plan to start BalconyTV in other cities?

Yes, Mumbai and Delhi represent North and West India. We are launching Calcutta for East India and Bangalore for the South in the coming year.

Where do you see BalconyTV in the next couple of years?

As the go-to place to discover new talent, as well as a benchmark to listen to how a band sounds live.