RadioandMusic
| 24 Oct 2020
Luke Kenny: "2012 has been a fantastic year for international music"

9XO programming head Luke Kenny:

Emergence of international music:

“It’s the end of the world as we know it…and I feel fine” so sang Michael Stipe of the band REM way back in the 1980s… and since then many doomsday dates and theories have popped up and gone by with not even as much as a whimper. So by the time you read this it will be past the ‘end of the world’ date of the 21-12-2012 and if you haven’t been partying too hard you will notice that nothing much has changed. Drastically. Well, maybe you might have to get over a bigger hangover but that’s about it.

April 2012 saw the launch of 9XO, India’s only 100 per cent international music channel. A channel that reconstructs and reinvents the original dream that music television was founded on, delivering pure music 24X7. This was a dream that has become convoluted, mutated and deviated since the time India woke up to music television way back in the 20th century, circa 1992. 

I have been fortunate enough to be a part of that landscape through its formative years, its halcyon days and its troubled times. Fortunately I detached myself before the funeral came by.

International music in India has always been an aspirational culture, where those exposed to it had an edge over those not yet initiated. While International music has been in India since the times of the British Raj and post Independence, the country saw a bit of the jazz age segue into the swinging sixties and the dancing seventies, it wasn’t until the eighties that the youth began to tune into International music across the board.

Cut to the nineties, with the launch of satellite television and the birth of the internet in India, the landscape for international music changed 360 degrees. But over the next ten years, localization, fusion and all around mutation caused it to jostle for space until network bottom lines caused it to eject itself out of the very form it existed for.

9XO and the year that was:

And although it has had a healthy life in the online space, international music fans lamented its loss on the traditional television universe. So in the April of 2012 the launch of 9XO saw its light of day and has been in the relative spotlight ever since. Ripples resonated across the trade and advertiser databases, and feedback was tremendously positive as the vested parties saw this as a lucrative potential for their brands to reach out to its target consumers.

With hands on approach to programming and both eyes on the social media, the awareness and information dissemination has been on in full swing. And the time couldn’t have been better, 2012 has been a fantastic year for international music, with a whole bunch of new superstar artists creating and performing super successful music the new Indian youth seem to have returned to consuming international music by the truckloads.

Challenges:

But apart from all that, there have been downsides to the euphoria from a channel perspective, technology has been a bit of a spanner in the works with digitization and visibility taking its toll in its own way. But those are minor obstacles that time will remove from the upward path of 9XO.

And as time goes by consumers (trade, advertising and audiences) have begun viewing the channel as a ripe and prime space and opportunity to exploit for their gain to our advantage.

Competitors:

I am often asked about ‘competition’, to which I answer… ‘what competition?’ 9XO has not been set up to be competition, but a positive alternative to adhere to, when the fatigue of non music programming on lifestyle channels sets in. And, as viewers have told me, ‘once I tune in to 9XO, I can’t change the channel…’ such feedback is what the structure of 9XO feeds on.

Musician friends and colleagues have begun to seriously consider making music videos again. Artists who already have music videos online have begin sending in their videos knowing that they will get substantial rotation as opposed to the ‘play-it- and-lose-it’ ethic that exists elsewhere.

Road ahead:

Now while international music has been given an unconditional support system with 9XO, there is a whole shot-in-the-arm plan that is yet to be rolled out for the Indian Independent artists that have existed for so long. Although the newer artists have found their universal space on the internet, a huge clutter has amassed over time making it even more difficult for them to be singularly visible for their musical efforts.

A property called ‘OmeGrown’ which will roll out in January 2013 will address that very issue. From discovering new artists, to celebrating the stalwarts to even talking about Indie-geniuses, the complete diasporas of Indian Independent talent that uses International pop culture as their inspiration will be explored and revealed in a short form series that will receive exceptional visibility on the channel.

For any kind of sound, visual or culture to set in, it needs to be given time to breathe. And that exactly what 9XO aims to be, a breath of fresh air for the music that needs to breathe by musicians who breathe music.