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Features |  07 Feb 2012 19:22 |  By 

Bollywood Music vis-a-vis Independent music - Where does the line blur?

Artist Aloud associate VP Soumini Sridhara Paul

A senior colleague in the music industry, running a very successful radio station once told me, Bollywood music is Independent music till it goes into a Bollywood Film.... Wow! How beautifully put and so absolutely true. But do people really look at it that way? We all say Bollywood music and non-film music. But has anyone ever wondered why?

In all my years of having dealt with music, be it Bollywood or non-Bollywood, I believe it isn't the creator of the music or the listener that creates that differentiation. In fact it is the media, the budgets and the packaging that does it. In the early days when Bollywood started using media to promote its films, one only saw big budget films with lavish locale videos and 35 mm footage. Today Bollywood is a brand where even small budget movies and stories get the same visibility and largeness as the magnum opus.

So why it is that Independent music cannot get the same eyeballs or focus like films? Honestly speaking, it baffles me too. But when I try to ponder on it, here is what I believe might be the reason. The film industry today is in a whirlpool that is going round and round and sinking in the process. There is a chain of businesses that is trying to keep it together where on the top of the ladder is the financer and at the bottom is the consumer and in the middle at various levels you have the producer, director, actors, music director, singers, media and even the telcos.

Today, even if creative team putting the movie together does not include big names, or could be even debutants, the producer needs to recover his investment in every way possible; and so with the help of media that is depending on content and faces, the circle is completed. More importantly, the content that is being used to promote the film, whether it is song trailers or dialogue trailers, builds up the anticipation of a content (Read: Film) which can be experienced in larger context. Also with the number of films being released today, literally, once a week, we are talking about an ecosystem which essentially provides for one another.

In comparison to this, Independent Music (Music not coming from a film) does not get the required support from conventional media. The reason is clearly got to do with the quantity of content. For more than five years, there was no Independent music being released by the label. And those who tried to go to media directly did it individually and in spurts. The truth is that no channel of entertainment will build itself on sporadic content.  Therefore this is how Bollywood became our best friend and vice versa.

This column is not about Bollywood vs. the rest. It's only the truth and reality that Independent artists should be made aware of. The creator of music is not the only front runner to it's success. It is also the businesses that try to support it and work around this great content. India is the only country that has music created for films, a genre which is bigger than independent music. The only way this industry can be turned around, is when artists stop believing that the icing on the cake is only when his/her song makes it to Bollywood. There needs to be patience, support and belief that their music has to be built on their own steam and not on that of a film or its stars.

The recent event conducted by Mumbai Mirror in Mumbai's Bandra Amphitheatre which apparently houses only about a thousand people featured some of the biggest Independent Artists like Indian Ocean and Advaita. The actual event saw a whopping 4000 people as audience. Wow! Amazed aren't you? Well don't be. Independent Music is the next big thing today. Venues, brands and consumers see it. Now all we need is for the artist to see it. The only reason we keep hearing of only a hand full of artists like Parikrama, Indian Ocean, Raghu Dixit, Swarathma, Pentagram, Ankur and the Ghalat Family, SoulMate, etc. Today when we hear about Independent Music is because these artists have been at it for years. They ventured into some Bollywood opportunities but stuck to their individual style and did not steer completely into Bollywood.

Independent Music is here to stay and grow but even though it feels that it has a long way to go, to catch up to the visibility of Bollywood Music in terms of conventional media, the test is in consistency and tenacity and the urge to beat the odds. The idea is not to replace Bollywood but to create a music consumption that makes the artist the hero and not the hero the artist.