| 04 Oct 2023
I am happy to see the independent scene get more attention: Soumini Sridhara Paul

MUMBAI: They provided a platform to the independent artist when everyone else was busy singing Bollywood. This digital media, distribution and talent management platform made independent musicians their priority and strived to give them their share due. It wasn’t an easy journey for Artist Aloud, but with the support of its parent company Hungama and the independent industry the platform survived through the thick and thin days. Artist Aloud proudly completed eight years this month and this eighth milestone is just the beginning of many more successful years to come.

We at connected with Artist Aloud VP Soumini Sridhara Paul to understand eight years of this independent music flag bearing platform and their future plans. Excerpts.

Eight years and still going strong, what is the secret of Artist Aloud's success?

Evolution, tenacity, prudence, passion, a great team and an unending backing of a company like Hungama have been the secrets to Artist Aloud’s success. It’s like I was told, “8 years in digital is equivalent to 18 years.”

A lot has changed in the last eight years in the music industry. There are many independent labels today, there are a handful of streaming services and everyone's out there to promote indie artist. Does that make survival more challenging for Artist Aloud?

Not at all. In fact, I am happy to see that the independent scene is getting more and more attention. After all, years of similar attention is what has made Bollywood indispensable in spite of all the flops and losses, year on year. It also is a testimony to our belief when we set out to launch Artist Aloud that there is promise in supporting the independent scene. At that time, Hungama was the only company that had the vision and foresight to believe in it and put its might, money and muscle behind it. We feel proud to be the first movers and by the grace of God we continue to do so in all our endeavours whether it is through our services of distribution and promotions to talent, our IPs like Artist Aloud Music Awards, World Music Day Festival, WebCert, etc or India’s first ever exclusive talent and independent content App across IOS, Android and Windows that has won four awards including a Gold, Silver and Bronze in just the first year of its launch.

What have been the ups and downs of Artist Aloud in the last eight years and what does the future hold?

The first seven years were very tough and challenging with occasional budget cuts and staggered revenue. It was taking us time to find our bearing and define what we were all about. But now that the seven-year itch has gone by and we have completed eight years, we can see light at the other end of the tunnel with clear business verticals chalked out along with consistent month-on-month revenue. Now we are very focused and committed to building three verticals - distribution and promotions for independent content and talent as a service, Talent  Booking, Venue Programming and IPs and a destination across Web and App for fans who can experience handpicked original content from talent across music, comedy, poetry, etc. This year will definitely be about other art forms besides more and more of music. 

Any Artist Aloud success stories that you'd like to narrate.

Every year we have had some great moments but the eight-year has definitely been the most special for three main reasons - we won four Awards for the Artist Aloud App in just one year of its launch. We made amazing distribution numbers and revenue through the release of Coke Studio 10 and we launched a new property with Hard Rock Cafe for Tuesday Nights called ARISE which will now take off in a big way across the country.

We often complain about lack of money in the independent space. The festivals seem to be changing the scenario from the outside. What's the real story?

Different players in the market have defined their business model in the independent space in different ways. Some have focused only on live events including specific genres while some have defined it in talent management and booking and some purely in distribution. While finding one's niche can be helpful in targeting funding/sponsorship, the truth lies that most players are only in it from a business point of view. Hardly anyone has tried to build an ecosystem. Unless we have that ecosystem in place we will always be seeing less money in this space and some players seeming to be making profits because they are doing niche projects. I do understand that businesses can survive only if they make money but what is more urgently needed are more players who are willing to go the long mile to keep this space alive and growing. I think Hungama has proved its mettle when it comes to going the long mile.

Is the music industry genuinely concerned about the artiste? Or is it pure business, because there are panel discussions and big talks, but the creative lot still needs a part-time job to survive.

Times have changed and it is important to evolve with it. In the days when record labels set up businesses around talent by scouting for them and then nurturing them, the entire business model was based on recovery through sales of cassettes and CDs which over a period of time included shows as well. While talent has always been in abundance, only a few who were discovered and seemed a good ROI were given a chance to be in the limelight. However, with the advent of social media and DIY opportunities, talent became something that everyone believed was their birthright to showcase and hence the tables turned from labels needing talent to talent needing labels/platforms to promote them. The ratio of that has gone completely off balance where the number of artists is way more than the number of labels/platforms that can invest in them. Hence, now it is the artist that needs to invest in himself to build a promising sustainable fan base before a company can put in its own investment in that promising talent. Internationally, that is how things have evolved. The positive part of this is that the artist has control of his own creativity and has a proven track record of the same by building a fan base. And hence, yes, before an artist can get someone else to put some money on him, he needs to invest in himself first and for that, if he needs to have day jobs then I see nothing wrong in it. After all, in today’s day and age every human being wants to be in control of his life and career and hence an artist similarly has taken the creative route. 

How many artists do you have on board and what is your strategy for them?

We currently have over 600 artists on board with content and over 4000 users who have registered themselves as artists. For the artists whose content we have on board, we are constantly pushing their content through our distribution platforms and looking at ways we can work with them on our live projects. For the registered artists who have still not given us content, we are constantly engaging with them in various activities and projects we do where we can have them participate. And over the past year, Artist Aloud has been building its partnership and alliances so that artists can invest in themselves and get the best of what they expect at a reasonable cost with expected results.

What are Artist Aloud's 2018 plans?

We have the 6th edition of Artist Aloud Music Awards coming up. ARISE in partnership with Hard Rock Cafe is going to get more active. We are hoping to put together the 3rd edition of the World Music Day Festival and of course content will continue to be a big focus along with more aggressive distribution strategies. And last but not the least we aim to build Artist Aloud App more for fans and give them a great experience both through product and content.