| 22 Sep 2023
Do rock bands really rock Mumbai?

The rock scene in Mumbai is picking up.

There`s a gig almost every week, either at south Mumbai`s Not Just Jazz by the Bay, Bandra`s Seijo and The Soul Dish or at Aura in the suburbs.

Earlier restricted to ground events like Independence Rock, Mumbai`s market for live performances is now diversifying.

Coffee shops, malls and restaurants - rock shows are happening everywhere. From one rock show in three months in 2002, Mumbai now hosts one show every week. At times, even three to four performances a week run parallel to each other, most sold out days in advance.

So, are these good times for Mumbai`s emerging rock groups?

What`s rocking the city?

The good news is that rock bands and events are now turning mainstream, thanks to the interest the corporate world is showing in the rock bands. Brands like Yamaha, 3G, Royal Challenge, Nokia and Hutch (which does the Mood Indigo music fest every year) are more willing to sponsor shows, for the monetary gains these events promise, as well as the brand building it offers.The bad news however, is that it is only the established names that sell. Since the audience attending live rock events is very niche, organisers try and rope in bands with a track record. Musicians say the crowds aren`t ready to accept new bands and that freshers have to face a hard time to enter the lime light. Where do the bands come from?

Bands are picked up from on-campus events to perform elsewhere, or are made up of individual musicians who want to make a difference to the music that Indians listen to. The passion for music amongst friends also encourages the formation of such bands, like the Bombay Rock Association (B.R.A), an organisation that promotes rock music, youth and social issues, that was started back in 1997.

Says the association`s president Sujeet Ramanna, "The Mumbai market for Live Rock events is picking up in a big way, though Delhi and Bangalore continue to be a larger market as the demand there is more. But yes, sponsors and corporates are beginning to show confidence in rock events now."

I-Rock a.k.a Independence Rock which was considered to be the father of rock events once, appears to have lost its charm, with the event this year failing to create the buzz it did in earlier years.

Among the smaller bands, the lack of a platform and the need to lead a regular life with a steady income has split many bands, as has the ego factor.

Also, unlike in the south and the northeast, where original compositions by bands are encouraged and even bought at stores, Mumbai bands continue to sing covers and Bollywood music, in the absence of an appreciative clientele, rue musicians.

Where do these bands perform?

Since bands just cannot wait for big ground events to showcase their talent, they have been performing live at pubs, restaurants and caf©s. The Mumbai hot spots being Hard Rock Cafe, Not Just Jazz by the Bay, Polyeseter, Sports Bar, Seijo and the souldish, Poison, Bonds and many others.

"It is a great feeling to perform live in front of an audience that is there to appreciate you. There is a very niche crowd you will find at almost all places that have live performances. But the problem is that they just want to hear labels and not original soundtracks," says lead singer of the band `The Works`, Mihir Joshi, who also doubles up as an RJ on Rainbow FM in daytime.

Money wise

In a city like Mumbai, can band members afford to make this their all time profession? The answer to this is now becoming assertive. A lot of bands initially performed without any returns and just for the love for music. But now bands are becoming more and more commercial. While some bands still do it in return of the space the concerned sponsor provides to them, but quite a few are putting their feet down.

Even pubs and restaurants that encourage such live performances provide bands with a good return nowadays. Not Just Jazz by the Bay pays a band an approximate of Rs5,000 whereas Hard Rock Caf© pays a sum of Rs 6,000 to 10,000 to a band per night, say sources.

Says Nihar, founder of anEcho, an organization that promotes non-commercial music and artists, "Earlier bands performed for a mere three figure pay and what they earned was a token from the corporates. But today bands have become more demanding. They realize how important it is to make optimum use of their talents. Today they charge a decent amount for performing."

Some places to look out for in Mumbai for live performances: 1Aura (Powai) 2Seijo and the Soul Dish (Bandra (W)) 3Polyester (Marine Plaza) 4Poison (Bandra (W)) 5Mocha (All outlets - Bandra, Malad, Churchgate, Lokhandwala)6Brew Bar( Lower Parel ) 7Sports Bar (All outlets) 8Hard Rock Caf© (Lower Parel) 9Brew Bar (Bandra (W)) 10Zenzi (All outlets) 11Razz Razzberry Rhinoceros (Juhu) 12Bonds( Vashi)  (Source: -

The big names in the industry

Industry sources aver that big bands like Parikrama, Indian Ocean and the others have their set of audience and audiences are still reluctant to accept new styles. Hence, the bands as well as sponsors are scared of trying anything new. So, while the small bands make do with four figure pay packets per show, the big ones earn around Rs 1,00,000 to Rs 2,00,000 a show.

"Only the renowned names in the industry work. The small time bands might be talented but no one risks the monetary aspect of a show. Parikrama, Pentagram, Agni and Brahma are the few popular ones. The sponsors are less willing to take the risk with new bands," says PDM Entertainment COO Aman Anand.

(Pics courtesy

Managing fine

The business of arranging rock events is no longer restricted to organizations such as B.R.A and An echo. Corporates as well as individuals have jumped into the fray too.One such rock artist and band manager is Vipul Kunte, who says, "Corporate events have rock bands and artists performing. Artists performing Bollywood music are more in demand even today. But events such as I-Rock and Corporate Event `07 are encouraging rock performances too. Even pubs and discotheques play a huge role in shaping the taste of music in people."

What does the future hold?

Rock in Mumbai is `happening` but yet to pick up in a big way with the masses, unlike the scene in Bangalore or Kolkata. Bands rue the fact that they have a lot in store to offer but don`t have the right audience to cater to.

"Rock bands need a voice that can reach people and that voice needs to be media. Unless and until media doesn`t get their talent into the lime light it would never be possible to make rock bands mainstream completely," sums up Joshi.

Singing a different tune: Can rock bands in Mumbai take a leaf out of Radiohead`s new initiative?

While the ground rock scene is still picking up, bands can now look to the internet for succour - both monetary and as brand building.English rock band Radiohead`s decision to offer its new album In Rainbow for free online has spooked the recording industry overseas, which is fighting desperately to maintain a grip on music distribution.Experts say that Radiohead`s decision to circumvent the major labels is a milestone - the group has asked listeners to pay as much as they feel like when they buy the album online. The way ahead now is to use websites like MySpace and Facebook to act "as social filters and be the marketing and promotional teams behind great new artists". The most effective way to market bands will be to associate them with what he calls "social causes" ?“ essentially marketing themes that consumers can identify with ?“ much as Radiohead has positioned itself against the record industry`s oligopoly.