| 15 Jul 2024
AWAL founder Denzyl Feigelson - This is the right time for a new model in the industry

UK based AWAL (Artists Without A Label) founder Denzyl Feigelson was recently in India at Ficci Frames 2010 to speak on 'Music Industry and Remedies For its Revival'. A musician, and a music therapist, Feigelson has been credited with having closely worked on iTunes when it started in 2007.

An innovator on the digital music space, his brainchild AWAL, has proved to be a significant platform for independent artistes across the globe who prefer to release their material digitally instead of going to a label.

AWAL does what the labels do, in fact more like distribution, licensing and even sales tracking making it more transparent for the artists, and hence more preferred over labels. One of their key features is their �easy to understand' agreements with artistes which don't really run into pages. In short, AWAL is a few steps ahead already and is fast gaining popularity among the independent artists.

Denzyl Feigelson, in an exclusive interaction with's Chirag Sutar -

Digital music is gaining popularity, but besides i-tunes, there hasn't been any break-through innovation ...

Well, I think this is the right time for a new model in the industry - whether it's for AWAL, or pieces of AWAL - we are all searching for this new model. A model which I feel can have a lot of scope is something that helps the user to discover music which suits his taste.

For example, if you like Rihanna and Stevie Wonder, I can pretty much find what kind of music you prefer, and according to your liking, I'll give you a playlist. This model acts like a tastemaker for the user, and maybe after a time, the user might start liking the various playlists the service has to offer and he may just subscribe say for 5 dollars a month. I think this could be a future of subscription the magic lies in figuring out about the users taste, and at the same time help him discover new music 

Do you plan to do anything in India?

That's one of the reasons why I am here…

Can you tell us what's in store then?

The only thing I can share is that Hungama CEO Neeraj Roy wanted me to come to India for a long time, and he has been inspired by AWAL, and I have been inspired with the stuff that he has been doing on the mobile front - so I think there's a really good fit.

Do any of the Indian artistes interest you?

I personally love Indian music, and I am a big fan of Pt. Ravi Shankar, Anoushka Shankar and A R Rahman - in fact, I had invited him once to my office in London. Among Indian artistes, we do have a Shillong based artiste Karen David on AWAL.

Is there scope for Indian indie artistes?

For sure – there are a lot of opportunity for Indian artistes because there is a big community who like Indian music  

What is that one idea that you'd like to give the indie artistes?

Well, for the artistes... one of the important things is that they have to become like a brand. Because, over a period, people buy into you as a brand - they like to have your T-shirt, your cap, and tell friends about you. I think artistes around are learning how to become a better brand, and from what I can understand, though the culture might be different back here,  artistes can learn how to gather audience by making good music, and writing great lyrics.
I read that heavy metal is popular in India. 

Yes, there is a very loyal audience for heavy metal...

So there is something to learn from that...

Do you think it's important for artistes to have mass appeal?

Most artistes are realizing that they can do really well with the mid-tier - say someone with 1000 fans or 5000 can do a lot. And with 10,000 or two million fans it's even more amazing. For instance, if you have their email addresses - that can be great - you can bypass everything - you can say 'hey here's my new song that I recorded last night - I'll sell it to you for 50 cents' - once you get the direct to consumer relationship the possibilities become even more...

With social networking, many artistes are promoting themselves on Facebook and Twitter incessantly. Don't you feel artistes are overdoing the promotions, and as a result getting over exposed?

I think it's a new world... but I agree that there needs to be a balance, and an artiste who is using social networking to promote himself should keep his fans engaged with new things - it can be songs, merchandise, or something exclusive for those who follow him. As far as over exposure goes, it is a problem for artistes who are too successful in a way. I think if you are a new or emerging artistes, you have to find people who like you because they are there on the web 

According to you, will artistes go to music labels five years down the line?

I don't think artiste will go to music labels five years down the line - unless music labels change the way they work  

While many artistes would be approaching you... do you also consciously look out for artistes?

I get a lot of emails that I look at, and if I like something, I pass it on to my A&R. We have a very diverse catalogue from unsigned acts, to bands that used to have big record deals. We do search or try to find all kind of things that are very good.

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