| 22 Jun 2024
Art funding concept nascent in India: Sonya Mazumdar

IndiEarth XChange's fourth edition is all set to commence on 27 November at Vivanta by Taj - Connemara, Chennai. This edition of the conference will be hosted at a new venue to accommodate more industry professionals from across 20 countries.

In spite of the number of growing professionals, there is a different approach to events like this, which EarthSync CEO Sonya Mazumdar, highlights in this interview.

Mazumdar and her company, EarthSync, have been very much involved in highlighting and developing the art scene in India. Despite having an array of IPs under them, it still feels the pinch of being niche in the space. IndiEarth XChange for India is a platform to build business relationships among the cultural industry and arts. Through this initiative, it helps export of talent from India.

There is change in venue this time, why so? Does it have to do with the growing popularity of the conference?

The change in venue is simply to accommodate the expansion of the festival – we needed a larger venue and more performance spaces to accommodate the artists we have programmed on the lineup this year.

How many people are you looking at this edition?

The past edition had a footfall of over 5000 people, we expect more this year given the larger venues. This edition is bringing together a unique cross section of delegates from different corners of the world and different sectors of the music, film and media industries.

Events like IndiEarth XChange have always had a local as well as international flavour, how do you manage that?

The aim of XChange has always been to create these networks between Indian and international industry delegates, and build business relationships that develop the culture industry and arts, opening new markets for industry in India, and creating international markets for Indian artists. For years now EarthSync has been building these bridges with different festivals and entities of the international industry, and have also facilitated several Indian artists – including Teddy Boy Kill, Business Class Refugees, The Ganesh Talkies, Filter Coffee, Shai’ir + Func, Nucleya, Ravi Iyer and classical Carnatic artist Jayanthi Kumaresh – to actually perform at various international festivals. Our aim is to continue to give Indian artists these opportunities, through industry changing initiatives like XChange.

Such activities boost tourism and help the locals as well. Do you turn to the authorities for any assistance, and how have they been responding to you?

XChange has a huge impact on tourism for Chennai and the region, and directly impacts the economy with the large number of Indian and international delegates and artists who come to XChange, and later travel around the area. Tamil Nadu Tourism Development Corporation (TTDC) have been very supportive of our festivals. We do make it a point to engage with the local community in all the work we do.

The workshop program looks very interesting. Why has the number of workshops increased, and how was it decided?

XChange’s Workshops program is an initiative under the EarthSync Academy, where we offer master classes and specialised skills training with renowned professionals from the Indian and international arts industries. We have got some great workshops in store – on filmmaking techniques, practical workshops on different music software and gear, a workshop on Music Journalism with Simon Broughton from Songlines UK – who will be introducing ideas and practical knowledge that I believe will be incredibly beneficial for the growth of arts journalism in India. 

In terms of percentage, how much has sponsorship increased? Has there been a change in the way sponsors come on board?

We have had incredible support from international arts organisations, Indian media platforms, industry professionals and educational institutions - longstanding partnerships that have supported us through the years and understand the importance of our work toward industry sustainability, beyond the sponsorship model. The reality particularly in India is that sponsors tend to lean towards more mainstream events with larger footfalls or mass audiences. They have not yet understood the longer term value of sponsoring events, artists and art forms that will down the line reap returns or develop the culture industry as a whole. Alternative genres and traditional art forms are not being adequately promoted by local sponsors, while often these are what international markets actually look to India for. The concept of arts funding is still at a very nascent stage in India - looking more towards ‘M&E’ rather than a longer term impact investment.

You have brought on board a Chinese act. Does it have anything to do with the Chinese entry in the film festival?

The artist is called Tulegur and their music is rooted in the traditional melodies of Inner Mongolia (the Mongolian areas of China) – but they have this fascinating blend of traditional elements and throat singing (Khoomei), with contemporary electronic textures and acoustic rock, and have played at some of the finest festivals worldwide. Very different to anything else you are likely to experience in Chennai in the near future! The film from China is called Spring Dawn – a beautifully poetic short film by director Xie Chenglin.  

How much per cent, in registration, comes from India? Apart from India, which other regions do you getting registration from?

We have registrations from Indian industry members and also students streaming in – about 60 – 70 per cent of our registrations are from India. Internationally, we have delegates coming from Australia, France, Scotland, Ireland, Reunion Island, China, Spain, and the UK to name a few countries.

Conferences like these always act as platforms for conversations to take place and deals to happen. What would you like to say to people who want to enter the music or film industry but do not know where to start?

We have seen some incredible success stories come out of XChange 2015 – many artists have been programmed to play at festivals worldwide after their showcases at XChange, and many bridges have been built on the spot between different industry professionals - resulting in tangible economic results. Seeing results like this materialise, and over the course of just three days, reaffirms the purpose of XChange.

I would say to people who want to know more about the industry, how it works, meet some of the key players on the Indian and international scene – to come to XChange, it is the only trade event for music, film and media in India where key members of the international community can meet, engage in dialogue and build bridges for the future.