| 22 Jul 2024
DNA Networks MD T Venkat Vardhan - Live entertainment is still not a priority industry in our economy

T Venkat Vardhan started DNA Networks in India over 20 years ago, when ground events in the country – fashion shows and sports events mainly, catered to small city based audiences. Started with a vision to provide solutions and a platform to successfully conduct an event on a scale akin to those in overseas markets, the company has come a long way, responsible for bringing in international artistes of repute to Indian shores.

In a chat with, T Venkat Vardhan talks about the live entertainment scenario in the country.


How well is the live entertainment event management business growing in India? Is it still a 60 40 ratio when it comes to revenues from sponsorships vis a vis ticket sales? Or is the equation changing?

The live entertainment business in India is growing at a steady pace, but it is however slower than the projected figures from recent reports. The ratios in fact are moving more towards sponsorship, as tickets rates are reducing, since there is a perception of entertainment options available aplenty. In my estimate, the ratio today stands at 70:30.

Which chunk/genre of live entertainment accounts for the maximum revenue?

The rock genre of music is still and will continue to be the main revenue earner in live entertainment, Hip Hop being the least.

What is holding back the live entertainment business from growing as much as it should be in the country?

Our young audiences seem to have a perception of confusion, and mainly follow mass trends of what's �in' or �cool'. Hence, for different options of live entertainment, there have not been many focused groups to embrace these trends.

DNA Networks has managed to make live entertainment one of the most effective marketing tools for advertisers. What are the efforts that go into it? Which are the segments that are supporting live entertainment primarily in the major live centres of India?

There has been a constant approach by DNA Networks to build a business around entertainment, to achieve which I had to develop a model where everyone who participated, gets value. Hence, sponsorship being a critical tool for success, I developed innovative ideas that brought value to the advertisers' brands, not just through mass media and PR, but actually from customer interface. The challenge is in being innovative and different with the changing landscape, which we have managed to keep abreast of.

What is the position of entertainment tax in various states? Are states forthcoming in wanting to bring it down, so that more international artistes can be brought into the country?

Since entertainment tax from live entertainment is minuscule in the larger landscape of cinema, malls etc, most states have not been responsive to reducing taxes.

After Iron Maiden, Aerosmith etc.... which are the other artistes/bands you plan to bring to India in the coming months? How have you managed to bring these bands for the first time to indian shores?

I think the success of bringing the big bands to India has been our quality delivery on all aspects of promoting a band and producing a concert. When you do this consistently, the reputation you build helps while talking to other prospective acts we may want to promote in India.

DNA Networks has been around for 20 years. How has it evolved? Was it difficult to get sponsors interested in live entertainment ground events?

It is never easy to get business, it takes lot of hard work in convincing people, and it is more important that when you get business, you have to service the advertiser well and meet the demands.

Which are the cities where you have observed the best response to international artistes?

The cities insorder of acceptance would be Bangalore, Mumbai and Delhi.

As President of the Event Management Association of India, what are the benefits you seek from the government?

I have made several representations and many of them have been implemented at the national level, but there's a long way to go, as this is still not a priority industry in the context of our economy in India.

The music played in stadia during the IPL matches has been a contentious issue with the PPL and the IPRS. Were the royalties too steep for the matches? Would you encourage other forms of music, other than popular Hindi film songs, for the next season?

By the next season of the IPL, all the franchisees will regroup and work out what they want to do. This time around, there was not enough advance time for planning, which resulted in the confusion on tariffs and royalties.

In the US, event promoters like Live Nation are rethinking the huge payments made to artistes for live concerts, saying that cutting costs will help make the business more viable. Comment.

Everyone is now looking at bringing down talent fees, since tickets in western markets have become so expensive, that the current tours are not selling out.

Television in India has been throwing up a lot of singing talent from various corners of the country. Is there scope for these to be promoted and turned into singing stars through live concerts?

Personally, for live performers to come out of reality shows is a long shot. It's a different sort of talent and endurance that is required altogether to create a real singing star.

The film star tours have done well...What else holds cachet with international audiences?

Film stars will do well with the NRI audiences as they are familiar with their films and music, but it's yet to cross over to the mainstream due to the language barrier.