| 26 May 2024
Indian Nightlife Convention 2016: Music agencies ask venues to get into shape

MUMBAI: Organising or curating a music gig in Indian metropolitan cities has witnessed encouraging development through various forms - be it approachable and educated venues, corporate brands’ long-term support and more importantly, tireless dedicated artist management companies.

At the Indian Nightlife Convention held in Mumbai on Monday, a panel representing some of these artist agencies responsible for the execution of live gigs across the country offered its views. Moderated by Kenneth Lobo, the panellists featured Unmute's Dev Bhatia, OML's Tej Brar, Krunk's Sohail Arora, Pune-based restaurateur Sammy Singh, Mixtape’s Naveen Deshpande. The agencies, who today share a good relationship with venues across the country, threw some light on the early days and how it continues to remain a difficult task to ensure that venues get their music right.

The dais echoed Unmute's Dev Bhatia's opinion on how some F&B managers of certain venues discuss music and their lack of expertise in the area usually leads to poorer outcome of the entire show. The practice is more evident in Delhi, added Bhatia, and predominantly exists in the F&B-centric venues. Having said that, Bhatia also acknowledges the ‘Catch 22’ fix these venues usually find themselves in. “Venues know what is trending and they understand what is cool. But unfortunately for them and us, they cannot play it because that music would not bring 100 people to the venue.”

Mumbai-based artist management agency Krunk, founded by Sohail Arora, has been instrumental in pushing a certain sound to the listeners that further makes it easier for venues to approach Krunk. “People come to us when they require that sound. So for eight years, we have grown and evolved in terms of strengths and the amount of shows we execute,” said Arora.

The problem lies, as these agencies emphasised, with the lack of long-term vision concerning venues. “If an act works for the first time, but fails to pull in crowd the second time, then the venue probably panics and, in the future, feels reluctant to work with that artist again. To be fair, it becomes challenging for us and the artist to put in a scene together,” informed Arora. These agencies that essentially act as the middle ground for artists and venues also find brand-let initiatives and partnerships with venue a small obstacle in executing shows. Most brands (mostly alcohol brands) have yearly tie-ups with venues and if a certain act’s sound does not relate to the ideology of that brand, then it’s more challenging to put up a show. “It would be twice the amount of money and effort for that brand to partner with the venue and then us to execute the show.”

Arguably the leading talent management, in terms of artist roster and activities on live front, Only Much Louder (OML) adopted data-driven strategy to understand the crowd, city and its respective venues. Through, its own ticketing portal, OML collects the data and information regarding an act’s fan and later targets the same set of fans through emails whenever the artist is about to perform in the city. “We achieved that initially through free distribution of music. We found out where our fans came from. OML shares good relationship with venues across the country, hence, be it a single performance or any act’s multi-city tour, arranging both has gradually become an easier task for us.” However, Brar understands the entire ecosystem has not yet evolved and “while good venues respect the agencies and stick to their programming, some venues would change the programming as soon as bigger brands jump in with their initiatives.” Brar provided the Levi’s live initiatives with OML as an ideal example to the brand-agency partnership that purely focuses on artist and fans’ interests.

Mixtape's Naveen Deshpande concluded the discussion with a plea and suggestion, asking the venues to plan well in advance. The lack of planning, more often than not, has been the biggest obstacle hampering ‘well laid plans’ and the last minute arrangements do not serve fruitful purpose. Social and the brand’s live extension antiSocial – in Mumbai and Delhi – serves as an effective example in terms of artist-focused platforms and systematic planning throughout the calendar.