Aishwarya Natarajan (30), through her line of work in the music industry, realised that Indian classical musicians/artistes are often unprofessionally managed. “Considering they’re seen as torchbearers of India’s rich musical heritage, it is sad their careers are not looked after by a professional. And I’ve also come to realise that they’re often content letting family members or students manage their schedules and media interactions,” says Natarajan.
She saw a gap between good music and one that sells, which disillusioned her. She also realised that there was potential in artiste management, especially with classical artistes. She then decided to start Indianuance, a Mumbai-based artiste management and concert programmers company in 2010. Her foray into this business also has much to do with her love for music. Natarajan started learning music at the age of four. Though she completed her MBA and later worked with a research firm, in seven months time she decided to work in the music industry. In 2006, she joined the ‘artistes and repertoire’ team at Music Today (India Today’s music label) managing the content. In 2008, she shifted to SaReGaMa music label, managing the spiritual and wellness genre. “There were many active indie bands that I got to know of, and eventually even consulted for one of them,” she adds.
Indianuance started off as a discussion with her brother, who now takes care of backend work while his wife pitches in as the web designer. It was set up in 2010 and now handles the careers of five artistes plus two artistes on need-basis, with flautist Shashank Subramanyam to be the first to come onboard. Other artistes include sitarist Shujaat Khan, Dhrupad vocalists The Gundecha Brothers and musician Pandit Ajay Pohankar besides others. Indianuance helps seek festivals, suggest collaborations among artistes, arrange live performances, manage record label deals and marketing besides other services. “We represent artistes who’ve roots in classical music. It could be folk music artistes and contemporary-classical music artistes. We’re particular that we work with artistes whose music we like,” says Natarajan.
But there were challenges. “Many concert organisers do not understand who an artiste manager is. So, it is important for us to establish a solid identity. Also, building networks is time-consuming,” she adds. Natarajan also rues that getting people to adjust to professional management takes time, especially when many concerts are arranged orally. Despite these challenges, her work was recognised by the British Council when she won their Young Music Entrepreneur Award this year and made a trip to UK in this regard.
Natarajan’s vision is to help classical music gain newer audiences. Bombay Baithak is an initiative to do simply that, by tying up with artistes and getting a small group of youngsters in an interactive gathering to help demystify the music. “Though, at the moment, we need more funding to take this forward,” she shares. Her immediate goal now is to hire and set-up a PR wing for Indianuance. “We have been getting good responses from south-east Asian countries, UK, France and Switzerland, where local agents help us sometimes. But we need to reach out to more festivals and bigger markets.” In the future, Natarajan hopes to host a music festival herself and take up the cause of music education.
To set up an independent PR wing to help showcase better both Indianuance’s and the artiste’s work
Host music festivals
DJ Reverb’s Groove
Nikhil Khedekar does not need a reason to party every other night. For him, it is just a way to earn his livelihood. As a disc jockey (DJ), he runs DJ Reverb’s Groove that organises DJs for nightclubs and other festivities. Though Khedekar does the DJing on most nights, but he also leans on his network of DJs to whom he outsources the work during more demanding nights. “Since we’ve established a certain reputation in the market, the newcomers get more experience and quality work by tying up with me,” says Khedekar. On a good night in Mumbai, he earns anywhere between Rs. 20,000 up to one lakh rupees depending on the venues, and working up to five nights a week during a good season.
“While the likes of DJ Akbar Sami have pushed the envelope for DJs in India, it is still in a nascent stage. Though I find no age restrictions, there are more male DJs than women since the work involves late nights, so probably many women do not easily receive family support.”
“A good DJ should respond to the crowd he is playing to. He should be comfortable to any genre of music and learn to transition through the genres. Presenting your craft well also plays a role,” he says on the qualities he looks for while hiring DJs. And surely, Khedekar would have a good ear for it considering he has been in this field since 2003. Though DJing has been a dream of his since childhood, he studied electronics engineering at Mumbai University. When a couple of DJs came over to his college for the freshers’ party, he realised he needed to be a part of it. “I joined a group and worked on my skill,” says the 26-year-old. Soon after, he tied up with a hotel for over a year to DJ for its club and also did his diploma in sound engineering. Besides working in a few studios, he also learnt advanced music production from well-known DJ Arnold Misquitta.
DJ Reverb’s Groove was set up with the help of his friend and partner, Jythesh Acharya, who takes care of music production. “DJ Reverb’s Groove happened in the course of time. Around 2006-07, we gave it a name. As I moved onto freelancing, my network also improved more,” says Khedekar. With an initial investment of about Rs. 5 lakh, he got a studio set up in his house. “Besides DJs, we also provide sound and lighting solutions for the event. We work on an outsourcing model,” he adds. In 2011, Khedekar was able to get one of his initial remixes, Boom Boom by popular Pakistani singer Nazia Hassan, aired by a radio station in South Africa with the help of an acquaintance. In April this year, he also completed his one-year marketing course from the Great Lakes Institute of Management, Chennai. “It is important to also know the business side of the job,” he states.
“While the likes of DJ Akbar Sami have pushed the envelope for DJs in India, it is still in a nascent stage. Though I find no age restrictions, there are more male DJs than women since the work involves late nights, so probably many women do not easily receive family support,” says Khedekar. While he had plans to start a record label to promote artistes, that proposal has been put on a hold for now. Khedekar himself has been signed on by a record label that will see him collaborating with other artistes as well. “It is a three-album deal. While the first one will be purely remixes that will be out by next February, the other two would have original compositions besides remixes. A lot depends on the responses we receive for the first one,” he concludes excitedly.
Signed a three-album deal with a record label that will see Khedekar collaborating with other artistes as well. The first one will be purely remixes that will be out by next February, the other two would have original compositions besides remixes.