A drop in the number of mainstream releases has led to the emergence of a new generation of independent musicians across India, who have used lockdown to compose, record and release fresh music.
As the pandemic has brought big business to their knees, including showbiz, independent music artists have used this time to put their ingenuity to the fore. Almost every day, music was written, created, composed and released on various streaming platforms.
A drop in the number of mainstream releases by music companies and major labels has led to the emergence of a new generation of independent musicians, says Malvika Nanda, founder of The Big Beat, brand and media strategist specializing in the music. âMany independent musicians depend on live concerts for money and awareness. With concerts off the table during the pandemic, artists had a lot more time to compose, finish, record, strategize and finally release new tracks, âshe says.
Artists like Sartek, Varun Rajput (Antariksh), Sadu (Aryans), Midhaven, Hitesh Rikki Madan, Peepal Tree, Rohan Solomon and Lucky Ali are some of the many musicians who have produced and released music videos over the past few months.
Digital space to the rescue
Independent artist and composer Vivek Verma
Mumbai-based freelance artist and songwriter Vivek Verma says independent music artists have had the opportunity to harness the potential of digital streaming platforms and have found it easier to engage with their audiences. âHowever, independent musicians need to understand that every six months the international standard of sound for independent music changes. If they can keep pace, they will achieve their goals,â he adds. Bollywood music works on situational music, so composers have certain limitations. The culture of experimentation within songs sets independent music apart. They appreciate the freedom to make their songs different until a pattern of sound. emerges.
For rock and metal bands, the energy of performing in front of a live audience cannot be replicated on a digital platform, but they quickly adapted. Delhi-based singer and sound engineer Rohan Solomon said: âSince the lockdown didn’t allow me to perform live on stage, I would occasionally go live on Instagram and perform with my guitar for people who would join in and chat with me. It’s a good way to connect with the audience, it gives you an idea of ââthe impact your last single may have had on someone.
Singer Ishaan Nigam emphasizes keeping fans connected. âFrequent live streaming on social media platforms is important. Apart from that, it is imperative to release new music and collaborate with other artists, âsays Ishaan who collaborated with lyricist-songwriter Brite Roy for the songsâ O Jaana â,â Saawariya â,â Qaafirana Shayrana â,â O Chaand â. – everything during confinement. “I’m a 90s kid so I did a ten song cover series called # Nostalgic90sWithIshaan in conjunction with musician Sagar Godavaria who produced the music for all the songs.”
Soumini Sridhara Paul, Senior Vice President, Hungama Artist Aloud
Soumini Sridhara Paul, Senior Vice President, Hungama Artist Aloud, said music streaming platforms have either started cataloging artist content or created space for new content. âIt benefited independent artists and helped them gain visibility. âWith the closure of Bollywood, it was a great opportunity for them to engage with artists. We supported their releases and created new digital IPs like #StayAtHome #StayEntertained which spanned nearly five seasons and featured over 250 artists.
Improve to stay relevant
Has everything that has been broadcast on digital platforms been successful? Some virtual programs broadcast live lacked technical finesse, but in general the recorded music was of good quality. According to Malvika, âIn terms of content, the artists presented a dynamic range of themes in and around the pandemic. With time on hand and nowhere to go, they spent a lot of time perfecting themselves. They honed their skills by learning how to produce, record and set up home studios with decent equipment.
Independent artist Ishaan Nigam
Ishaan began to learn music production on his own to record and produce unplugged tracks in his home studio that he set up during the pandemic. âBesides being a singer, I also explored my musicality as a songwriter and lyricist,â he says. For Vivek, it was time to study Hindustani music theory and better understand âshrutiâ and âswaraâ. âI also had some free time to practice my voice, and without a doubt my musical style has improved,â he adds.
For Delhi-based 17-year-old Kiara Chettri, the pandemic break couldn’t have come at a better time. Her single ‘Why’ was released last month and a ten track album a few months before. âWe worked during the pandemic. Staying at home gave me plenty of time to focus on music and school. I’m happy that my album and my single have finally been released.
While there has been a surge in hip-hop, followed by electronic music, Malvika observes that lo-fi music has also grown in popularity since last year, possibly due to its “cool and calming” traits. Much talked about and used in short format video content like Instagram Reels and YouTube shorts.
Malvika adds: âThere have been a great number of releases in the category of singer-songwriters accompanied by acoustic guitar or piano. “
Another trend that has gained prominence recently is the playlist on streaming platforms, explains Malvika, explaining that âunlabeled artists don’t get the same streaming numbers. Increasing the number of streams or being discovered by more people remains a challenge for independent artists. ”
Therefore, to streamline playlists, ‘Artists Aloud’ recently released Musical Forces – original, genre-specific indie music. Soumini explains, âThe idea arose out of the fact that today’s consumer is fragmented in their musical choice and is aware of the different genres they would like to follow. So we decided to build an IP that would help us release several artists of the same genre. The name was meant to be generic so that it could be applied to any genre.
The independent music scene is evolving and while it may not be a massively funded umbrella genre, it is quickly catching up, Malvika believes. âHe will continue to adapt, survive and grow. “