This is the best time to be a musician

This is the best time to be a musician
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Independent artistes are now showing the world that there is space for all forms of music

The world’s creative economy is about to explode even further. With the ‘metaverse’ expanding, and personalities like Kamal Haasan announcing their digital avatars in the Non Fungible Token space, the future is here. The pandemic has also seen the emergence of online stars and artistes, who have now created a sizeable following and careers in the physical world, completely independent of any other push or promotion.

In this context, I recently moderated a panel for one of India’s most important conferences for the music industry. Titled ‘All About Music’, this year’s focus was on regional music industries. The Tamil panel saw the coming together of industry and creators, music composer Santhosh Narayanan among them. The conversation was important for two reasons. One, in establishing the fact that despite the millions and billions of views and listens, the Tamil industry (or for that matter, all regional music streams) is still nascent. Two, the future for independent musicians looks quite bright.

The first notion challenged me, as I thought that with the sort of success ‘Enjoy Enjaami’ enjoyed, the Tamil scene was on an all-time high. Industry observers have estimated that we have not even reached 5-10% of the total potential for global listenership. And this just for Tamil. Factor in the other regional players and the numbers are mindboggling.

I focus on the second. During the pandemic, I was riveted by the efforts of artpreneurs such as Tenma (of the Casteless Collective and credited with the launch of global sensation Arivu), singer-songwriter Siennor, and Malaysian artiste Yogi B, among others. It has been impressive to see the self-belief and concerted efforts of these individuals and the coming-of-age of regional music.

From Prateek Kuhad to Pradeep Kumar, artistes are showing the world that there is space for all forms of independent music. Technology has now proven a great ally and socialisation is easier than before.

What does this mean for the world of music and musicians? First, we will fast see the disappearance of a multi-layered industry structure and the D2C (direct-to-consumer) brand will triumph. This is good news, especially for indie musicians. Second, working on a unique sound and brand is paramount to break through. Last, the barriers between celebrity music makers and the amateur is about to become very thin. Almost all music makers are keenly following independent music trends. This could well be the best time to follow one’s passion. Especially if you are determined to see it through.

It seems bizarre to speak of a better tomorrow when we are still reeling from the effects of disease and destruction. But art does provide the solutions. To paraphrase Virgil Thomson, whatever other deceptions life may have in store for us, art (and music) in itself will never let us down.

The Chennai-based writer is a well-known pianist and an associate professor at Krea University.



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