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Band Value

Friday, October 22, 2010

It’s the bands in Mumbai that always keep the crowd entertained. But how do they survive? Glynda Alves finds out from some of the most popular bands in the city

Internationally, rock stars live the lives of the rich and famous with fast cars, gorgeous women and loads of money. Closer home, our desi rock stars have more of the struggling artist vibe going on. They’ve got day jobs, many live at home and well, travel by auto. So just how lucrative is the Indian music scene? We ask a few bands to give us the lowdown…

tough on tobacco: day jobs
Tough on Tobacco might cut a less than rock star image with their goody-two-shoes name but they’re far from plain. The band, which was formed two years ago, is doing well for themselves. But they still need their day jobs to survive in the industry. Lead singer and guitarist, Sidd Coutto, says, “We fund ourselves through side projects. Two of the members have day jobs. Our drummer, Jai, is a full time guitarist and basically we’ve all had to struggle quite a bit to survive in the industry.”

He adds, “Financially, getting into music has not been the wisest decision. There’s no money. We play with other bands when we can, we do freelancing and make our money doing jingles, music for commercial films and ads. We’d starve to death otherwise.”

Having said that, he advises those who want to make music their career, to tread with caution. He adds, “Join the industry if you want to be broke, single and not own anything.”

However, the money they make doesn’t look all that bad. Sidd says, “While the money is not consistent, it’s not that bad. We make between `20,000 and `40,000 per show. We don’t get all that much because it mostly goes towards the bands funds.”

Thankfully, the other bands we’ve spoken to don’t ALL feel the same way.

Swarathma: Tour a lot
They’ve got quirky costumes, fabulous music and a great on stage presence. They’ve even kicked ass abroad! The band was originally formed in 2003 and was a college band back then. Violinist Sanjeev Nayak, says, “Over the years people kept coming in and going out. Finally in 2007, this current line-up of the band was formed. Ever since then, we’ve been entertaining everyone.”

Being a band was never easy and money is always an issue. He adds, “From day one we’ve been self sufficient. We mostly depend upon performances. We also have an event and artist management company called Only Much Louder (OML) that takes care of our expenses. 20% of our performance income goes to them.”

Sounds difficult right? It is. “It’s generally the live gigs that keep us going and get us the maximum income. This month we did a South India tour for 12 days where we had 10 performances in different cities down South. It was very hectic, but fun as well. Apart from these, there are corporate shows, college festivals and music festivals that give us a decent income. It’s manageable. Also it’s not an everyday thing. We practice thrice a week early in the morning. Besides this, we all also have other freelance jobs to do. So, it works for us all.”

Indus Creed: In demand
Indus Creed is one of the most popular bands in the circuit. They re-formed two weeks ago, and lead singer Uday Benegal tells us how they got started. He says, “We’ve been around for a while now. We were in college then, so we took money from our parents. Then slowly the band picked up and its popularity started increasing. The performances became better and we could fund ourselves as well. Most of our money went into buying our instruments.”
But their main source of income will always be live shows. Uday says, “We survive mostly through gigs and live concerts. However, albums, videos, CD’s, etc. are great for publicity. It’s these shows that keep us going. The higher your demand, the better your fee gets. And if you’re being paid for something that you truly enjoy, then there’s nothing to complain about.”
When you constantly perform and practice, life gets hectic. “ We practice as per our convenience and time. We are our own bosses,” he adds. Now that they’re back, they have some plans. He adds, “We want to make our performances better. We want to make more music, record more and promote the band better.”

Split: Gigs, gigs, gigs
The band was formed about 8 years ago by the bassist Shekhar and the drummer Nigel, who recently quit. Vocalist Garreth D’mello, says, “The current line-up was formed about 4 years ago, which was when we got really productive and focused.” The band also started out funding themselves. They used the prize money they got from competitions. Along with that, their popularity also increased. So how exactly do these guys manage? “We have our own businesses. That’s where most of us make our income. Except for Varoon, the new drummer, who’s graduating this year. But as a band, the main source of income is gigs. We're also going to sell some of our songs digitally, and I'm hoping that helps,” he adds. He says that the money isn’t great, but it’s not discouraging.

But their future is bright. He adds, “We’ve got to keep writing more songs. We also want to release our first album. We just released an EP, called P Is For Pig,”

Something Relevant: Supportive parents
The band, which started about 5-6 years ago, has entertained many. Bassist Stuart D’Costa says, “We were all friends and were all musically inclined. At that time, forming a band seemed like fun. Post college we stayed together, and started taking it all more seriously. We organised our own shows in auditoriums (Y.B.Chauhan and Ravindra Natya Mandir) and performed in clubs.”

But funds were always a matter of discussion. Stuart says, “Initially our main expenses were basically gear and rehearsal spaces. So our first set of instruments was bought by our folks. Later, two of us got endorsed by Gibson. And we all had to upgrade ourselves. Until 2009, we used to rehearse at home on someones grandma's terrace. But this changed due to the need for a proper space without any restrictions.”

Initially most of them took up regular jobs to support their passion. “We’ve all worked at some point. But eventually we all left our jobs to take this on full time. You cannot constantly be away on tour and expect to return to your job. Right now, Something Relevant is our full time profession.”

But is it enough to survive? Stuart says, “We survive on food, water, and the love for music. We’ve always been lucky to have such supportive parents who believe in our ability and are willing to help us whenever we fall short. But as of now, we need to make our time investment since we have that kind of support to make ends meet. Very soon though we might not have that luxury for which we are planning a structure to make Something Relevant and its members completely self sufficient. Live gigs are our maximum income. Plus, the money is getting better with time,” he ends

Raghu Dixit Project: Struggling pays off
Raghu starts off by saying something which has to be given notice to. He says, “Treat music as you would any other career. Put in the same amount of work, as you would elsewhere. Get into it as a career if you are ready for that amount of work. Don't be blinded by the supposed glamour! Make sure you have a plan and are working hard. The rewards are tremendous!”

He knows what he’s talking about. Before he made it big, Raghu had his fair share of struggles. “Each of us in the band did different things. It was a struggle, financially as well as with time and work. If you’re also doing some work to pay your daily bills, you need to be good at managing your time and efficiency,” he says.
However, he feels things are looking up. “It’s certainly better now. Shows happen regularly, there are more venues, there are managers and promoters as well. Things are way better now,” he says.

Survival has always been an issue. But somehow it has been manageable. He says, “After many years of hard work and by God's grace, we do more than just survive today. We live comfortably making and playing music. There are multiple ways to make money and work in the music scene. The music industry pays well, but that’s not a generalised statement.”

He adds, “In thre music industry, you need to be savvy at business and marketing and need to do that with your own music just like you would for any other brand in any other career.”

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