We are in 2018, and well even though the music and entertainment industry in India is very old it’s extremely unstructured until today. The industry has great potential when it comes to quality talent management, brand engagement, radio, media A&R, Live entertainment and more. It’s safe to say almost in every sector within this space is struggling, yet growing really fast. 

We visited the KWAN Entertainment & Marketing Solution’s office to capture their take on the music business in India. KWAN today is valued above many major film production houses in India. They indeed are the strong ones and the only ones standing tall in Bollywood Branded Content, collaborations, as well as, in sports, music & comedy. KWAN completely thrives on popular culture, finding the right fit for their partners and in-house artists. 

We had the honor of conversing with Jovan Martins & Avinash Bidaia, the front men running and heading the Music Business at KWAN. We spoke to them about their role at KWAN, their artists, their take on the live entertainment, sync & licensing business in India and the opportunity they see in India for 2018! 

L-R, Avinash Bidaia, Head, Music Business, Kwan Entertainment & Marketing Solutions | Aparajita Misra, Editorial Lead & Co-Founder, Loudest.in | Jovan Martin, Head, Music Business, Kwan Entertainment & Marketing Solutions

Jovan has been working at KWAN for 8 years now since it’s inception. While Avinash joined KWAN a year after it’s inception, as a part of the Live entertainment & music business team. He Has been heading the team since then along with Jovan. 

Representation of artists is fairly a new concept, it was only 5 years ago when the agencies started representing artists. Before this, it was an individual manager. They were more secretarial in nature, or mostly artists were self-managed. – Avinash

The industry has evolved over the years in Artist Management, while we still have a long way to go. Their everyday role at KWAN revolves around 360 talent management, live bookings, in-film placements, sync, brand endorsements and more! Working every day in the best of artist’s interest, always aligning themselves with the artist’s vision, and helping them achieve it, is what they work towards on a day to day basis.

In 2009, the live entertainment booking division started.While In 2015, the music content creation business was started when they began working with content creators in music space too.

Talent (In Music) At KWAN Entertainment

KWAN Entertainment has a really extensive artist roster, and either currently manages or has managed some of the biggest names in the Indian music industry. To name a few Roberto Narayan, Jonita Gandhi, Kanika Kapoor, Pritam, Shalmili, Amit Mishra, Sunidhi Chauhan, Chang, Shefali Alwar, and many more. Some artists, like Pritam, have worked closely with KWAN since day one. With a dedicated focus on nurturing young and talented musicians, KWAN has also brought several new kids on the block on board its artist roster. Many, like Naezy, already have cult followings in metro and tier-1 cities.

On Talent Management & Positioning Of An Artist

KWAN, being an entertainment marketplace, has a bouquet of offerings for its clients, including event bookings, film placements, brand endorsements, comedy, sports, fashion etc. Such a comprehensive array of offerings helps KWAN in attracting multiple artists and consolidates its position as the first-choice partner in the entertainment space. Every artist that KWAN signs on is under an exclusive, 360-degree contract deal.

Everyone at KWAN is a non-industry professional, who came on board for the passion they had for entertainment. We started working as brand consultants earlier for actors and celebrities. What differentiates us from everyone else is that we are able to create distinctive brand identities for different artists contracted with us. The plan is in place based on what they want, always! – Avinash

This personalized approach to brand management works in favor of artists associated with KWAN Entertainment. The firm positions artists much better and gets them more visibility for their work than they had before associating with KWAN. The major differentiator here isn’t the quality of work or talent – it is about how appropriately an artist’s brand image is communicated.

Every artist actually has his or her own vision. For us, it’s about how we make their dream come true. Many artists, when they came to us, were already big – big enough that they didn’t even need an agency. But the reason they came on board at KWAN is because they started seeing value outside of their primary fields of work, be it as a music composer, as an actor, or as a comedian. – Jovan

KWAN might be the only company in India that is focused on creating unique opportunities for their artists outside of their day-to-day roles as well, leading to brand creation. A recent example is the launch of JAM8, a creative music solutions company, created for Pritam by KWAN Entertainment.

On Touring Culture In India

Nucleya, On Tour, India’s Biggest Independent Artist As Captured By Nishant Matta
Music in India, there are two sides to it!

Independent (Niche Genres Of Music) which has an extremely strong touring cycle, they have representations from companies like OML, Big Bad Wolf, and more. They’ve built a touring market along with all the upcoming live venue spaces. If we come to think of it, they are the ones who started this marketing since the beginning because their only revenue stream has always been the live entertainment business and they do not have Bollywood to support them all the time, leaving aside a few exceptions.

On the Bollywood side, touring is primarily revolving around private, colleges and corporate shows which represent a majority of Bollywood artists. Touring terminology in the west is where you actually can go and sell tickets, and that model it doesn’t exist in India yet. While ticketed shows do happen, they’re extremely unstructured and sponsorship-led which isn’t always sustainable.

With BookMyShow & PayTM coming on board, we have seen some improvement in the business, while that’s restricted only to the Biggies, i.e. AR Rahman & Arijit Singh.

AR Rahman Live

India is a price sensitive market, and we have been used to consuming music for free. And this culture is kind of the biggest weakness of Indian live business.

The problem of recovery of money is a major problem. While  BMS & PayTm are trying to upfront create a culture of ticketing, we are yet to see in the next two-three years what is coming our way. The challenges are on multiple levels, starting from governance, lisenses for live, performer royalties, affordibility of tickets vs cost recovery.  When an individual is getting access to the same musician free of cost at a corporate gig, wedding or a college show, then why is he/she going to pay?  Avinash added

A Possible Solution, Curation Of Unique IPs Accessible Only At A Cost!

The Solution to this problem is the curation of unique IPs. Say, for example, wedding shows being differentiated from a public show, wherein a wedding the experience offered is extremely different from that of a public show, i.e. two different IPs. It’s all about making such opportunities available. Not everyone is an Arijit Singh or AR Rahman, or say Honey Singh back then, they are exceptions, but it’s not really a market trend.

Touring Will Only Start In A Big Way with two things

1) Creating Unique IPs around every show, multiple formats

2) When independent music picks up again, like what happened in the 90s

Jovan & Avinash on Talent Management VS Bookings 

In the west, you have booking agencies and you have a management agency. The role of the manager vs a booking agent is two distinctive roles. Bookings, in fact, are completely dependent on management. A manager’s role is to look at artist’s long-term vision, discover opportunities, build relations that translate into business, set the right communication, market and so much more. While the booking agent is responsible for only booking deals for live entertainment. Management is advisory, strategic, development role while bookings are all about negotiation and closure.

For KWAN, they realized that management is the very core to attract the right business.

Communication Is Everything! – Jovan Martins

To give this a bit of a structure, once the team between management, bookings, artists, agencies everyone has a clarity on their roles, that would be the only way the right communication of an artist can be set in motion. The two vitals for KWAN Entertainment would be all about:

  1. Building brands & identity
  2. Achieving What The Artist Wants To Do!

I’m not making plans for you, I am making plans with you! I can only tell you what all information is available out there, streamline and narrow your vision, help in executing a dream as we ideate together. All we do is provide the best service and resources. – Avinash Bidaia

The BIG GAP In India 

It’s time Artist Management is taken seriously in India. We are hopeful this is going to solve most problems in our country.  An interesting learning we can look at from the west is on Artist Grooming. Artist Grooming Is Not existing In India! WHO is a manager? most managers in India have no idea about music, and the ones that do, we clearly see are the ones who are successful. In the west, managers go down to even deciding What to eat, drink, who can be their coach, work-out, daily routines, their clothes everything!  And on the contrary, the culture in this industry is artists knows his/her own best and is their own manager. JAM8 for Pritam is started to solve this whole problem. 

The Fuel For The Music Industry in India, Bollywood!

via GIPHY

If we were to imagine Bollywood is only a side project for a musician, there is a lot more to the industry opportunities than just Bollywood. During our multiple conversations with major Bollywood stars as well, we realize that every Bollywood musician has a soft corner for Independent music, they too have an indie dream. While they’re all too caught up in the race, and end up getting restricted during the creative process! While there is a talent crunch for artist development on that front, we can also say there is a lack of business knowledge and time! And well, Bollywood is where the money is today.

Bollywood is the only project that’s funding the entire music ecosystem at this point. Until we bring back the 90s, where it was mainstream popularity, mainstream stars, and mainstream attention & funding directed towards the independent music, until then, Bollywood is our only fuel. – Avinash

“We are not popularising independent music!” – Jovan Martins

Having said that, at KWAN, it’s all about understanding opportunities outside their core businesses. For example, it could be something as simple as Shalmili doing something on Television, the minute you are able to make an artist do something beyond their core specialty, you are able to create a larger success story for them and able to develop a new opportunity for them. – Avinash & Jovan!

The relationship between Artist & The Manager

The relationship between an artist and their manager is the most vital relationship in the music business. The joys of having a manager or managing an artist can be amazing. It’s why some choose to work in the music industry. However, the lines can be easily blurred between the artist and their manager because the nature of the relationship can be unorthodox at times. Like any other relationship, clear communication and definition of roles and responsibilities are the keys to making the most the artist/manager relationship.

Linking it back to what Vivek Paul, No matter how good the music and musician, if you don’t have a good artist manager, you will not be able to reach the pinnacle of success and your creativity will not be optimized to its fullest extent. It is therefore very important that he Artist Manager shares a strong bond with the Artist and is chosen wisely. 

It’s a marriage, it has to be the artist & manager together, a collective vision, risk, effort, patience!  – Jovan Martins

It’s about mutual value creation, it can’t be a one-way street. We only represent an artist if we are adding value to their life. – Avinash Bidaia

A&R, And The Digital Age

Artists and repertoire (A&R) is the division of a record label or music publishing company that is responsible for talent scouting and overseeing the artistic development of recording artists and songwriters.[1] It also acts as a liaison between artists and the record label or publishing company; every activity involving artists to the point of album release is generally considered under the purview, and responsibility, of A&R.

With the coming of BIG Data, I truly believe it has aided the A&R more than replacing it.

Quoting from ThinkTank Panel, Korda Marshall from Infectious Music and Jeremy Silver, a digital expert, agreed that this information should only augment human decisions.Korda said: ‘I am old school and make million pound decisions on whether or not music makes the hairs on my arms stand up. If we were just to make these based on data, then a good 50-75 percent of music’s greatest moments wouldn’t have occurred. Alt-j wouldn’t have existed if it was based purely on meta-data.’

Discovery Process is very organic for KWAN, it’s more of a pull, thanks to our network & brand. – Avinash

A & R plays a big role even today, Bollywood today needs fresh sound, fresh music.  

A&R professionals need to be taken seriously in the Indian Market too. The information & insight that data provides is useful to signpost where the majority of A&R professionals would look for the next big thing.

The Opportunity Lies In Quality & Scale!

To conclude, Tier-2 & Tier-3 cities is where the focus needs to be shifted towards.Artist Management needs to be given some serious attention, touring & ticketing culture needs to move upward. The fuel needs to be in more varieties than from films for the music industry! Please leave your questions in the comments section, and we’ll have our experts answer your queries.

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Editorial Lead, Business Head & Founding Member of Loudest.in "Promoting positive community & economic growth in creative businesses"

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