India’s indie music scene has never been better. The success of such festivals as Magnetic Fields shows that Indian audience is now receptive to new musical experiences. Promoters and organisers are responding favourably by experimenting with new artists and fresh sounds. For an independent artist in India, things have never looked so promising.
However, getting noticed by people who matter can still be a daunting task. That’s where Jwala, a collective of music producers, has taken the Indian indie-world by surprise. Less than a year since the collective came into existence, it has been covered by such influential tastemakers as Rolling Stone India and Homegrown.
Varun Batra from Loudest talked to Palash Kothari (Sparkle & Fade) and Brij Dalvi (Three Oscillators), two artists of the Jwala collective, to decipher what it takes for new artists, collectives, and labels, to get noticed.
1. How did Jwala come about? I read in a recent interview of yours that it happened over a Reproduce Artists’ Listening Room Session. However, I want to know the story prior to that. How did the founding artists of the collective find gigs in the first place? Was it through social media? Or personal connections? Or anything else?
Palash Kothari: We’ve been friends for a while. I met Nikunj (Moebius) at Appa Art Fest 2017, and Apurv (Cowboy and Sailor Man) at another Listening Room in 2016 at a place called TIFA in Pune. Ayush, Brij, Karan, and I met online about 4 years ago, and have pretty much grown up as musicians together. I met Rohan (Dolorblind) and Veer (Chrms), too, online, fairly recently. When I told Brij and Apurv about this idea for a collective I had, we all went like ‘hey i know this guy, maybe he’d be interested’. We didn’t look for the best producers or something, just friends who would be interested.
I got my first gig as Sparkle & Fade after my track with Fuzzy Logic (who I was a huge fan of) came out. It was then that Rana Ghose (of REProduce Artists) asked me to play at a Listening Room and good things just happened. Obviously, I took all the free time I had then, making music and being as consistent as I could. However, I really didn’t care about the “scene” or networking. A lot of people want to get booked and be on a label within a year or two of making music. However, unless you’re super lucky or well-connected, it’s not really going to work out well.
Brij Dalvi: As far as my gigs go, like most of us, Rana from REProduce Artists got me my first few gigs. It was for his own property REProduce Listening Room. I make a lot of weird music that doesn’t find space in clubs most of the times. I messaged Rana on the REProduce page with a link, and a few weeks later, I had a gig in my hand. Rana diligently checks out EVERY tune that hits his inbox, and offers gigs/opportunities to people he thinks might have some kind of spark in them. Props to him for that!
2. How did you go about promoting Jwala when it was first formed? What was the marketing game-plan?
Palash Kothari: The only game-plan was to look for good music and release it regularly. In terms of marketing, I think the most we discussed was to share it with our friends and peers. We all had different social circles and we were able to reach a more diverse audience. We also spoke about trying to pitch some things to some people but we ruled it out in favour of the age-old ‘let’s wait for people to come to us first’ mindset. More genuine content and less talk was what we aimed for.
Brij Dalvi: We didn’t have a “marketing gameplan”, or a “SWOT analysis” or whatever startups do to analyse the market before entering it. It was simple: we got together over a WhatsApp group and decided to release a compilation of original tunes with some nice artwork.The plan was to do this every month with newer producers on board, so we asked them to mail us tunes after our first compilation came out. What followed was word-of-mouth discussions about our compilation and people telling other people on social media that there was a new music collective in town.
3. What do you think worked for Jwala to get such widespread coverage by such respected platforms as Rolling Stone India and Homegrown? I know music comes first. However, I am more interested in what ticked for you marketing wise?
Palash Kothari: There is a lot of talent out there, which nobody pays attention to because they don’t have their names slapped on gig posters every week. We spoke about it for a long time without really doing anything. When we finally had sizeable resources, we decided to pool them all in and do something about it. We didn’t have a marketing plan because we didn’t expect people to care and that (kind of) worked in our favour. Nobody likes to see ads. Everybody likes to see something they can relate to. I think that is where we resonated with people.
Brij Dalvi: It was all organic reach. We genuinely didn’t expect such a crazy response to the compilations. Like I said, we never had a “marketing gameplan.”
4. How important do you think social media is? Do you think it can be the difference between getting discovered and fading in obscurity? Or do you think it is possible to get noticed without it?
Brij Dalvi: Social media is an extremely powerful tool and it can make your career, if you use it right. Since it’s 2018, the kind of reach social media has is unparalleled and cannot be replicated in the offline world. There’s a reason internet producers are becoming stars, almost overnight. It takes a few shares from some kind souls, and suddenly, a million people are listening to your music, you get instant recognition, and you become the talk of the town. It’s unpredictable.
5. Was there a lot of networking involved in order to fetch press coverage etc.? How did you do it?
Palash Kothari: Not really, no. We’d all been previously featured on some blogs and websites and had some of those writers on our list and that is where most press stemmed from. For compilation premiers, we did reach out to a blog or two but that was more of ‘hey guys we’re doing this, interested?’ approach.
Brij Dalvi: People from the press who liked our music got in touch with us online. They liked what they heard and it felt great to be in the loop with important people in the music journalism space here.
6. Since Jwala became known, has there been an upswing in gigs for Jwala’s artists? What I want to understand here is whether coverage on the internet is directly proportional to the number of gigs an artist gets.
Palash Kothari: Speaking in terms of what most people call the ‘indie scene’, no. Most bookings I know of stem from a personal relationship with the artist or their management. Internet numbers can’t accurately predict footfall. I know of some people getting tons of internet coverage but no gigs, and some who aren’t really doing much but are getting booked every week. It’s weird.
For me, personally, I think it has made an impact since a few more people know about me because of Jwala. However, no promoter has come to me and said, ‘hey man, found you through jwala, wanna play’! So, I don’t think there is any direct relationship between internet coverage and the number of gigs you land. We have been booked as a collective, twice or so, though.
Brij Dalvi: We’ve been booked as a collective at a few gigs, but I wouldn’t say that for individual gigs. As far as our individual careers go, the gigs we receive for our own projects aren’t because we’re from a collective.
7. What does an artist have to do to become a part of Jwala? What is the sound that defines Jwala?
Palash Kothari: We always wanted to keep the main group to people we were friends with and people knew would be interested. Working with friends is very natural and it’s what we love most about doing this.
There’s no sound that defines Jwala, as such, but a mindset that defines all of us. I couldn’t really connect with the “scene” when I started getting booked as Sparkle & Fade in late 2016 and most of my friends shared this same aversion. We wanted to do something that we felt strongly about.
Brij Dalvi: We’re trying to keep the core team to just us for now. People are free to be featured in our compilations via demos in the mail, and sometimes we invite producers to feature their songs in our compilations. A lot of people have assumed that we only release chill music but that’s not the case. We’re open to anything within the electronic music spectrum and our main focus is to bring deserving producers forward. It’s not limited to a specific genre.
8. Where do you think the live electronic music space is headed? Any trends that you could point to?
Palash Kothari: I love where the music scene is headed. More and more talent is coming out everyday thanks to a few labels, collectives and agencies working hard at. Special shoutout to Nrtya for being absolute bosses and getting so many amazing acts on board.
Brij Dalvi: There are definitely more live electronic gigs happening, with a lot of new artists coming into the limelight. Things are definitely changing for the better. Venues are more receptive to gigs like this, and newer venues are more than willing to try out new sounds. The electronic music space is in a ripe state.
9. What advice would you give to someone who wants to get noticed?
Palash Kothari: Make music you’re proud of. Send it to the right people. Don’t spam. Be natural because people on the other side of the screen are humans, too. Nobody wants to talk to a robot. I don’t do any of those but this is what most people tell me.
Brij Dalvi: I think it’s important to work on music before working on building a brand. They’re both equally important but it’s wise to follow that order. At least that’s what I want to do.