The live music space in India can, most times, feel like you are going on a blind Tinder date. As an artist, you are never sure if you will get duped of your money (read get paid on time or get paid at all), or whether the venue is equipped to handle your technical requirements. As a business, you are always taking a gamble on the artists you are booking, and if you are a new venue, it can quickly get overwhelming. There are so many moving parts to organizing a live music event – sound engineer, acoustics, light technician, promoter, artist – things can go wrong, and you can quickly lose money.
Live music space in the country, for the large part, is informal economy. In the absence of strong contracts (or contracts at all), technical riders etc. (unless you are an established artist, or playing at a major festival), artists and venues, alike, stand to lose a lot.
Finally, there is a startup that’s looking to change the way things are run. Skillbox, an art community platform, plans to bring structure to the music business, and the arts industry, at large.
Right now, the independent music space is largely unstructured, and the same goes for the arts industry, as a whole. We are building an evolving ecosystem that is a one-stop destination for venues as well as artists to find everything that they need for their businesses and careers, respectively.
There are Smart Contracts in the Pipeline
A cursory glance across social media will tell you that the issue of payment or non-payments is an annoying prevalence in the live music space. Most artists cannot afford legal representation, or even consultation, which puts them at a severe disadvantage, especially at the start of their careers. Skillbox plans to solve the problem with the help of smart contracts. The simplest way to understand a smart contract is a private agreement between two parties, where fulfilment of each step results in automated transfer of agreed assets. A smart contract streamlines the contractual process and makes sure no party gets stiffed in the end.
We are in the final stages of testing our algorithms. We are also actively discussing smart contracts with venues and we should be able to roll them out in full earnest in the next couple of months. We are also ready to roll out an innovative ticketing platform, which is a lot more affordable for smaller venues and DIY communities. – Anmol Kukreja, Co-founder and CEO
It All Started With a Directory of Service Providers
Anmol, who is the tech-brain behind the company, started building a comprehensive directory of service providers in the music industry about a year ago. This included a list of artists, promoters, technicians, and other behind-the-scenes professionals that make things work.
I met Anmol while he was building this directory and I was immediately interested in the idea. We sat down together and figured we could build a more comprehensive ecosystem for the entire arts industry, which is a one-stop shop for artists and businesses, alike. We have a long-term plan and we are going to roll out features as we move along. We started with the music industry since music has the widest reach among art forms; and also, because we have first-hand experience working in the music industry and understand the pain points – Nitish Bhardwaj
Nitish is an audio engineer who has worked with acclaimed venues such as Blue Frog, Bangalore. He has also worked with a lot of independent Indian artists as a mixing and mastering engineer.
The Business is Already Self-Sustainaing
Despite being in beta-mode and launching just a month back, the startup is already making enough money to sustain its plan of slowly rolling out features. The revenue, right now, is coming from its offline intellectual properties, where Skillbox is trying to promote established acts as well as new acts that deserve a chance.
Right now, we have a team of 20-25 people and we are planning on monthly events through our various IPs. We have started off with LiveBox. The first event had Donn Bhat, Fopchu, and Kum Chirui performing at Auro. We are finalizing a huge artist for our next LiveBox event, which we cannot reveal right now. But things are getting very interesting – Anmol Kukreja
A 1000+ Artists and Counting
While still in beta, Skillbox already has more than 1,000 artists on its platform showcasing their profile, which according to Nitish, follows international standards. The artists can stream and sell their music directly, and even stream their music videos, thus giving fans access to all their intellectual property via a single platform.
Our platform is dedicated to arts alone. We have started off with music, and going forward, we will be adding visual arts and performing arts, including acts such as stand-up comedians. Artists can monetize their IPs and there are no subscription barriers or minimum numbers – Nitish Bhardwaj
Going by the first-hand experience of its founders in the arts industry and technology-backed solutions, Skillbox looks like a platform that could shake things up.
The biggest challenge is going to be getting venues onboard. They are used to working a certain way and selling them a more structurized way of doing business is going to be a task. But we are ready for it – Anmol Kukreja