Indie music has been growing rapidly in India. While the music plays the most important part, the people that contributed to making the music reach people deserve a shout out this Indie Week.
ArtistAloud.com was launched in 2009 as a digital distribution platform for unreleased music created by upcoming artistes. The mobile app and website currently houses original music from over 300 new solo artistes and bands and has music from several genres, ranging from alternative pop, fusion, English and Hindi rock to Bollywood pop and classic Indi-pop. The content is available in languages like English, Punjabi, Gujarati and Bengali.
We reached out to Soumini Paul about her journey through Artist Aloud and watching the change in the indie music landscape.
In Conversation With Soumini Paul
You have been the face of Independent music in India for a long time, could you share your memories from your first steps into the independent music industry?
In the late 2000s, the independent scene had been bracketed into a niche and small category. The consumer was being bombarded by Bollywood and the non-film scene had no takers. This was the first thing I wanted to break. Having worked with talent along with Bollywood in my days with TV in the late nineties, I was keen to build a platform that would be focused on talent and content that they would own and create with complete freedom. So right from the beginning, our philosophy was – multi lingual, multi genre and multi talent. However, in spite of launching the platform in 2010 with 30 artists across different calibers, genres and languages, we had no support from mainstream media like television and radio. This was mainly because they had moved onto Bollywood, Soaps, etc. Hence within 6 months of launching, we had to not only build an ecosystem for promoting the talent we were releasing but also for our own existence. With Hungama’s distribution network, we were able to make the content live across various platforms but the onus on building awareness of the content on that platform was ours.
How has the journey been? What are some of the great changes you have seen over the last few years?
The journey has been very challenging and tedious but at the same time very exciting and fulfilling. Artist Aloud was set out to commercialize the Independent Space and we have managed to do just that not just through our own platforms but also through our properties like – WebCert, Artist Aloud Music Awards, World Music Day Festival, etc. One of Artist Aloud’s greatest and consistent achievements is to be the first mover at whatever it does and this starts with building a platform as we have. We were born when everyone pretty much had given up.
What should independent artists in the country look forward and prepare themselves for?
To every artist I meet, I have only this to say – If you want to be an artist, it is a lifetime decision and it takes time. You have to be at it constantly. You have to keep evolving and you need to be out there promoting yourself and your content. It is important to be your own PRO. All platforms, including ours will give you added reach but the initial reach begins with you, your friends and your family. Even an Amitabh Bachchan talks about his work through his own social platforms in spite of the media wanting to write about him all the time. The times have changed. Showcasing your talent and being an artist is self-expression and hence it is a personal initiative. And hence it is important for an artist to treat his talent as a start-up that needs initial investment and then be invested into by players who believe they can build a business out of them. Artists always believe that they would want to focus on only the talent and not get into the business or marketing or anything that is non-creative. Well, that is possible only when you have a reliable team or set up that can understand you creatively to execute all the non-creative aspects of your talent. But even then, it is important for you to know what you expect out of your talent to make it a profession that you can earn a regular living out of. Whichever way one may go, time is an important factor. Finally, I also strongly believe that in life there are three things that go hand in hand irrespective of the ratio in which they stand and that is talent, hard work and luck. All three need to be there for it to work.
Independence Day also sees the launch of Artist Aloud Unplugged. What are some things you are excited about?
Currently, I am very excited about Artist Aloud Unplugged and some of the other projects we are working on. A property we launched with Hard Rock Café in Sept last year called ARISE is also that I am very proud of. This is a property that started with the intention of building new heroes in the live space and I am proud to say that we have been consistently doing it and hope to introduce new talent constantly.
Who are some independent artist that you would still like to work with?
I have never been particular of any single artist that I am routing for. I have never had favourites. Honestly, I am a fan of any artist – new or old – who has good content. So rather than asking about some Independent artists, I think I should be asked what is the independent content that I would still like to work with. And the answer to that is – anything that can give me goose bumps – across any category.
How do you think Artist Aloud Unplugged will help better the Indie Music Support System?
Artist Aloud Unplugged was conceptualised with the need of us creating more video content with Independent Artists as it is a challenge to get video content from them. However, the way the team has worked on it, I feel quite proud at the result and confident that this will be an on-going property which will see multiple seasons because as long as there is talent, Artist Aloud Unplugged can survive.
As one of the senior and most experienced music business professionals in the Indie Music Industry in India, how would you encourage more youngsters to taken on the industry and build the support system and infrastructure?
I started my career back in 1994 as a singer but within 3 years, I had to look for a job. After working in a company that had nothing to do with music or entertainment, I realised that I could not work in anything else but music and entertainment. I am not too sure about the credentials you have written about me but as a human being who realised that nothing in this industry will happen if you don’t put your effort into it, I would recommend, any youngster who wants to get into this industry, to first be committed to work hard and make a change and then look at it as a job. Because only such a commitment will make a change and that is something this industry truly needs.