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Amit Gurbaxani Talks About The Independent Music Scene

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Amit Gurbaxani is a well known name in the independent music scene. The Mumbai-based journalist has been writing about music for nearly two decades. His works can be read in publications such as First Post, Scroll and India Today. He writes a dedicated music column on Indian music industry for First Post. Amit, also previously used to write a column about music charts for Rolling Stone India.

Amit was the former music editor of the Time Out Mumbai magazine. He co-founded the online food and culture platform The Daily Pao, that also publishes a daily gig guide for Mumbai.

We caught up with Amit Gurbaxani after his panel – Why Brands Are Increasingly Investing Into Independent Music – at Music Inc to ask for his opinions on the music industry.

In picture - Amit Gurbaxani, Ankur Tewari, Panshul Jhingan, Varun Duggirala, Preeti Nayyar, Mo Joshi, Rajiee M Shinde
In picture – Amit Gurbaxani, Ankur Tewari, Panshul Jhingan, Varun Duggirala, Preeti Nayyar, Mo Joshi, Rajiee M Shinde
  1. What was your take away from Music Inc 2.0?
    • Music Inc 2.0 for me was a platform for the exchange of information and ideas. It was like a catch-up for industry folks to know what’s been happening in different sectors both within and associated with the music industry. My takeaway from any such conference is “What did I learn that I did not know before?” .It was about building awareness if not always offering solutions.
  2. What are your views on the independent music scene in the country, taking into account the compensation, venue availability, audience etc.?
    • To me, the independent music scene has always been the most interesting and exciting part of the Indian music industry. It’s the source of the freshest ideas and the newest sounds, which, if they attain a certain level of popularity, are inevitably co-opted into the mainstream. We saw it with electronic music a decade ago and are seeing it now with hip-hop in the last few years. Part of the reason the independent scene stays indie is that the best of it remains free of commercial considerations, which means that it will always be underpaid when it comes to compensation and under-serviced when it comes to venues.
    • That said, the audience for it has only grown consistently, both on ground and online and there is optimism that this too will change as more and more, forward-thinking businesses are enlightened about the benefits of appealing to niche but extremely passionate audience segments. We need only see the exponential increase in the number of brands wanting to associate with independent acts for evidence. I only wish venue owners would take us (and I consider myself to be part of the independent music scene even if I’m not an artist) more seriously. It’s one thing to say you support it by programming bands but it’s another to actually provide them and their audience with a proper stage and sound set-up. If you’re always going to give us a half-assed experience, then you can’t expect numbers to grow. Independent acts not having enough venues and venues not programming enough independent music gigs is a vicious cycle that we haven’t been able to get out of for decades.
  3. What role do you think media plays in pushing the more niche genres of music towards mainstream audiences?
    • The mainstream media barely covers culture, let alone music. That’s done only by niche and specialised publications, mainly websites. The role of the media as one of the gatekeepers of culture has declined greatly in the age of the internet and social media. Does the media play a important role in pushing music genres? For sure, but it’s a sense of validation, a stamp of approval that respected media outlets provide rather than the ability to break an artist. Fans are much more likely to discover a new act via a streaming service or friend on social media. The media is partially to blame for this, by being lazy and choosing to publish gig previews rather than concert reviews, and by relying on PR teams rather than going out and checking out what’s happening in pubs and clubs by themselves. A good music journalist is like a good A&R rep. They have to keep their eyes and ears open for the best of what’s out there and also be prepared to listen to a lot of average stuff.
  4. What direction do you think the music industry is heading in, in the future?
    • All signs indicate that the music industry is only going to grow, Non-film music will continue increase its market share, because Bollywood seems to be stuck in a creative crisis and is growingly increasingly risk-averse, relying on remixes and a tired sonic template even when it comes to originals. Thanks to streaming, it’s now possible for artists working in various genres to have hit songs. What might have changed is the definition of a hit. Is a song that crosses a 100 million views on YouTube without ever cracking the AirCheck Top 20 less of a hit? I don’t think so. The consumption of music is going to increase across all formats, from the number of releases (singles over albums), live concerts and festivals, brand collaborations and sync deals.

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