It is always inspiring to come across singer-songwriters who are not only good at their craft but also good entrepreneurs. Rinky Sharma is a fine example of that. Hailing from Hyderabad, she released her first EP ‘Tangled’ and has made quite a name for herself. We wanted to chat with her and learn about her method to the madness in a conversation for Loudest.in.

Talking about her journey, Rinky shared, “I come from a family of amateur singers and who are heavily into music. Because there was always music playing in the house, I feel like there was a constant soundtrack to my life. I have been singing for as long as I can remember. I have been performing for school functions, and my father was in railways, so I participated in a lot of inter-division competitions as well. But, I never thought I would be making music professionally. Growing up, the focus was always on academics in my family, and my parents would have probably flipped out had I thought about focussing on music professionally before completing my basic education. When I came to Hyderabad for my graduation, I met a bunch of like-minded girls and we made an all-girl rock band called Antidote. That was my first experience in a band set up and it was amazing while it lasted, but we eventually went our separate ways, and after my MBA – I started working at Facebook for a while. 2-3 years after living the corporate life, I felt something was amiss. I picked up a guitar and started playing solo for fun, later to be picked up by a couple of local pub managers for performances. I have been doing this for four years now, including writing my music. I never really thought about releasing my own music though, it was just a creative outlet for myself, but my friends egged me on and told me to put it out. I happened to play some of these songs at gigs, and people got back to me to know what was the name of the song – one of them was Zindagi from my EP ‘Tangled’. That affirmation helped and was a turning point for me to put my music out there and produce my music professionally, and that’s where the actual struggle started.

Talking about her bilingual EP ‘Tangled’ and the thought behind the release, Rinky shared, “I could’ve done separate EP’s for my Hindi and English songs but I decided to include my best songs on this EP – regardless of language. When I started making this EP, I didn’t know there is going to be a second EP. At the time, I just wanted to put my best foot forward. Apart from that, I feel like a vast population is like me – Bilingual. Initially, when I started, I used to write only in English, because this is the stuff I got inspired by and the reason why I got into music. I took upon writing and singing in Hindi as a challenge for myself, considering it’s my mother-tongue. When I started writing in Hindi, it just felt very natural, and I felt like I had to grope in the dark a lot less than when I was writing in English. I feel that my Hindi songs are very close to me, close to my heart, and I also wanted people to know that I write and sing in both languages. I think the biggest reason behind it was that it felt seamless for me to sing and emote in both languages. So releasing a bilingual EP was a conscious decision while not really being a conscious decision at the same time, you know?”

Distribution is a problem for any independent artists, and with so many DIY options available, I was curious to find out if she had faced any trouble there. Rinky shared, “It’s been all DIY! The songs were distributed through a platform, and all promotions were done by myself. Initially, I only reached out to friends and friends of friends and people who have landed up at my gigs before – so it was basically just people in my immediate social media circles, and it was a lot later that I started doing some paid promotions, and until now I haven’t made any massive push in terms of promotions and marketing. There are no physical copies, but I do sell merch at select gigs and stuff.

Artist awareness in the business of music in India is on the rise, and I asked Rinky if she had any help understanding any of it at all, and she shared, “I was a complete outsider as there was no independent music ecosystem around me in the city. The first year, I kept trying to figure out who to work with and was unable to find the right fit. So distribution was a far cry, I was still struggling with the basics, and Vivek Thomas happened much much later. Before him, I was able to release a couple of tracks with Keshav Dhar where I got a basic grasp on things, and then he directed me on how to go about things. After that, things became slightly more comfortable, because after a few singles you get to know what to do, what not to do. In terms of production, it was a big struggle, and it also takes a lot of money – production costs, studio costs, travel, accommodation etc. The biggest decision for me was to see if it was worth it to make that kind of investment in myself. When you’re starting out, you’re filled with so much self-doubt, there’s this struggle within – because you hear so many great musicians around you who are doing what you aspire to do, and you feel like a drop in the ocean. But I don’t feel I have been pushing myself enough to promote my music. I need to do so more now and reach out to more people. I can figure my writing, my music, but figuring out the distribution is a different ball game together. And you’re right to point out how awareness of the Music Business is not that prevalent, especially when you are not from Delhi, Mumbai or Bangalore.

Considering her EP was Bilingual, I was intrigued to know if she would be keen on reaching out to the western market as well. Rinky responded saying, “I haven’t particularly reached out to the demand of the west, but I have had some listeners in Dubai, Canada & America reach out to me and ask me to tour their cities as well. But I think I’m a little off from that point right now because I want to focus on reaching people from our Industry first. I am looking for an agency to manage me, promote me and take care of other responsibilities and then maybe I can think about promotions in other countries

Considering production, mixing & mastering and promotions take a lot of investment to do justice to a release; I asked if she looked at investor coming on board to help her with the project, to which Rinky said, “All of this has come from my savings. I’m lucky enough to save up only from gigs. I am good at what I do, and I have been lucky to save up the money to do what I wanted to do and follow my dream. It takes talent, but it also takes a whole lot of hard work and a thick skin.
To answer your question about how much money goes into production for an aspiring artist, it depends on the quality of work you want to achieve. Everyone should try to get a good producer because there is no fooling anyone. If you have worked so hard into writing your songs, you would want to do justice to them. If you want to get an investor on board – then you need to be careful about the paperwork and the legal side of things, because you don’t want to lose the creative rights to your songs. It is great to talk about music as your passion, but it is also a business and you need to sustain yourself while doing it. Artists who get to build a livelihood purely based on their music are truly blessed because not everyone gets to do that.
Speaking of other challenges, she has faced in her journey so far, Rinky shared, “Initially I felt like an outsider, mainly because I’m in Hyderabad – not a booming indie scene here. I felt like a lot of people I approached for help, didn’t offer me that help. But now that I have something to my name – I feel like I’m received differently by said people. I also learnt that if someone is spending time on you, you need to be worthy of it. Earlier I used to complain about the lack of it, but now with more exposure and experience, I see there is a thriving ecosystem of musicians and producers out there, who are there to help you with what you need to know, provided you back that faith with talent. The indie scene is booming – with house gigs, pubs/clubs/ festivals, it is an excellent ecosystem for artists. It is an ideal time to be an indie artist, provided you’re willing to put in the effort.
Author

A dental surgeon by profession, Ankit changed his stream to Music Production and Audio Engineering in 2016. He has since created a Music Promotions Agency and an Artist Management/Label to contribute to India's ever-growing music industry. With a knack for Music Business and tastemaking, he intends to share knowledge and music with everyone!

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