Music Inc. Conference 2018 Speaker Interview - Abhi Meer (Boxout.fm)
Abhi is a music critic, touring DJ, experimental music producer and the Chief Content Officer at online community radio boxout.fm. He has been in and around the Indian independent music industry since the year 2002 and has been privy to its changing dynamics as both a working hand behind-the-scenes and as a performer in front of audiences both large and small. Abhi studied journalism from The Evergreen State College and also an editor at the erstwhile Indecision/NH7.in magazine before becoming a regular contributor to national daily The Hindu. As Chief Content Officer at boxout.fm, he is responsible for the radio’s daily programming in addition to its overall content strategy across all mediums.
Loudest.in had a chat with Abhi regarding bringing a change in the workings of the industry and why it is important to nurture upcoming artists and the need to educate everyone involved in the music industry with the dealings within the industry.
1. Apart from hosting two shows on Boxout.fm, you are also in charge of content. What sort of new material are you looking out for?
A: On the radio front, our content mainly consists of radio shows. We currently have around 70 regular shows on-air from about 65 presenters, so we tend to seek out or entertain new ideas for shows as long as they fill a gap in our programming. We’re also always looking for great new music to release on our label Boxout.Fm Recordings and we have a Boxout.Fm blog that’s launching soon with our new website. Over there, we'll have features, interviews, and articles skewed towards things that are relevant over time rather than being topical just for the sake of page views.
2. Indian audiences have started discovering newer sounds, and there is a high demand for alternative music. What is your take on the future of the Electronic Music Scene in India?
A: The buzz around electronic music has been particularly beneficial to a cluster of artists and fans over a couple of decades, but its future will depend on there being at least some leeway given to the arts in general. Other than that, the “scene” so-to-speak can only really sustain itself over time as long as there are new venues for the arts to be showcased, there is money to bankroll these things, and as long as the music itself is more open and welcoming to people from all social and political backgrounds. You cannot separate art, or the personal from the political, else people have no reason other than an arbitrary one to unite around a movement. And what is a movement without any real purpose? If everyone is just in it to get their piece of the pie, for the time being, its hard for any of this to have any relevance in the long term. That said, the industry has its timely way of separating the wheat from the chaff.
3. Your new gig property 'The Mutant' is making its debut at Kormangala Socials later this month, tell us more about it.
A: On its surface, there are words, and there is music and of course, dancing. These are things, that over centuries have brought people together. Deep inside, The Mutant is an act of resistance.
4. How would you describe the graph of Indie Music industry in India
A: You can't really have a graph without sufficient data to assess. I can tell you that the economies at work behind the independent music industry, at least in their current form, will ensure that growth remains slow and selective, and never reaches a place where the majority of musicians can sustain themselves solely on their music careers. I see three reasons for that.
1. No system of royalty collection for independent artists. 2. People refusing to buy music directly from independent artists. 3. People are still hesitant to pay for shows by local artists, but will fork out just about anything for an international name. These are all big, demotivating factors, and they need to be addressed.
5. Is there a lack of knowledge and information when it comes to the Business side of Music for artists in India. If so how should we address it
A: It’s shocking to me how little is known by people about music licensing, royalty collection and performance rights. We all consume music, but do we ever wonder if the artist who made that music is being paid fairly? Hopefully, a revamped and emboldened IPRS will change some of that soon but we have a long way to go, and we may need a conduit to help independent artists in this regard if the IPRS isn’t up to the task. Frankly, the only way to address issues like these is by being more informed and not believing in hearsay.
6. What would you suggest to upcoming Musicians/Artists/DJs who are just stepping into the scene?
A: To not allow people to use them in any way. Understand your rights as a musician, always have some form of a legal advisor and most of all, know that when you are asked to play or perform, promoters and organizers don’t own you, so you don’t owe them anything other than what you’re being paid to do. It’s often the people who seem to have the best intentions that will profit off of you without your permission, so it pays to stay vigilant. In India, the legal system does not have specific provisions for these things, so you have to be in-the-know at all times. The moment you sense a red flag, take a step back and think.
Music Inc. is a conference that aimed at finding solutions on how to improve the packaging of music as a product by aligning it to media, advertising, brands, and technology. The conference is a push towards a collaborative effort for creating innovative music experiences.