Because big dreams don't need big money

The music scene in Bangalore has never been more diverse- whether it’s your regular ol’ classic rock, a young indie band, an international DJ, or a beautiful night of Carnatic music, the city has it all.

Published: 12th December 2013 08:23 AM  |   Last Updated: 12th December 2013 08:23 AM   |  A+A-

The music scene in Bangalore has never been more diverse- whether it’s your regular ol’ classic rock, a young indie band, an international DJ, or a beautiful night of Carnatic music, the city has it all.

However, not all these bands and venues have been able to break even the costs they put into a successful live music event. Now, here’s a small segment that’s trying to change the system from within and create a more sustainable environment for the live music industry.

Take for example, the brand new start up, Tommy Jams. Founded by 25-year-old Parth Saxena and Nikhil Kapur in 2012, Tommy Jams aims to spark cultural diversity by promoting cross city and inter-city events.

“Right now, most gigs take place on the basis of personal contacts. And bands that do have event managers, end up playing the same venues over and over again. There’s no transparency when it comes to money either,” explains Parth. “We let venues and artistes book each other through our website. Bands can register online and select the venues they would like to play at. The venues in turn, can choose which bands they’d like to feature at their place. Once the gig is fixed, all the band has to do is show up on time, play the gig and then collect their pay check,” he explains further.

Parth, a musician himself, has observed that it’s still very hard for musicians to make a living full-time. “We give bands a wider choice when it comes to what kind of gigs they can play. Now, musicians can comfortably play two gigs a week, and make enough money to do this full time. All we charge is 20 percent of the band’s earnings and the rest of the money goes to the artiste,” says Parth. Their model has also recently incorporated a crowd-funding method of sorts where bands can campaign and get audiences to pre-book their events, so as to fund their multiple city tour.

Guru Somayaji, programme director, Counter Culture, believes that each gig venue has it’s own pricing model, depending on the kind of artiste, the day of the week and other factors. Counter Culture recently launched a campaign called #PayForTheArts. Every #PayForTheArts performance is free, but they have placed dropboxes all over the venue to encourage people to pay as much as they’d like and support the artistes they’ve come to see. “Our idea was to do it for three months and we completed three months in November. But now every Friday, we have a free gig, which gets turned into a #PayForTheArts night. Every gig needs to be monetised at the end of the day as the bills need to be paid and the artiste needs to make money as well,” he says.

According to Guru, in India, there’s a very high input cost to organise an event. And this sparks different kinds of models, that help sustain the live entertainment industry. “Nothing in life comes free. We live in a capitalistic world. Gigs cannot come cheap either. If you want to watch a band you like, you have to pay up,” he says.

For Nikhil Barua, owner of Humming Tree, a fairly new live music venue and bar, charging entry for gigs is still a distant dream.

“I don’t think we’re there yet. If you look at the scene abroad, you have kids from a very young age attending gigs and appreciating live music. That doesn’t happen here. I myself find it difficult to get my friends to go for a gig with me, and the minute they find out there’s entry, it becomes even more difficult,” explains Nikhil.

Although this model makes sure the artistes get paid, the venue does take a hit. “We’re doing it purely for the love of live music. And we also have a bar here. So people don’t necessarily walk in here for the music. But over time, we hope they’ll get to enjoy the live music scene and then they’ll come here just for a particular gig or a band, and maybe then, we can start charging entry as a standard,” he says.


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