What Musicians in Bengaluru think on Performing Live Music?
Musicians in Bengaluru are incredibly talented, and most city-based bands have created a niche for themselves in the scene pan India. But again, over the recent past, things haven’t been looking very hunky dory for namma ooru’s music artists. Reason? Well, the irksome bans, untimely payment methods and most importantly, the lack of adequate exposure to local media platforms. In a candid chat with popular musicians in town, we get insider viewers.
“Struggles used to be within the music fraternity, the audiences for the artist, money needed to finance a career in music — quality education — media support —sale of music and over-commercialization of film music etc… but now to add to all of this… the government and local authorities are not even willing to listen and take a wiser decision towards different sections of society. Even residents have taken such a huge stance against the operations of live venues. Life is not going to be easy for musicians anymore,” laments Sanjeev Thomas, a popular artiste and founder of the Rainbow Bridge Studios and Academy. He adds, “Bangalore will lose its charm for live music— we are already talking about this amongst ourselves. I’m sure there are many of us who have devised our own ways to sustain in this business but there are many who haven’t— and plus this is such a poor way ahead for the future of musicians here. So all in all—it’s just more struggle over struggle.”
Citing how the recent inane ban on live gigs and imposing a blanket ban on performance venues is a sad move, musician Akhilesh Kumar, well-known by his stage name Aki Roti says, “These unnecessary shutdowns of live venues even when artists are struggling to even get people to come for the shows just keeps pushing the arts backward and will most likely become nonexistent. Second, If this happens, I’d like venues to take artists seriously and treat them right! We as artists STILL have to struggle with a 45day turnaround and in most cases chase venues for payments. It’s very unreasonable as many artists live by themselves and have bills to pay.”
Thinking along similar lines is bassist Kevin Vineeth Kumar states, “Well, first of all, I’d say that most musicians struggle with venues not being able to pay musicians on time which affects an individual who’s taken up music as a career. So it would be great on venues to pay the artists on the day of the show like how some of them already do. This helps the band plan better and also for musicians to not feel the pressure of waiting for their payments.”
Adding insult to injury is the inadequate infrastructural facilities. Opining on the same in musician Pranay Ranjan, who adds, The “live” music scene in the last few years, has gone better but “only on the surface” – when you scratch it, it turns out to be true only in a few cities and generally for bigger established musicians and bands. While the internet has been able to promote even the “average” talent so much, there is a lot more desired in most cities to promote, “live”, real-time, performances and real, unedited, talent! In most cities, there are lots of improvements opportunities in supporting areas like infrastructure. For instance, having recently moved to Hyderabad, I have realized the jam rooms and studios are far and few. Generally, the opportunities to perform or get contracts, are so limited that sometimes you end up suppressing creativity to be able to get around and stay in the game. It’s so “unfairly” commercially competitive that it does the damage to music in two ways – one, the entry barrier is way too high for newer talent, and two, the creativity factor is always suppressed by commercial viability. E.g. Private Event Sponsors usually are looking for “names” or “music that is known to sell”. The restaurants and pubs are great platforms but only for smaller groups as they lack the infrastructure for larger or fuller bands.”
Kevin concludes that’s it’s about time musicians also step up their game in terms of fighting for what they deserve in terms of emoluments. “The other thing I’d like to focus is on how its plain unfair to be playing shows for free. I’ve learned it the hard way but it reached a point where I had to make sure I put a charge to the shows that I play otherwise you get taken for a ride and lot of them expect you to play free or very minimal pay with the excuse saying there isn’t much budget for the show. I’d say don’t do it then because it affects the guys who actually play good music and charge appropriately by pulling the standards down by playing for peanuts which might actually affect well-established artists in the city.”