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Create, Curate, Circulate: Everything That Went Down at All About Music

The conference saw the music fraternity coming together like never before, discussing potential solutions to problems faced by the Indian music scene

Rolling Stone India
Rolling Stone India Oct 03, 2017

(From left) Songwriter Raghu Dixit, music producer and DJ Nucleya, rapper Raftaar and YouTube singing star Shirley Setia discussed their unconventional rise to success at a panel moderated by industry veteran Atul Churamani (extreme right). Photo: Courtesy of All About Music

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When the debut edition of the music conference All About Music was announced two months ago, it seemed like an ambitious project with a rather wide mandate. The event aimed to bring under one roof almost all the big stakeholders from every possible stream of the Indian music industry: recording, publishing, distribution, Bollywood, indie, legal, live events and talent management, among others.

By means of panels featuring industry bigwigs, master classes and one-on-one interactions, All About Music sought to build itself as both a networking space for the community as well as a platform for identifying solutions to the many problems facing the Indian music industry. Going by the turnout at the event on both days—every panel was housefull—despite the prohibitive ticket price that ranged between Rs 5,000 and Rs 10,000, it is safe to say that All About Music delivered what it promised.

Here are the highlights:

Create, curate, circulate

The conference, held at Mumbai’s Taj Lands End Hotel, was spread across four spaces: Ballroom One (keynotes and special interactions), Salcette (panel discussions), Malabar (master classes and workshops) and Ballroom Two (networking zone/meet-and-greets). For a country that still struggles to fill music venues with 100 fans, it was heartening to see a packed house of at least 500 attendees at 9.30 am during the welcome address delivered by the person behind the conference, Tarsame Mittal, Founder, TM Talent Management. Mittal spoke about the need for a space like All About Music and why it is imperative for the many pillars of the industry to combine forces to succeed together.

Tarsame Mittal, founder, TM Talent Management, which organized All About Music

At Salcette, a keynote speech by Paramdeep Singh (Co-founder and Executive Chairman, Saavn) underlined the significance of innovative marketing techniques in today’s age of social media and music streaming. Singh said, “The content is there, it is just that people need to find it.” Singh later elaborated on the subject of content discovery, marketing and distribution on a panel which included Rajat Kakar (Managing Director of Sony DADC India), Tracy Maddux (CEO, CD Baby) and moderator Paul Brindley (Co-founder and CEO, Music Ally).

Post lunch, we attended a brilliant guitar master class conducted by two of India’s most versatile guitarists, Ehsaan Noorani and Warren Mendonsa. Both Noorani and Mendonsa addressed different styles of playing techniques utilizing the entire fretboard of the guitar, guiding learners on how to play the right amount over vocal harmonies. “If you want to be a recording musician or even as a songwriter, it’s important to make your song better from the aspect of guitar instead of just strumming chords and playing regular rhythm,” said Noorani.

Know your real goals as an artist

The panel titled ‘All About Social Media’ busted myths about online success and offered tips to budding artists

The mid-afternoon panel titled, ‘All About Social Media’ saw the biggest turnout of the day so far; attendees who couldn’t grab a chair or find standing room, claimed the aisle and sat on the floor. The panel featured Keya Madhvani (Head of Music and Lifestyle Partnerships, Twitter India), Saurabh Doshi (Head of Media Partnerships, Facebook India), Nirmika Singh (Executive Editor, Rolling Stone India) and playback singer Neha Kakkar, and was moderated by Varun Duggirala (Co-founder and Content Chief, The Glitch). Addressing the elephant in the room (“Is organic reach dead?”), each of the experts busted social media myths even as they offered tips to budding artists to build a fan base online and offline. Said Singh, “The concept of ‘engagement’ on social media can be very misleading. As an artist, your real goal cannot be likes, comments or shares. Invest in your music first.” Added Madhvani, “Staying topical and expressing your true self is the only way to finding social media success.”

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The majority of panels at All About Music raised a host of pressing issues affecting both Bollywood and independent music circuits: ranging from the decline of A&R in India, the scramble for social media stardom and the monopolistic reign of Bollywood music.

Guitarists Ehsaan Noorani (left) and Warren Mendonsa conducted a guitar master class on day one

One of the best things about All About Music was that it facilitated direct interactions between attendees and speakers and other experts in Ballroom Two. It’s not every day that you get a chance to hobnob with the best brains in the music business and the attendees made the most of all the opportunities that the conference offered.

Unconventional stories of success

The second day of the conference started with a keynote address by Ed Peto (Founder and CEO, Outdustry). A music pioneer credited with helping organize the Chinese recording industry, Peto spoke about his experience of representing labels, publishers and talent in the country and highlighted the parallels between the Indian and Chinese setups.

One of the morning highlights was the laid-back conversation between interviewer Mandar Thakur (COO, Times Music) and popular music composer Amit Trivedi. Not one to mince his words, Trivedi confessed he is a film director’s composer, and brought smiles to quite a few young faces when he casually remarked that you do not need substances, chemical or otherwise, to spark or aid any creative process.

The next panel saw a motley group of artists discussing their unconventional rise to success. It comprised veteran singer-songwriter Raghu Dixit, music producer and DJ Nucleya, rapper Raftaar and YouTube singing star Shirley Setia. The session was moderated by music industry veteran Atul Churamani (Founder and MD, Turnkey Music). Sharing his journey as a musician, Dixit said that he took up the guitar as a shield against being bullied as a teenager. “I was a Bharatnatyam dancer, which was considered something only for girls.” Nucleya, on his part, said he knew it early on that he was cut out for electronic music. “I couldn’t do pop music because I didn’t understand pop music,” he said.

Noorani was back on day two for another master class, this time with keyboardist Loy Mendonsa and vocalist Kamakshi Khanna for a songwriting workshop. The trio discussed the nuances of composition and arrangement, showcasing the variety moods a certain piece can adapt to as it goes from a major key to minor or as it switches genres. The interactive session even saw one of the attendees performing her original piece with the musicians. Said Noorani, “This master class was not only for yourself [as an independent artist] but about the flexibility of being a songwriter from a commercial aspect: writing jingles or film songs. The important thing was to show how you need to know more than just the basics in music to make the music sound better. It’s a lot of fun doing that and I felt it is really necessary to impart that knowledge to other people.”

(From left) Harshad Chavan, Kiran D’Cruz, Vinit Karnik, Gurpreet Singh and Sahith Sethuraman

The day also saw insightful panels discussing issues within the streams of copyright, revenue and music management. The discussion titled ‘All About Brands in Music’ moderated by Harshad Chavan (MD, Toast Events) raised many pertinent questions relating to sponsorships, content monetization, brand associations and equity. Featuring powerhouse panelists representing both sides of the fence–Sahith Sethuraman (Brand Manager, Bacardi Trademark Inda & South East Asia), Vinit Karnik (Business Head – Entertainment, Sports & Live Events, Group M), Gurpreet Singh Singh (Co-founder & COO, One Digital Entertainment)–the session threw light on why music is a fertile ground for brands to invest in and how brands have traditionally been the largest creators and consumers of original music by commissioning jingles and TVCs. “The fact that music has no baggage or boundaries makes it very conducive for investment. And that’s why we do it so consciously as a brand–because it can appeal to everyone,” said Sethuraman, highlighting Bacardi’s long-standing investments in music properties such as the hugely popular festival Bacardi NH7 Weekender, among others.

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When Arijit Singh stole the show

The one session most attendees were waiting with bated breath was the closing talk between Bollywood playback sensation Arijit Singh and the global music industry luminary Ralph Simon, co-founder of Zomba group of music companies whose label Jive Records signed artists such as Backstreet Boys, Janet Jackson and N’Sync in the Nineties. Known as the ‘Father of the ring tone,’ Simon is currently the CEO of London-based Mobilium Global Group.

Ralph Simon (left) in conversation with Arijit Singh

Both Singh and Simon engaged in a fascinating conversation about Singh’s artistry and the strange and unique ways in which Bollywood functions. “We work like a factory here. There’s an ‘executive producer,’ ‘operating officer’ and ‘financial officer,’ ‘strategist’ and a ‘board of directors’ – and together and make music. It is really like this! Generally, an independent artist anywhere has to be very good at writing and composing, and that’s how they become songwriters. But in Bollywood, it’s completely different: we have a lyricist who mostly can’t sing, a composer who can only compose—that’s all he is allowed. And then there’s the singer who will come and take the entire credit for the song! That’s how we work.”

The talk ended with Singh finally obliging the insistent audience with a song, but not without inviting his playback singer buddies on stage to join him. In no time, the stage was filled with a dozen familiar and unfamiliar faces singing the hugely popular “Kabira” amidst group selfies with the media-shy Singh that made it to Facebook, Twitter and Instagram in no time. It’s all about social media, indeed.

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