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Ritnika Nayan: ‘We Need to Start With Music Education’

The ‘Indie 101’ author and New Delhi artist manager talks about how her new book can help anyone interested in getting involved in the Indian indie music scene

Riddhi Chakraborty Oct 05, 2017

With a total of 17 years in the indie music industry, there are few more qualified than Ritnika Nayan to write a book on it. Photo: Dhruv Kalra

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According to Ritnika Nayan, the biggest hurdle the Indian indie music scene faces is the lack of education around it. The Hub (India’s first book on electronic music, 2010) author and Music Gets Me High founder realized there was no one around to help indie artists, managers, PR professionals and producers who wanted to get involved. “Over the years, I’ve noticed that artists in India were asking me the same questions over and over again,” says Nayan. “There was nowhere they could go to get the information they needed pertaining to the Indian market.”

With this revelation came the idea for her second book, Indie 101: a book with key industry insights on artist management, record deals, PR, concert and festival production and publishing applicable to artists, managers, promoters and anyone who wants to work in indie music in India. Having worked on concerts and festival featuring artists like Maroon 5, Nickelback, Counting Crows, Manu Chao, Guns & Roses, Nucleya and more through her company Music Gets Me High and a total of 17 years in the indie music industry, there are few more qualified than Nayan to write a book on it. If there are others equally if not more experienced, they’re probably in the book too. “I wanted to make sure I covered at least one person from each genre or area,” says Nayan who explains that she chose several experts from various fields to answer F.A.Q.s and act as guides to those looking to enter their industries.

In this exclusive interview with Rolling Stone India, Nayan talks about the journey to writing Indie 101, the fears Indian society has around independent music and why education is integral to allaying apprehensions. Excerpts:

What finally made you take the step to write Indie 101? Is there a particular point in time you realized you wanted to do this?

Over the years, I’ve noticed that artists in India were asking me the same questions over and over again. There was nowhere they could go to get the information they needed pertaining to the Indian market and hence I decided that it was time someone helped the scene and that’s how this book came about. I finished the book two years ago and then tried to get publishers interested in the project. When that didn’t happen, I decided I would release it myself on my company’s 10 year anniversary as a way of giving back. I just wanted to make sure that all the information I have learnt over the years through my studies and working in various countries gets passed down to the newer generation so they don’t have to go through the headaches we all had to face.

What was the process of zeroing down the right people to speak to for Indie 101?

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I wanted to make sure I covered at least one person from each genre or area, so for example in the artist section I had Vishal Dadlani, Suhail Yusuf khan, Keshav Dhar, Ashvin Mani Sharma and so on. That way, it wasn’t just my views in the book but also views of industry folks that a lot of the younger generation look up to. I approached a lot of people and the ones that said yes were featured in the book.

How did you know they were the right people in their particular fields?

Honestly, it was more a matter of what I thought they represented and also whom I had access to. Everyone I have chosen brings a unique outlook towards the Indian music scene and also these guys have all attained some kind of success in their field. There were a lot of people I wish I could have included but I just couldn’t.

It’s common knowledge that pursuing music in India is seen by many families as ‘risky’ or ‘impossible’. Is there a way to change this mindset? How long before we see the change?

That is my long term goal. I think we need to start with education. This book was the first step and I hope to help schools set up proper music business diplomas, certifications, degrees so families realize that music is a proper career path. I feel a lot of parents are now giving their kids the freedom to pursue music–at least more than before. The mindset is changing but very slowly. It is the same with any artistic field. When my parents started working in fashion, it was considered risky, but slowly that changed when people had access to proper courses and in turn proper jobs.

What do you feel is a key factor for indie musicians not being able to gain mainstream success?

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It is hard to say, as everyone’s story is different. In India, majority of our music comes from Bollywood– that is considered our mainstream. I feel some people are so against going mainstream because they feel that they have sold out. Then there are those who just don’t have the support structure to get them the right contacts, whether it be in Bollywood or abroad. And lastly, it also comes down to the artist. A lot of them don’t really believe they can be anything more than indie artists and I feel that’s the biggest thing holding them back. I want to shake them and say, “Anything is possible… Think big!”

Do you feel this book can help indie artists have a little less fear about stepping into music?

I hope so. The music industry just like any other field has its issues, but there are ways to be smart about it so you don’t get taken for a ride. I hope my book has covered at least some topics that will help artists navigate the industry with ease.

What is one key thing you hope people will take away from the book after they read it?

I would like them to feel more optimistic about working in the music industry today. I want them to realize that it is possible to follow your dreams and they shouldn’t just give up. I never did and I am happy to say I have managed to survive over 10 years in the indie scene in India. I am sure the next generation would do so much better!

Click here to purchase a copy of ‘Indie 1o1.’

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