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Why Mumbai Venue Tuning Fork is Paying Artists with Studio Time

The three-month old venue, situated in Khar, has a barter system in place that has found favor with emerging artists in the city


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Aarifah Rebello performing at Tuning Fork. Photo: Courtesy of Glowworm Studios.

Mumbai-based vocalist Aarifah Rebello performing at Tuning Fork. Photo: Courtesy of Glowworm Studios.

When venues are often like fairweather friends to artists, defaulting on payments to performers, Mumbai-based performance and recording space Tuning Fork completely eliminates the monetary angle and offers independent artists a slightly different incentive.

Founded by entrepreneurs Balraj Singh Ghai, Sohaill Gandhi and Abhay Sabarwal in April, Tuning Fork has been compensating independent musicians with studio recording time equivalent to the duration of their performance at the venue, along with a video recording of their set. Ghai explains the rationale behind the barter system: “If you don’t have funds you can’t record yourself. If you can’t record yourself, you can’t create a presentable profile. If you can’t create a profile that can impress, you can’t market yourself – and you are back to stage one.”

In the three months it’s been around hosting up to four bands per week as well as open mic nights and comedians, Tuning Fork has already seen performances by Mumbai artists such as alt rockers Unohu, blues rock artist Kanchan Daniel’s new band Beesknees and singer-songwriters such as Vernon Noronha and Mohit Mukhi.

Noronha, who has already performed two gigs at Tuning Fork, seems to approve of the venue and its infrastructure. “I loved the experience, and the setting is great for singer-songwriters,” he says. “I’ve seen artists come up and play their first gig at Tuning Fork—the studio time and audio visual recording of the performance will definitely be helpful for these newer performers.” A more seasoned performer, Mohit Mukhi says he had his apprehensions about playing for free. He adds, “At least there is a barter involved, which is cool.”

Aarifah Rebello, who started out as a musician in 2012, says that getting a demo recorded is great for gig prospects in the future. Rebello, 23, argues that there should be some form of payment. She says, “We are putting in a lot of time rehearsing and hiring a drum kit was a pain, although they are working on getting sponsors for that.” Ghai, however, notes that the venue is for artists where money isn’t the main incentive. He says, “We wanted to create a space that eventually leads to producing the best of music while keeping in mind the most important objective — not let money be the motivation of something that is as universal a language as great music.”

Tuning Fork hosts Mumbai indie band SmxllTxlk tonight, 9 pm onwards. Event details here.

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