Breaking Down the 4Z4DI Merger Between Companies Azadi Records and 4/4 Experiences
The founders of the record label and the culture company speak to us about what went into the move and what’s coming up
In September last year, a conversation between Mo Joshi – Mumbai-based co-founder of the label Azadi Records – and seasoned event industry minds Nikhil Udupa and Himanshu Vaswani of 4/4 Experiences picked back up on an idea they had been toying with for a while: a merger of the two companies. This week, they announced the creation of a new entity together called 4Z4DI Entertainment (pronounced “Azadi”) that would consolidate artist management, recording label, branding, live event production and more.
Joshi recalls that when he moved to Mumbai in October 2019, the Azadi Records office was two doors down from the 4/4 Experiences headquarters in Bandra. “Our companies started out within months from each other in 2017,” Joshi says. The label – which has not been without its financial struggles – secured funding in August last year, which spurred Joshi on to think about how to “scale the business.” He adds, “What we found out over the last two years was that we were both working on the same projects with same brands, but in different areas. When you’re working with a brand or agency, the more streamlined you present as your approach – with little moving parts as possible – the more comfortable they are investing time and money into projects. We’ve got three business units – Azadi Records, 4/4 Entertainment and the new entity 4Z4DI Entertainment.”
Udupa, who has previously worked with music companies such as Only Much Louder, says that this merger “declutters” a lot of work and allows each key personnel to work on specific parts. 4/4 co-founder Vaswani works more on event production, while Azadi’s co-founder Uday Kapur will continue to helm all artist and repertoire (A&R) aspects of the company. Udupa says, “What it created as a company was a one-stop company that would cater to any brand who wants to align or associate with us. Not only can we design and create, we can also execute. It gives us that much more ammunition.”
As the founders point out, the two companies would often find themselves working on the same brand projects together, but on different aspects. Plus, they also closely work together with multi-lingual hip-hop crew Swadesi, who are managed by 4/4 but releasing material via Azadi Records. Vaswani adds, “The synergies were always present. We wanted to expand on artist management and never got to. For us, it was transferring two of our artists to Azadi, which was never a problem. We were working with Azadi very closely for Swadesi from the beginning. [Graffiti artist] Zake was the new addition.” He however notes that there’s still a lot “due diligence” left to be tackled in the merger.
In the last five months, they’ve been ironing out share structures, personnel divisions and which company would be assigned specific functions. Udupa adds that both companies also worked on different business models, which is now changing. He adds, “4/4 as a service agency, our business model tends to be cash positive. Azadi Records, since they build assets and then they recover over due time, it’s more an investment model. They have assets, while we have services. That kind of ticked off both our needs – we got some stake in holding assets and they can come into a company culture that’s more service and cash positive-driven. It balances out both our strengths and addresses both our needs. This works because it solves both our problems.”
An inaugural gig series called Outliers celebrating the launch of the merger takes place on February 3rd and there’s work ahead for 4Z4DI. Kapur says they’re likely to release music from two Kashmiri artists this year – singer-songwriter Ali Saffudin’s debut and rapper-producer Ahmer’s second full-length. Kapur says of Ahmer’s upcoming record, “Since he’s self-producing it, it’s more Kashmir-centric in terms of sound because of the artists he’s collaborated with, it’s a shift of sorts and not just a hip-hop album.”