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Chennai Music Startup OriginalDog Partners with Decentralized Streaming Service Audius

Founder Navin Dorai talks about the funding and marketing platform, which has worked with artists such as Mali, Frizzell D’Souza, Siennor, Samar Mehdi

Anurag Tagat Dec 27, 2021

(Second and third from left) OriginalDog founder Navin Dorai and team member Berty Ashley with artists Frizzell D'Souza, Arjun Ranjit and Sridev Ramesh.

What’s the opposite of a copycat? According to Navin Dorai, it’s OriginalDog. It’s the name of an online funding and marketing platform for independent artists started by the Chennai-based musician/entrepreneur and his team in October 2020.

OriginalDog was initially conceived in 2019 but the launch happened in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic. “This posed not only a problem with our initial business model of being a music crowdfunding platform but also totally destroyed the independent music industry overnight,” he says. Faced with the choice of either “try to make money in an industry that isn’t currently making any money” or use their “marketing resources” to grow indie music in India. For free, they provide services related to making a mini-website, assisting in creating fans, social media and PR and fan engagement activities.

Dorai thus made OriginalDog a commission-free service with tools which allowed artists to fuel several projects — from New Delhi artist Nisa Shetty’s plans to make a music video to Bengaluru-based Frizzell D’Souza producing and creating a video for her single “Foolish Once Again.” Presently, the platform has signed over 80 artists, including seasoned singer-composer Pavithra Chari, singer-songwriters like Kevin Fernando, Bjorn Surrao, Priyanka Nath and jazz-fusion act Jatayu.

There was a bit of convincing involved, but Dorai confidently states that “there’s no brand in the world that does exactly what we do.” Through word-of-mouth connections and gaining “goodwill in the industry,” OriginalDog found more artists signing up. Earlier this year, guitarist-composer and producer Keba Jeremiah (the go-to axeman for the likes of A.R. Rahman and others) joined as an investor and partner in OriginalDog. American rap-rock band Flipsyde are also being represented in India by the company.

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On the music business front, the company found a partner in Audius, an American, blockchain-based streaming service. Since the streaming and live gig ecosystem were already constrained, OriginalDog looked to newer tech to solve some “hindrances and issues in the industry” in terms of allowing musicians to gain a sustainable income. Audius now counts OriginalDog as its India representative.

Clayton Blaha, head of partnerships at Audius, points out that they had little exposure to the Indian music space out in the U.S., which is what they’re counting on OriginalDog to solve. More than specific trends they say, Blaha observes that, based on “macro trends” of all streaming markets, artists everywhere often face the same needs — direct access to listeners and fans, sustenance through music and controlling their means of distribution. “Maybe we are making assumptions about India, but the music that’s been uploaded to Audius from the region to date is so incredible, our hope is that Indian artists are going to enjoy being part of our community as it grows globally and reach more fans,” Blaha adds.

Although Audius is equipped with its own cryptocurrency and operates on the blockchain, Dorai believes the proposal for artists to get on the platform is straightforward. “Audius is an app/website that people can use without even realizing it has anything to do with blockchain or decentralization. Those are the best kind of apps in this space in my opinion,” he says. In tandem, OriginalDog will continue to operate its existing services. “We will always have our community’s interests at the forefront of our activities and will not stop any of the services we currently provide if we can help it,” Dorai says. 

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Find out more about OriginalDog here.