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Krunk Rings In 10 Years With Month-Long Celebrations

The Mumbai-based artist management and booking agency’s founder Sohail Arora talks about the challenges of surviving, their traveling festival Bass Camp and future plans

Anurag Tagat May 08, 2019

Krunk founder Sohail Arora at the decks at a gig last year. Photo: R.C. Photography/Courtesy of Krunk

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There’s more than 15 gigs taking place in the span of 30 days to mark Mumbai artist management and booking agency Krunk’s decade in action. Yet, it doesn’t even seem like a hectic month, considering the amount of bookings and gigs they handle.

Founder Sohail Arora says with a smile, “As a company, we have been doing an average of 15 to 20 shows a month for over five or six years now. Curation and promo is our main USP as a company, so balancing the two is a lot more streamlined but also keep us on our feet at all times.”

From the erstwhile Zenzi  and Blue Frog in Mumbai to venues across the country, Krunk have kept at it and made sure they stay up to date with everything and anything – whether it’s new music or new properties. It helps that Krunk works majorly in the electronic music space, a style that’s become the mainstay of clubs all over the world, including India. Arora and his team have brought in several international DJ-producers such as Romare, Sam Binga and Koan Sound in the past, but they also concentrated on quality music regardless of genre, turning to soul-jazz producer-singer Jordan Rakei, dub act Gentleman’s Dub Club and multi-instrumentalist Youngr, among others.

Arora agrees that it’s easier to pitch DJs, but he adds, “Electronic music is a lot more healthier as a circuit from a financial standpoint than indie live music but on the other hand, [it] also encourages a lot of mediocrity which can’t be good and needs to be filtered out, in my opinion.”

Krunk’s own artist roster has been slowly diversifying, now including everyone from dark techno producer Aqua Dominatrix to jazz-hop band Fopchu, hip-hop DJ-producer Paper Queen, teenaged electronic music producer Chrms, electronic duo Nothing Anonymous and more. Arora says Krunk always looks for an international appeal at this point. “You need to be good enough internationally and have a global approach. Being good enough just for the Indian market does not work if you have big goals and expectations from yourself. You can always do a lot of corporate events being average but that’s a soul killer. Finding a balance is key.”

Mumbai electronic duo Nothing Anonymous, who are signed to Krunk. Photo: Nidhi Mehta

In an interview with Rolling Stone India, Arora talks about how Krunk stays ahead of the curve and plans for their own festival, FAMJAM Weekender, and a record label later this year. Excerpts:

Over the last 10 years, the Indian live music space has constantly undergone change. What has it been like adapting to it and trying to stay ahead of the curve? 

Well, working within Indie India has always had its challenges and will always continue to do so however these challenges keep changing year to year. Some of the most obvious challenges involve:

  1. Venues and brands paying agencies/artists after an average of two or three months, which really affects cash flow regularly as we are just middlemen in most of these transactions.
  2. Lack of venues in general
  3. Struggling live music scene with almost negligible live venue options in the country.
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Also with time, music trends change, staying current is the most important factor in the survival of long term existence. However, there are some people who just follow trends but have no longevity ‘cause trends die as fast as they come. I also truly believe that while it’s important to stick to your USP, it’s also important to evolve and grow without blindly following what’s trendy. There is a clever balance between the two. Opening your mind up to new opportunities, music taste and new ideas helps you constantly evolve with your business mindset.

The Krunk artist roster has also changed many times. You just signed Fopchu recently. Do you feel like artists are yet to fully understand what management is all about, is that why they come and go?

The perception of management/record labels and agencies in general has overall always been a negative one since the Seventies and Eighties. With the stories you hear about how labels ruined artist careers to all the negative affects it had, majority of artists have always been on guard and not appreciated management/labels and agencies as much as they deserve. There is good and evil in all industries, I reckon. You can’t really blame the artists after all, with the history of it all.

In terms of us signing new acts, we like to constantly evolve and hence sign new talent every year to keep the roster fresh as well. It has nothing to do with artists coming and going. Some artists will always keep jumping ‘cause that’s how they are. Too much jumping never works out for any artist. We currently represent many artists that we have repped for almost five-plus years on average so some artists leaving from time to time is part of the process and helps us as well in keeping things fresh. Constant evolution also helps in not getting complacent and staying ahead of the curve.

Bass Camp continues to be one of the biggest draws every year. Has it got to a point where regardless of the lineup, there are Bass Camp regulars who show up in every major city? 

Bass Camp started as a project eight years ago to promote a very niche sound and continues to do so even today. The success of Bass Camp can be credited to all the partners who have supported us over the years, plus all the artists and most importantly, the bass listeners and the community. We have grown with our reach in terms of new cities every year. However, the numbers in each city have stayed constant over the years. It was not meant to be a mainstream thing after all. The idea is to stay niche, promote quality music and cater to people who enjoy the energy and culture of bass music. The measure of success with Bass Camp is different from other festivals where the goal is to only increase numbers every year. Bass Camp will always look at quality over quantity and we are happy with the way it is growing and has grown.

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Watch Superdry Krunk Live Sessions, which was aired on MTV Indies in 2015. 

Do you feel like the live music ecosystem has been friendlier to electronic music more than other forms right now because that’s how global trends are also going?

There is definitely a lack of live music venues and touring support and infrastructure for live bands unless you really stand out, reach a certain level & build your own market. Parekh & Singh, Madboy/Mink, Divine (Live), Prateek Kuhad are just some great examples of standing out and selling shows, plus creating a demand in spite of all the issues. Content is key. Good content cannot be substituted at any point. You just need to work harder as a live musician and have a very well thought out product for the market.

There’s a total of 15-20 shows in May. What is it like taking on all that with a small team? Especially knowing you have to get behind the decks as well occasionally, as EZ Riser or Rafiki. 

We have a good-sized team now and some really solid people behind the scenes at Krunk working with us on all our gigs. Shout out to Ben Ryngksai, Zaid Khan, Isaar Rattanpal, Ashmita Shetty, and everyone else who has worked with us over the years. They are the backbone of everything we do. Special shout out to all the artists who have supported our vision and believed in us over the years.

What else is coming up through 2019? 

We are working on a brand new festival called FAMJAM Weekender which takes place for the first time this November. Bass Camp comes back with a massive lineup of cities and artists yet again. Echoes of Earth Festival, where we are curators, comes back bigger and better and continues to grow exponentially. It has a strong message and is a perfect example of building a festival on good quality music rather than headliners and big names for selling tickets.

Besides this, we’ve got a whole bunch of new artists and releases lined up for this year. We’re also launching a brand new record label this year and lastly, a fresh new curation of international talent and tours which takes place throughout the year, will keep us busy this 2019.

Check out Krunk’s upcoming gigs this month here.

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