Music Honcho Nikhil Dwivedi on Why the Punjabi Music Model is Successful
The co-founder of EYP Creations attributes the industry’s spread to the state’s rich historic and cultural traditions as well as that Punjabi artists have face value
Punjabi music has taken over the world. Whether you’re listening to AP Dhillon’s “Excuses” that went viral on Instagram Reels, dancing to Harrdy Sandhu’s “Bijlee Bijlee” over the weekend at the club or pumping iron to Siddu Moose Wala and Bohemia’s “These Days” at the gym, you’re inadvertently witnessing India’s biggest non-film music industry assert its prowess. “A non-Punjabi person is also listening to Punjabi music in today’s day and age in India,” says Nikhil Dwivedi, the founder of Chandigarh-based entertainment conglomerate EYP Creations. He’s not wrong. A 2019 report by Deloitte and IMI, cited by Artistik License, underlines that while Bollywood/Hindi Film music has been overshadowing the Indian music market, independent singles from artists comprise 18-22% of Hindi music – and 90% of these singles are from the Punjabi music industry. Rooted in traditional, classical folk songs, the Punjabi music business is estimated to hold the lion’s share in Indian independent music with a worth of almost Rs. 700 crores. Dwivedi and co-founder Mayuri Gupta decided to tap into this space in 2014.
Identifying an absence of management for artists in the steadily growing Punjabi music industry, they set up EYP Creations which now represents the scene’s biggest names such as Jassie Gill, Babbal Rai, B Praak and more. “We found that there was no such organization back then that provided artists with a 360-degree management service and that also built artists up. Now there are 2-3 such companies but for a long period of time, we were the only ones doing artist associations, live events, artist development, brand partnerships, etc.”, says Dwivedi. The entrepreneur claims EYP Creations does this with an artist-first approach. “Jitne bhi independent artists hain (For all the independent artists)…we thought why not build them individually? Why are we making songs and taking them to labels? Why don’t we make the artists big as the label?”, says Dwivedi.
In this interview with Rolling Stone India, music industry honcho Nikhil Dwivedi discusses what sets the Punjabi music model apart, why its artists are successful, the future of the space and more. Excerpts:
The Punjabi music industry is one of few music industries that has as much success as Bollywood music has. It also has the largest share in the independent music industry. What do you think the Indian music industry can learn from the Punjabi music model?
Music in Punjab has been there since day one, since our forefathers… when they used to practice farming, they used to sing. So, music has always been rooted in Punjabi culture. When even Pakistan was a part of Punjab and the state was bigger, music was a big part of the culture. So for Punjab, music is a culture, it’s not just music. People create music in every home. That’s the only reason why you’ll see a lot of Punjabi singers coming in. Because here, music is produced in every house. Everyone is attached to and listens to music.
Secondly, the difference between Punjabi and other music is that our music is different… it motivates you to dance even if it’s a sad song. Jo music hain aur uski leher hain woh different hain (The music and its quality is different). Thirdly, with Punjabis being placed all over the world, Punjabi music is now made at an international standard. People living in Canada, the U.S., the UK and other countries are also producing it. There are artists who are living there who are producing international stuff. That’s the only reason you’ll see that the quality of our audio and video is very different from other music industries. Because we are global. That’s one mantra of success.
Also here, lyrics are valued strongly. Globally, people write more about love but in Punjab, we’ve so many famous stories on which songs are written. Like Heer-Ranjha, Ghalib sahab ke sher hain (the poems of Mirza Ghalib), Laila-Majnu. There are so many stories from books that have been converted into songs. The lyricists here write about life. If you listen to our songs, you see your life’s journey reflected. People feel this music.
Fourthly, we have face value. Punjabi artists appear in their music videos and have developed their face value even though in other industries playback works more. So showing face value and as well as flamboyance has been brought in by the Punjabi music industry.
You manage some of the biggest Punjabi artists such as Jassie Gill, Babbal Rai, B Praak and more. What do you think sets these artists apart – why are they successful and what can budding artists learn from them?
They all work in Bollywood. Artists like Gurnazar and Parmesh Verma too. So the artists we’ve majorly developed have been with us since day one. The biggest thing our artists understood is their daira (boundary). Every artist has their own genre of singing and acting. The artist who understands their genre, their restrictions, their parameters, they never flop. What they know, produce and present, they do in the best way. They also work on themselves; their singing, their acting, their health, their writing. All of these artists have developed themselves gradually. They picked and didn’t leave their areas. For example, if someone is good at making romantic songs, three out of four times they stick to that genre. So these are the success mantras for all of them.
You’re a strong entrepreneurial force with a particular stronghold in the Punjabi music industry. What does it take to establish oneself as a key player in the music trade and what’s your advice to music entrepreneurs?
Business is like business only. If you want to be in the music business, you need to have a sense of music and knowledge of music. Before entering any sphere, have knowledge. When non-professionals come in and work with artists, they ruin both themselves and the artist. You must have a basic knowledge of that particular area or scope of work if you want to enter that business. When that’s not there, you are unable to make the right decisions. At EYP, our aim is to go international, to go digital. We’re taking our festivals (Crossblade, Beer and Lager, Just Comedy) abroad, that’s one part of it. Digitally, we are marketing all the songs. Recently, a Sean Paul song released that we marketed in India; we digitally promoted that. So, international promotions. We will also produce international content. Content is something that we’re really into for 2022-2023.
What role do you think the Punjabi music industry plays in the Indian music landscape – is it a tastemaker, is it a revolutionary?
Punjabi music industry has changed the concept of music. Every film today has a Punjabi song and it changes the film’s numbers. If the promotional song clicks, there’s also a big box office. This happens because of stars too, of course. The star has 70-80% pull, but one Punjabi song changes the vibe and it gives that extra 20-30% pull. That is the role Punjabi music is playing in films.
Secondly, as an independent industry, a lot of music is made here. All the producers are going number one, they’re minting money because there are listeners. A non-Punjabi person is also listening to Punjabi music in today’s day and age in India. They are consuming Punjabi music. Our consumers are pan India. That is why the major Punjabi artists do Hindi-Punjabi songs so that their pan India consumers can hear their music. In terms of revenue, as an independent market, we’ve crossed everybody, in terms of popularity too. Our filmy music is not that big but slowly, even Punjabi films are growing.
Where do you see the Punjabi music industry heading in the next 10 years – what’s the future of the Punjabi music industry and EYP Creations?
I am sure that it will be an international music industry very soon. The way it’s growing, the way we’re traveling around the globe, the kind of concerts we’re doing internationally, the kind of artist collabs which are happening internationally… 10 years down the line, you will see the Punjabi music industry in America and Canada physically built and not only as the people living there. Governments like the Canadian government are very open to associating with Punjabi music, a lot of Hindi Punjabi films are being produced in the UK and a lot of subsidies have been provided by the UK government. So, a lot is happening and I think it’ll not be a regional industry anymore, but an international industry.
EYP Creations’ aim is to capture entertainment as a whole. Our future plan is to go ahead in entertainment. We’re going to produce web series and films this year. We want to enter all spheres of entertainment. We’ve always focused on creativity the most. Ours is not the richest company, but the most creative company and that’s our global goal.