When A Radio Exec Turns Musician: Vineet Singh Hukmani on Chasing Success
The New Delhi artist, a diehard fan of AC/DC, recently took vocal lessons to release his first hip-hop track ‘i Pray’
As someone who’s spent the last two decades in the radio and communications world, it’s probably natural to hear Vineet Singh Hukmani use words like “lucrative” and “digestible” when it comes to the way he makes and markets his music.
He says over a call from Delhi, “The way I see it, there are four to five top genres in the world – Top 40, adult contemporary, pop and rock, hip-hop/R&B and gospel/country. I’d started with the Top 40 sound and then done a pop song… I call myself genre agnostic but you can hear a lot of influences.”
A hardcore rocker at heart whose voice on songs like “Jab the World” and “If It Wasn’t For Rock” seems best suited for the Eighties glam sound, Vineet took a new turn with his latest hip-hop single “i Pray.” The singer and composer admits he was “nowhere ready” to take on rap-singing, but he was encouraged by his manager Martin Langford, going on to take vocal and music coaching from American producer Sean Divine specifically to record on “i Pray.” Vineet says about Divine, “He’s a technical genius.”
With any other artist, they might call this experimenting and expanding your sound, but Vineet sees it more as a “calculated risk” in his two-year music career. “We knew that trap and hip-hop is a genre that does well, artists like Post Malone and Swae Lee,” he says. Nevertheless, he also does it to learn about the style of music, like how he recorded pitch-corrected vocals live with effects. “I enjoy this tremendously, because I get to learn,” he adds.
As someone who says he was on radio in one way – working to launch WorldSpace Satellite Radio as well as Radio One in India – Vineet says he always wanted to be on the airwaves as well. With songs like “Jab the World” and “So New” finding a place on the Digital Radio Tracker and European Indie Music charts in terms of airplay, Vineet does very much believe that it’s “a killer medium for discovery” even compared to streaming. “[Chart success] is a hardworking statement of how much your song is played on the radio,” the artist says.
Vineet isn’t going to chase Billboardcharts and song sales, but he’s very much got global radio acceptance on his mind as a musician. He intends on releasing a song every 45 days. But he’s fine with putting out somewhat campy DIY music videos featuring publicly available footage. “The payout for video is lesser so I don’t spend much on them. Your audio has to sound great, because it’s the heart and soul,” Vineet says. For indie artists in India, his advice is about treating the audio as the main offering and the video as a product for marketing. Plus, you have to be mindful about expenditure. “The moment you set a budget, you have to break even, otherwise you’re not independent, you’re dependent,” he says.
All the rules that Vineet sets for himself as an artist come from his understanding of independent music in the “democratized” age of streaming. “I thought, why not follow the rules of labels but as an artist? I can replicate that and make sure the quality of music always has to be better than my last release. If you’ve decided your independent music has commercial taste, you have to start enjoying those rules, but you shouldn’t have to force it,” he says.
Although short video apps are often the new breeding ground for global hits – even on the radio – Vineet still puts radio first, although he calls it an “interesting vehicle” he may get into at a later stage. For now, however, he’s focusing on his next single, a synth-pop tune called “Turning Back Time.” He says, “It’s about using memories as fodder for good times. We managed to hit on something that goes there but let’s see, it’s up to people to say. I would love it if people said it sounds like Daft Punk,” he says with a laugh.
Watch the video for “i Pray” below.