Qyuki’s New Generation of Creators
They weigh in on the future of entertainment, new mediums of leverage and what it takes to be a digital superstar
Earlier this month, digital media agency Qyuki’s Fam-Jam saw creators band together to celebrate their work, accelerated by the new media platform founded by musician and composer A.R. Rahman, filmmaker Shekhar Kapur and entrepreneur Samir Bangara. Present at the forefront of leveraging digital growth, Qyuki aids and supports the work of new age artists: from independent and Bollywood musicians to YouTubers, actors, presenters and fashion influencers. Why does Qyuki invest in digital content creators? Because they are different and have a personal connect with their audience – something mainstream personalities cannot boast about.
Ritu Agarwal, independent musician, famed YouTuber and multi-instrumentalist notes that audiences have become exceedingly accepting of new genres and styles of music, citing the success of Luis Fonsi’s Latin Grammy-winning “Despacito” which has garnered over 6.1 billion views on YouTube since its debut in 2017. “Right now is the best time to be and explore as an independent artist because the audience has become global. They’re open to experimental things and original content,” she says. The fearless and experimental Agarwal alludes to YouTube being instrumental in her journey after The Voice India, “Some people get very hung over about being on a reality show – that if I didn’t win, that’s all for me. I never had that thought in my mind at all. I just used that platform to improve myself and then I moved on, and YouTube helped me to carry forward my audience.”
YouTube was a turning point for dancer, choreographer and software engineer Sonali Bhadauria. Her path to dancing full-time began with the performance group Crazy Legs at Infosys which led to her practicing after work hours for presentations at events and competitions. Now an established and stellar performer, Bhadauria didn’t know that her first video upload to LiveToDance with Sonali would lead to a movement followed by over 1.7 million people – talk about surfing the digital wave!
While Google’s video platform is a rite of passage for most content creators, following the demise of Vine, Chinese app Tik Tok (which has been banned in India for failure to instate user compliance with its guidelines) caused quite the furor when it launched outside of its home-base, gaining 88.6 million new users, in the first quarter of 2019, in India alone. Mega Tik Tok creator Adnaan Shaikh remarks about the phenomenon, saying, “Tik Tok ek aisi cheez hai jo 15 second mein mood change kar deta hai. 15 second mein logon ko ek movie dekhne ko milti hai. Toh isliye log zyaada Tik Tok pasand karne lage (Tik Tok is a platform that changes one’s mood in 15 seconds. You can even watch a movie in 15 seconds. This is why people love Tik Tok.)”
Social media platforms serve as effective mechanisms of engagement and streaming, but they also operate to disseminate learning – for both creators and users. Musician and composer Antara Nandy is trilingual (speaking Bengali, Assamese and English) but can sing in Tamil, Malayalam, Telugu, Marathi and Gujarati too. When asked about how she picked up so many languages by the age of 19, she responds, “I had a habit of going live on my social media and every time I would do that, there would be people from other regions – apart from West Bengal and Assam (her home territory) – requesting me to sing songs in their native language. And that intrigued me. So, I started picking up Rahman Sir’s compositions in Tamil, the ones that existed in Hindi as well, and I would just sing them in my live sessions; that’s how I started picking up languages.”
The digital space also makes giving back easier. Femina Miss India Goa 2017, actress and presenter Audrey D’silva did not have the means readily available – back in 2011 – to set about kick-starting a career in the world of fashion. The online tutorials that are commonplace today weren’t as widespread yet. As fate would have it, that didn’t deter D’silva who rose in spite of the odds, and as she sets about establishing an Image Consultancy agency, she wants to look back and lend a hand to anyone who might benefit from her experience. “What I have learned is what I want to deliver to people, so that they can be inspired and work towards their dream. It’s what I’ve always wanted to do,” she expresses.
Visual media in the web space is particularly influential, and actress and entrepreneur Parul Gulati wants to use her position in the acting space responsibly. Growing up in the presence of powerful female figures such as her mother and cousin, she did not see strong, multidimensional women being represented on screen. She emphasizes, “I did two Punjabi films and I was just furniture. I genuinely felt that I was this girl who was being pretty, and two songs, three scenes was my criteria. So when Haq Se came to me, I wanted to do this role where people could see women portrayed in a different light. I might be doing the smallest bit but Haq Se was a kick start for me and for all the web series that followed.”
Streaming and social media has revolutionized the agency of the independent artist. Gone are the days when artists chased a big record label or music channel. “It’s an amazing time to be making independent music because you can put yourself on blast. It’s a double-edged sword too because now these labels won’t sign an artist unless they already have a following as well. But at least, if you’ve a following, they’re yours,” relates Hip-hop musician and actor Ishq Bector. Phones allow musicians to hold a concert on demand through the live option, almost always guaranteeing an audience, and the censor board has no jurisdiction over the artist’s content anymore, giving them the freedom to execute their vision. The House of ishQ hitmaker notes that a music brand can have its niche audience and nurture that audience – which wasn’t possible before social media. “You don’t have to sell music anymore. People just have to listen to it. So if you like it, listen to it and those streams will add up. It’s an awesome time for publishers who own the rights of their music because although it’s like .007 of a cent for one stream, at least you know that you don’t have to sell anything,” he observes.
In 2019, the industry is choosing unconventional investments as audiences tap into the vast plethora of content that digital media delivers to them. With the online space constantly evolving, survival depends on constant innovation, and given the caliber, diversity and reach of independent creators, there might never be a dearth of what the Qyuki Fam-Jam came together to celebrate – originality.