AN INSIGHT INTO THE INDIE MUSIC DISTRIBUTION AND PROMOTION DURING THE LOCKDOWN: A VIRTUAL GROUND REPORT: Score Short Reads

Regardless of their vocation, 2020 is certainly a notable year for all creators and artists worldwide. It is true that in an age of social distancing and self quarantines, a live performer cannot certainly hope to bake his bread; let alone pick the cherries of a good harvest. Musicians, artists, and event technicians are some of the worst hits in the pandemic. 

Interestingly enough, the indie music circuit is pretty much always braced for the worst-case scenario, and the lockdown just materialized more possibilities for them. The lockdown actually brought a boom in multiple releases across various genres and new brands. 

For many, the fountain of creativity flourished through multiple avenues of distribution and promotions to create various monetization opportunities. The Score Magazine spoke to three biggies of indie music distro and promos, viz. CD Baby, Songdew, and Believe India to understand how they helped the artists despite all the challenges and the setbacks.

Malini Hariharan Director of the music distributor company, Horus Music confirms: “we saw a large increase in the number of releases we received during the lockdown. Initially, it was quite a challenge to meet the demand due to working from home and having to adapt to a new way of working, but over the course of the lockdown we have implemented new features that improve the speed of delivery to stores as well as give our clients more options for the way they like their releases to be delivered.

On the flip side, the lockdown restrictions had, in turn, created many interesting opportunities for creating an alive and entertaining music market. Vivek Raina the Managing director of Believe Music recounts: “we have had a good appreciation for digital concerts such as ‘Together, Louder, Stronger’ produced by Believe Entertainment, which featured more than 20 artists live from their homes, supporting the lives impacted by the pandemic.” He further adds, “Since we cater to all artists, our focus across regional artists have been more, managing their requests and sharing our services, which worked out well for both of us in terms of collaboration and releasing their recordings.” In fact, other brands have adapted soon to suit the market.  

Raina’s BM as a brand looks to root for regional music and even has a Do-It-Yourself (DIY) platform like Tunecore where an artist can simply upload her recordings and distribute it across digital music stores and get 100% of their royalty back. His approach had been pretty foolproof and intimate: “we have been in touch with the artists during this entire time of lockdown and helped them release their recordings or manage their YouTube Channels.” He further shares his game-plan for maintaining a record consistency. “This year has been quite challenging for a lot of services, but for us distributing tracks on time was not a challenge as we have a scalable technology which allows us to distribute many tracks on daily basis. If the song assets are ingested within a certain timeframe, that helps us distributing tracks within the timeline.”

A dash of dedication is all that an indie artist craves for some such enablers and BM does not dishearten: “we continue with our mission which is to develop labels and artists in the most suitable way, at each stage of their career and development, in all local markets around the world, with respect, expertise, fairness, and transparency”

Another DIY distribution platform, CD Baby, had confirmed that they had to actually grow their team size in order to tackle the influx of a high dose of quality releases in the past few months. “This pandemic has not stopped us from pursuing our mission of helping Indie artists in India. CD Baby along with its sister companies like Songtrust, Adrev, Dashgo, Fuga, and more will continue to work strongly in India to help artists and labels monetize their music.” Thanks to the spirit of the artists, the vibe of the market remain largely positive: “music will recover and bounce back, it may take a little bit of time, but if we use this time efficiently, we will come out stronger at the end.” says Ritnika Nayan, head of India for CD Baby

She also throws a very interesting observation on the industry: “I think this pandemic has given us an opportunity to re-shape what we want our industry to look like. In the past, there were systems in place where artists won’t get advances and they had to chase after their payments. I feel once gigs start again, we need to band together as a community and set some rules in place, that everyone can adhere to.” 

Horus is a startling example of how a brand can pull up the philosophies it stands by; through their innovative approaches, thanks to their pedigree in technology. Horus had never ignored the end-user experiences and have always focussed on adding more features to their bouquet of services. Malini shares a cool scoop on this: “Some curated partnerships have led to exciting opportunities for Indian artists such as the Liverpool Soundcity showcase, Gramaphone listening sessions, and more. So, I would say that we are just getting started and there is a lot more to look forward to.”  

It is great that so many brands have come together for helping with a revival of the market. Since indie artists are always on the hunt for better distribution possibilities of their music, brands like Songdew.com and Songdew Tv look forward to helping them monetize their music through various avenues. Songdew provides opportunities like music video broadcasts through major satellite outlets, this really helps in jumping the queue and getting the due ‘exposure’. Sunil Khanna the Founder of Songdew boasts: “Songdew TV is today the largest platform for indie music. It showcases the best of indie music and now reaches 200+M HHs. All the new music is promoted aggressively on the channel to help artists reach to every corner of the country through their music.”

His resounding optimism is refreshing as he reminds us that the “Future of Music in India is Indie Music”, and further cautions, “the challenge is whether the music distributed is being “promoted” enough. Are we doing something substantial to promote the music which artists can’t do themselves? Songdew.com provides various digital tools to create buzz and provide additional content to artists to engage with their fans on social media. We have also tied up with some of the leading FM Radio channels to promote indie music.”

Thanks to the relentless zeal of promoting raw talents from the vast talent pool of an untapped market that many like Songdew TV is looking at an aggressive plan of action after the pandemic is over. “We do see ourselves getting into other countries sometimes next year. We have seen distribution increasing by more than 1000% in the last year. We will continue to enhance programming and increase distribution to ensure that indie music does not remain niche music. It has the potential to become mass music and with the help of all our initiatives, we would do our bit to see it reaches its well-deserved place.” Khanna signs off.

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