Indian music bands find survival tough, but rock on

Gaining acceptance, convincing record labels, fighting piracy and making ends meet. While international bands like U2, AC/DC and Coldplay are rolling in the millions, Indian bands say survival is tough, let alone earning huge profits.

‘In this country, survival as a musician is very tough. Taking up music as a profession is a big challenge,’ Chris Powell of Hindi rock band Bandish told IANS.

‘One of the major challenges a band faces in India is acceptance. Post acceptance, the challenge is to find a record label to support your music. Then it’s the promotional hazards for non-film music compared to the crores of rupees spent to promote Bollywood film music,’ he lamented.

‘To overcome these hazards, we need to have the right support system from music labels, television channels and radio channels like in the West that leave no stone unturned to promote their artists,’ Powell said.

On the international scene, Irish music band U2 was named the Top Earning Musicians of 2010 by Forbes magazine, earning $130 million over the last year from their ‘360 Degree’ world tour and sales of their 2009 album ‘No Line on the Horizon’. Veteran rock group AC/DC came a close second, earning $114 million.

‘We can’t even think of earning that much money. Unlike India, the Western music industry is very organised. They get proper royalties, their merchandise is sold and through that also they generate so much money,’ said Subir Malik, member of popular Delhi-based rock band Parikrama.

‘The ticket rates are so high and the audience is large…all these things amount to a lot of moolah,’ Malik told IANS.

India boasts of many bands that make music in different genres, from rock to pop to fusion and even electronic and it is their sheer passion for music that keeps them going despite the hurdles.

Apart from Parikrama and Bandish, some popular Indian bands are Indian Ocean, Euphoria, Bhoomi, Them Clones, Pentagram, Swarathama, Kailasa, Midival Punditz, Shadows and Dhwani among others.

According to Vineet Malhotra of Shadows, piracy is another problem plaguing the industry and creating problems for bands.

‘Music companies are today reluctant to release our albums. This is because of piracy. The songs get leaked online and then no one buys the albums,’ Malhotra said.

However, the major chunk of finances that a band generates is through live shows. While an average band does more than 40 shows a year, popular bands like Parikrama clock nothing less than 160 each year.

As far as money is concerned, a reputed band can earn anywhere close to Rs.5 lakh a show, which is still less than what their international counterparts get.

So is it possible to earn one’s livelihood through the money they generate from their music? While some have quit their jobs to pursue their passion, others say it is necessary to have an alternate career to make ends meet.

Sriram of Dhwani, a multilingual Kolkata-based band, left his job as a banker and is a full-time musician.

‘It is possible to earn your bread and better through the earnings of a band and that’s why I left my job to give this full focus. There is huge scope in shows,’ he said.

But Parikrama’s Malik feels it’s important to keep other job options open.

‘I don’t think it’s easy to survive only through a band. It’s important to have alternate careers, not only for money but also so that lethargy doesn’t seep in. If you are not doing too many shows in a year and you don’t have an alternate job, then what will you do the rest of the free days?’ he asked.

That is why Malhotra of Shadows often steps in as an emcee for the shows and takes on modelling assignments.

The hurdles may be aplenty, but the bands still believe the time is good for experimentation in music in India.

‘It’s a good time for Indian bands to develop and make their presence felt,’ said Malhotra.

Added Sriram: ‘So much experimenting is happening…It gives you an option to do things creatively. This is the right time to experiment with genres and sounds as much as one likes.’

(Ruchika Kher can be contacted at

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