“When we give cheerfully and accept gratefully, everyone is blessed.”
― Maya AngelouCompromise is a tricky word, when the ground rules aren’t laid down from the get-go. While the Indian independent music scene has since established its presence over the past few years, survival is still a tricky game in this pond of raucous creativity. As an artist, it is one’s identity that is the most invaluable commodity, then who better than your fans and supporters, those who subscribe to the same ethos and find poetry in the same beats, to take your vision forward?
Indian crowdfunding platforms like Wishberry have opened up opportunities to artists that used to be unimaginable, and we find quid pro quo manifesting itself in its most glorious form. Control ALT Delete is one of the torchbearers of crowdfunding in India, organising gigs that allow fans to pay what they want to watch a fantastic lineup of alternative acts from across the country. You’d have thought this fire would’ve burnt itself out by now, but these guys are back with a gig being held at High Spirits, Pune, in a banging 7th edition that’s testament to the spirit of crowdfunding.
So on the occasion of their upcoming gig, we decided to round up some of the most successful crowdsourced creative efforts which hand the power back to the two most integral parts of the live music movement - the artists and the fans. MTV Indies and Rishu Singh (founder of Mumbai-based ennui.BOMB) came on board with the third edition held in September, 2012 and their collective energies pushed them to look at how to catalyse the synergy between the audience, artist and concert that they felt existed.“There was an element of “Wow, there's a great show tonight and I'm going, my friends will be there and there are some really cool acts performing!" and that’s where the interaction with the fans would end. No interaction with the gig itself,” Rishu tells us. “We wanted the CAD gig experience to be interactive to the level that people actually made a gig they wanted to see, happen. Crowdfunding seemed to be the best way to do this. Telling people to actually put their money to good use instead of arm chair criticism.”
Control ALT Delete has undergone quite a revamp for their upcoming edition. After having held alternative, rock and metal gigs, CAD is moving into a more electronic soundscape in their seventh coming, in addition to zeroing in on a new city and changing their funding platform as well, from Wishberry to Instamojo.
Speaking about the music property’s decision to move to the latter, which is taking only 1.9% of the total revenue - relatively lower than Wishberry - Himanshu said, "Instamojo has been an incredible support for us. They are helping us big time with their contribution towards Control ALT Delete's digital marketing."“My experience with crowdfunding has been great,” Rishu Singh tells us. “There is a transparency and a sense of ownership that contributors get which is unmatched. I find this amazing! However, I also realize that you cannot put up shit content or unrealistic targets and expect people to fund it. Neither can you not send out the promised rewards to your contributors. No one is stupid, and things like this will not sustain your future crowdfunding efforts.”
Their decision to move to Pune was also a deliberate one, because they wanted to move to another market without steering too far from their comfort zone, due to the tremendous ground work required to pull off an event like this. Being held in High Spirits Cafe, Pune, known for being a staunch supporter of indie acts, CAD reflects that its artists ‘perfectly resonate’ with their music and it was an easy fit. High Spirits is also giving them complete flexibility with their operation and they’re handling the light and sound without asking for anything, in a commendable show of spirited camaraderie.The line-up includes bass hip hop trio ViceVersa (Mumbai), Assamese band Digital Suicide (Haflong), Raxit Tiwari's solo project Your Chin (Mumbai), Shoumik Biswas's solo electronic project Disco Puppet (Bangalore), a capella group Voctronica (Mumbai), two piece experimental electronic act Castles in the Sky (Pune), synth/dark pop act Aqua Dominatrix (Mumbai), electronic rock act FuzzCulture (Delhi) and DJ act 2Sensitive (Mumbai).
“Respect your contributors,” Rishu Singh winds up. “That is most important.”
You heard him, this is where you need to head to contribute and get tons of merch and privileges in return.
II) Vasuda Sharma’s ‘Stay Attuned’ Campaign“If your product along with your presentation is appealing and honest, it will always work,” the artist says in an interview with Indiearth.
Classically trained singer/songwriter Vasuda Sharma needs no introduction, having made waves since 2003 as the vocalist for indie pop band Aasma. The powerhouse artist is a beatboxer, composer and singer who thrives in the live music market and in 2003, she independently released her debut album ‘Attuned Spirits’ with some love from her fans, supporters and Wishberry.
Vasuda was actually studying in Berklee College of Music in Boston when the idea of the album was born. She had booked a studio and recorded some material with her band there and when she came back to India, she decided to record a couple of more songs and try her luck with crowdfunding.
“I was willing to take a chance and it also served as one of the ways to validate what I was doing,” Vasuda said in a Hindustan Times interview. “We are all scared of failure and starting such a campaign in a country like India where the concept of crowd-funding is new to people, this was indeed a challenge.”
The campaign ultimately succeeded in raising 5,65,000 from around 120 supporters, even exceeding her goal in three short months, with the funds raised easily covering the expenses of recording, mixing and mastering of the pop-folk fusion album featuring a whopping 30 musicians from 11 countries.
III) Skyharbor's Pledge Campaign for their 'Guiding Lights' Album“Crowdfunding is the way of the future. It really puts the power in the hands of the fans,” says guitarist Keshav Dhar.
Metal heavyweights Skyharbor might not have started off as the biggest fans of crowdfunding, but they were quick to rethink their views when they realised that fans were more than happy to help out their favourite bands, thanks to some sweet incentives thrown into the mix - as a bonus, independent artists had the chance to retain complete creative freedom this way.
“Five months ago, we posted out from our Facebook page that we were very hesitant to approach the idea of a Pledge campaign, as we felt it was something like asking for handouts,” they said in a June 2014 interview. “We obviously hadn’t been paying much attention, because we received an overwhelmingly positive response towards crowdfunding the album, and most of you strongly encouraged us to do it. Which got us thinking again – maybe all our visions for the album don’t have to be a pipe dream – because if you guys are willing to be a part of the creation, then there’s literally nothing to stop us!”The PledgeMusic campaign for Skyharbor’s full-length 10-track album ‘Guiding Lights’ was a runaway success, with the band reaching their goal with 125 days still remaining. Definitely a good reason to cross over to the crowdfunding side, right?
Mixed and mastered by Australian producer Forrester Savell (of Karnivool, Animals As Leaders & Dead Letter Circus fame) the album was an impressive feat in atmospheric, progressive sounds peppered with crunchy metal riffs.
To thank the fans for contributing to the album, everyone who pledged got access to weekly interviews, studio footage, and behind the scenes glimpses about the band’s process and sneak peeks at all the songs. There were also bonus tracks, Skype music lessons and personalized thank you notes from what we hear. Sounds like a pretty sweet deal to us.
IV) Sandunes & Nikunj Patel's Animated 'Exit Strategy' VideoWe have to admit that we’re just a little bit partial to this one for the manner in which it taps into the spirit of collaboration. Graphic designer and animator Nikunj Patel brings to the table a unique aesthetic that is in tandem with lo-fi electronica artist Sandunes’ cross-disciplinary soundscape and the resulting video is an endearing and earnest feat in storytelling.
Nikunj was looking to work on music videos when he came across Sanaya’s left-of-field music, which he took an instant liking to. Speaking about her single Nightcraft off her Slybounce EP, he said, “This song had something about it and it gave me a lot of ideas. We also discussed the themes that played throughout the EP and about using them to our advantage.”
[Watch the stunning video result of this crowdfunding campaign below]
“The beauty of it is that the creation of this short film will follow the process of traditional hand-drawn animation,” Sanaya explains on their Wishberry page. Each frame of the video has been handdrawn with pencil on paper and then digitally coloured to add the final touch of magic. “Processing, rendering and compositing each and every frame to finally get a video output takes hours of effort on expensive machinery. Apart from the tools themselves, acquiring access to them costs a lot of money. I've found that Nikunj’s design aesthetic is the visual counterpart for my aural sensibility. The song needed a mate, and it seems like it's been found in the potential of this music video.”
Depicting the story of an astronaut in space and his lady love on earth, the ‘Exit Strategy’ video will charm the pants off of you and we’re inclined to believe that contributors instinctively knew this would be a great fit, because the campaign - which had a target of 30 days - succeeded in reaching its target in a jaw-dropping 9 days and went on to become India’s first indie-electronic music video featuring hand-drawn animation. Seems like the song did indeed find its mate in the video with its unique visual interpretation.
V) The HotStart Campaign for DIY Day, New DelhiThe capital witnessed the first edition of DIY day at Akshara theatre in April last year, and this crowdfunded day-long event, organised jointly by Ghar Ka Records and Epic Shit Entertainment, is back for seconds this year. There’s a place for art of all kinds here, from dance to poetry to improv comedy, in this straight-up celebration of ‘the rising independent ethos’ that set up a platform for the work of artists and entrepreneurs to gain visibility.
“We believe in art. Art is the most expressive form of communication and art brings people together, it can spread and become into a thriving network. We are not starting something, because it already exists, we want to add a refreshing new perspective to something, which can bring lots of thinkers together,” the campaign page for the second round of DIY day reads.
After the raging success of the 2014 leg, this year’s event promises to open up more creative avenues by including more art forms and handing back the power of a festival to the audience. The plan is to have 10 music acts, 4 theatre acts, 2 dance acts, 2 Slam Poetry acts and a few short film screenings spread over two days this time to make it twice as nice, along with art installations and 10 stalls curated by independent artists across Delhi who run their own DIY enterprises- which will include food stalls, as well as art and merchandise. They’re still accepting contributions so if you’re in the capital, here’s what you should be contributing towards.
VI) Vinyl Records' Music Video for their 'Whims' EPThis four-piece indie post-punk band based in New Delhi was actually managed by Control ALT Delete co-founder Rishu Singh for a while, and their Wishberry campaign to crowdfund a music video succeeded in raising a whopping 1.25 lacs. “When The Vinyl Records crowdfunded their video (Whims),” Rishu tells us. “They got a fabulous response including contributions from Sweden even! This further led to getting two more shows when they went to perform at the Red Bull Weekender festival in Stockholm as the contributors were part of a local band. I find this amazing!”
The band consisting of Banu, Minam and Mithy from Arunachal Pradesh was complete with the addition of Cherryian Bark, vocalist and ‘keytarist’ from Assam, in 2011. The band’s ‘Whims’ EP follows the themes of feminism and empowerment in the country’s capital and the title track, for which the crowdfunded music video was made, is based on one’s ‘unresolved and disjoint emotions’. Influenced by the likes of CSS The clash and the B-52's, the band used the limited financing gathered from each of the band members to form the ‘basic layout of the music’ - composing and recording the songs and performing around the country, but when it came to breaching the next level and putting out a professional video, they decided they could do with some help.
[The funds raised were finally used to hire equipment, pay the team, pay for locations and editing for the music video of the title track off their ‘Whims’ EP, and you can watch it below:]
Drummer Mithy Tatak said, “Crowd funding is a new concept, which people are gradually accepting. What matters here is the nature of the campaign, which should be appealing to the crowd.”
“In general, venues [in India] where we can play our style of music have been challenging to find,” he mentioned in an Indiearth interview. “So we want to set up a stage in a playground, and showcase to school kids how reggae music and Sound System culture happens!”
And this is exactly what they succeeded in doing via Sound System en Masse. The music from Jamaica found its way to the Victoria Play Ground in Esamiya Bazar, which is exactly what the sound system culture is all about - bringing uplifting music that gets your feet moving instinctively, to public spaces.
“In Jamaica, the reggae and jazz bands performed mostly in hotels, meaning the common man could not afford to see them. These people then started recording the same bands in studios, cut the instrumental on a vinyl and set up the sound system on the neighbourhood streets to play them. Gramophone records are played on turntables and singers sing over the riddims and dubs making the whole performance interactive and inspiring.”
In January 2015, artists, school children and the youth all came together with the performing artists who were also joined by young musicians from various schools in the city. Definitely sounds like money spent right to us.
VIII) Parvaaz's album 'Baran'Bangalore-based psychedelic rock band Parvaaz combined the heady powers of crowdfunding and those of a good drink in the best way possible. They tied up with CounterCulture, a gigging lounge in the city, to create a cocktail called Ziyankar, named after a track on their ‘Baran’ EP, and half of these proceeds went into the mixing and mastering of the material, done by Jason Zachariah at Nathaniel Production House.
This was a part of their Wishberry campaign that eventually raised over 2.5 lacs.
Guitarist Kashif Iqbal said, “They [fans] don’t just invest their money in it, but also their time. So they get hooked to you. If someone contributes even Rs 500 and is expecting rewards, he’s going to be checking in about when the album will be out, between the months of crowdfunding and its release.” Their previous EP Behosh was released independently in July 2012 and even though it succeeded in topping charts, the band wasn’t able to make a profit off of it and that’s when Wishberry swooped in. “They approached us sometime ago. It was only around October 2013 that we decided to put out the music we have made. We did not expect people to put in money. A guy anonymously contributed 20,000!" Sachin Banandur, drummer and percussionist with Parvaaz, relates.
Baran, Persian for rain, went on to bloom into a full length album with 8 songs, a soul-searching feat in invoking society’s unending materialism and greed, something that they urge people to forego through their music. confesses frankly on the Wishberry page. “With just the audience, who cares about the music as much as I do, I firmly believe that we can come together and make this festival one of the most anticipated and talked about metal festivals in the world.”
Since the venue with a capacity for 2500 people had already been identified the funds have been used to pay the bands, venue and the production team to make for a brutal edition metalheads are unlikely to forget.
X) Mame Khan's debut albumSufi music extraordinaire Mame Khan’s debut album crossed the target amount by a wide margin, testament to the kind of support and love the folk musician of the Manganiyar community has garnered over the course of his career. According to the Wishberry campaign page, they managed to raise over 3 lacs for the their dream project, a full-length 7-track album featuring traditional Rajasthani folk, Sufi music and Krishna Bhajans. The funds are to be used to record, mix and master the album teeming with ancient melodies that were composed ‘long before he was born’.“The music is emotional,” he says in an interview with Pepsi MTV Indies. “The Sufi elements really connects with the audience. There's the smell of mud in our music (mitti ki khushboo), which is the tradition we're taking forward. There are lots of things in the album that connect will with people - there's love, mischief and every kind of emotion.”
This album is also significant since the Manganiyars, who have more than 15 generations of oral tradition behind them, generally perform their music live, in groups, and this marks the first time that a Manganiyar musician has created an album with so much attention to sound quality with a completely new approach to the art.
XI) Spook’s Debut Album 'Lyrical Cynic'After releasing their debut EP Underwaterseabird in 2010 with income from their gigs, Mumbai alt rock band Spook reached out to fans on Wishberry for assistance in releasing their debut album 'Lyrical Cynic'.
“Between Anis [Gandhi on keyboard] and I, the funding was almost impossible to come up with,” said vocalist Akshay Deodhar. “But we managed to cover the cost of tracking all the instruments. The mixing and mastering are an equally important part of the process for the album to sound good and we need funds for that.”The partially crowdfunded album was ultimately mixed and mastered by the legendary Zorran Mendonsa and finds the band’s ‘darker, alt rock leanings’ exploring themes such as “ex-girlfriends, bipolar personalities of women, sado-masochism and peace through coffee”. It also has a host of collaborators coming on board such as Sankarshan Kini on the violin and Slow Down Clown’s Anurag Shankar on guitars.
“Lyrical Cynic talks about how the band has grown,” says Deodhar. “The humor is twisted and is brought out in subtle, weird ways.”
XII) Demonic Resurrection's 'Live at Bloodstock 2012' VideoMumbai’s Demonic Resurrection have had their fair share of ups and downs with crowdfunding, but this is a story that ultimately ends very well. We’re talking 90 contributions helping the band reach their target and fully funding the production of ‘Live at Bloodstock 2012’. The professionally shot and edited footage of the band’s performance at the metal festival in England stretched to a luxurious 38-minute long release, with the video being edited by Tushar Dhanawade and its multi-track audio mixed by band frontman Sahil Makhija.
“We wanted to do a music video before we left for Bloodstock. This was before platforms like Wishberry existed so I used a self-made platform on our site,” said Sahil in an interview.
After a several setbacks by way of bogus pledges and logistical nightmares, the band decided to drop plans for a music video to release live footage of their performance instead when they got an email from the Bloodstock organizers, who offered them a six-camera setup and multi-track audio for their upcoming performance for a fee. Demonic Resurrection got in touch with all the contributors to ask about whether they’d be okay with their funds being used for this instead, to overwhelming support from not just fans of the band, but fans of the idea of crowdfunding. The incentives for contributing funds for the video included exclusive previews, regular updates, a thank you list, guitar lessons, among other things.
“In my opinion, it’s probably the way forward for music,” Sahil elaborates on crowdfunding. “For an Indian band to earn money is itself a big thing, and most of that money is then pumped into recording and releasing albums. How is there going to be any surplus to invest in touring?”
Explaining that crowdfunding is essentially just an advance that fans pay for an album, he concludes, “It’s music at the end of the day; it’s a personal connect. It’s all part of supporting the artist you’re a fan of.”
Words: Aditi Dharmadhikari