Emerging party destinations

Dev Bhatia on India


2 May 2018

India has always had a strong connection with music, from the flamboyance of Bollywood and its incredible musical set pieces to the familiar beauty of the sitar.

Over the years, electronic music has crept into the nation’s consciousness and permeated into everyday culture, bringing about a slow but steady evolution in the output of their musicians.

We caught up with one of the leaders in the Indian electronic music scene, Dev Bhatia who gave his thoughts on the opportunities and challenges in the region. Dev is the co-Founder of the country’s leading artist management venture, UnMute.  In the past 5 years they have become one of the leading agencies and consultancies in Asia. 

Dev Bhatia 04 b&W Credit Naman Saraiya

Last time we spoke you mentioned that the scene in India is growing extremely fast. Has it shown any signs of slowing down?

The only thing trying to slow it down are the erratic rules, laws and regulation.

Having said that, we’re at a great time across the industry. There is a great pool of local artists producing world class music across genres and playing shows through the country along with world class festivals and consistent club shows each weekend.

Has the demand for underground music grown or is there still a large imbalance between demand for EDM and underground?

Absolutely. I think every genre of music has their audience now. Lot of young people enter electronic music through EDM so full credit to those artists and promoters. They eventually dig deeper and find other sounds they’re interested in. Over the last few years we’ve had our own Awakenings Stage at Vh1 Supersonic, which is quite a testament to the scene here.

What is the biggest challenge the scene is facing in India? Is it still a lack of clubs and infrastructure?

Lack of clubs is one, but then from the club owners point of view, i can imagine it’s a really tough scenario. There are archaic regulations which most owners / investors have to work around. In such a situation, there is a large black cloud of uncertainty, hence most popular venues are actually cafe’s which convert to nightlife spots post 9pm. I can understand why the owners would not want to invest heavily as you never know when the venues will last till.

What is the biggest opportunity in the Indian electronic music scene?

I think an artist can have a great career playing shows within the region. The audience has developed fast and there is a demand for all kinds of music. Artists have a fantastic opportunity to use this advantage and launch their global careers, sadly i think a lot of our artists are still not there, but i hope this changes soon.

Ben UFO at the RBMA North Stage - Magnetic Fields Festival - Photo credit - Abhishek Shukla

Which event brands and festivals are leading the way in India?

Vh1 Supersonic, Sunburn, NH7 Weekender and EVC are some of the leading large scale festivals. Magnetic Fields is a cutting edge boutique festival which has recently gained a lot of attention thanks to their diverse lineups and unique location + experience.

In terms of event brands there are so many now, i think we have a few every week.

Special mention goes out to Boxout.fm, a new DIY web radio station based out of Delhi. They’re working their ass off on curating great on air content / shows on their station along with venturing into off air shows and events.

Do you think Indian electronic musicians are innovating in different ways compared to other regions when it comes to visuals and productions?

Yes, there has been a big trend to create shows and a lot of focus goes into the overall experience.

Electronic music can become very standardised in terms of sound but there is also a huge rise in region specific sounds, for example South African house. Are indian artists also bringing their culture to life through the music or are most following the European and American mould when it comes to sound?

Indians have a long history in terms of music, sound and i don’t think we have a specific sound yet. It’s simply down to the fact that each region has their own specific music / art form and it’s difficult to pigeonhole all of that into an “Indian” sound. Having said that there are many artists who use that repertoire into what they’re producing currently and the result is something totally new. I just can’t pinpoint it yet.

There is a incredible wave at play currently.

Indian hip hop is something new and a great bunch of artists/MCs have emerged from that scene. They’ve created their own fanbase and there has suddenly been big interest on that front.

Bollywood has begun to embrace electronic music. Amazon Prime recently launched a web reality show titled, The Remix, pairing electronic music producers with bollywood singers. Most of those remixes (bollywood hits) featured a healthy dose of House, Tech House, Drum & Bass, Trap and other electronic music elements. So it’s a big wave ahead and i see Bollywood movies taking in electronic music in a big way.

We recently even had an Indian artist, Su Real who’s track ‘Bajre De Soundboy’ was synced on the trailer for EA Sports FIFA 18, the highest selling game in the world. The trailer got over 5 million views across platforms.

Top 5 artists that are pushing the scene forward?

Arjun Vagale

Nucleya

Su Real

Sandunes

Lost Stories

Do you think Indian musicians find it harder to get noticed abroad?

This is true. I’ve faced it first hand. There is more to this than the mere statement, read below.

How is tourism affecting electronic music culture in India? Are you seeing more foreigners coming to experience the Indian music scene?

There is a trend with the festivals, but a big draw is a unique experience. Festivals like Magnetic Fields, NH7 Weekender and Vh1 Supersonic see a big recent trend with foreign visitors.

Streaming is very popular in India however stats show that most consumers expect the content for free as opposed to paying for subscription packages. Do you see this changing?

It will change slowly, but gradually. People here expect entertainment for free. Hence we even struggle on ticket sales for events.

Last year Arjun Vagale became the first asian artist to release on Drumcode with his track “Liquid”. 2017 was a very big year for the number 1 techno artist in India, what does 2018 have in store for Arjun?

Arjun is constantly working and pushing things. 2018 will see him focusing a lot on his label ODD Recordings which was launched last year along with Spanish DJ/Producer, Ramiro Lopez. They’ve had a fantastic run so far and in a year have already had a significant amount of chart action for their releases and live events in Barcelona, Delhi, Mumbai and Hyderabad.

In terms of shows, he is scheduled to play at the debut edition of Drumcode Festival in Amsterdam and Nature One in Germany amongst others and has a packed calendar across the world.

What changes are needed to position India and it’s artists on a global stage?

There are a lot of factors. Geography is the main hurdle.

One of the main battles our artists need to fight are visa regulations. It is nearly impossible to constantly tour without disruptions even in neighbouring countries due to this. For an European artist for example, it’s really easy access to 40-50 countries on the continent to start with. They’ve already won half the battle on this front.

Along with this, i think a lot of global publications do not cover our region, i don’t know the reason for this. Which is a shame, as some really good talent and stories exist here.

Lastly, the local scene is really healthy in our country. So i think many artists don’t really want to deal with the two issues outlined above and are fairly successful here. Most of them pack out venues on their own! Having said that there are some who are driven to break the shackles, we need more!


Thanks Dev for sharing your thoughts on the evolution of the music scene in India. You can find out more about UnMute here & follow Dev on Twitter here

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