Business of Music in India

…exploring the future…

“God is the author of all creativity”, says ERIC PERSING.

Founded in 1994 by Los Angeles composer Eric Persing and his wife Lorey, Spectrasonics (www.spectrasonics.net) quickly became a leading developer of world-class sampled sound libraries like Stylus, RMX, Omnisphere and Trilian.

In this interview with me at the MusikMesse, Eric shares things you did not know about him.

Aditya with Eric

MusikMesse 2011

 

Tell us something about your childhood.
I was born in Germany and lived in 27 countries before I was three years old. My father was a music/choir teacher so I grew up around music since a very early age.

What incident / event made you decide upon music as a career?
I played the Minimoog for the first time when I was about 12 years old. It pretty much changed my life! I was driven to figure it out. :-)

Where do you get your inspiration from?
As a creative and spiritual person, much of what I do is a reflection and response to God – the Author of all Creativity.

My family inspires me every day in countless ways. I am influenced by many great musicians and composers… but I draw inspiration from anything that is excellent and true.


What drives you to think and design new sounds and textures constantly?
I often think that it’s not my job to create sounds, but rather to discover them. It often feels like they are hidden and waiting to be discovered! I love the process of discovering them.

 

Do you manage to achieve all that you hear in your head?
Not always, since it’s a lifelong process to learn how to do this. There’s still a lot sonically and musically that I hear in my head that I haven’t achieved, so this is something that constantly drives me to become better at what I do.

• How do you decide which sounds to go for?
I often let the instrument or the process guide me. When it starts to get interesting in a direction, then I will start to guide it to completion.

• What is the ratio of sounds recorded and produced v/s the sounds released?
Probably 100 to 1. This is one of the great secrets of our success….we are brutally hard on our own work!

• How was it working with Michael Jackson, Bruce Swedien, and what synths did you use while working with Sergio Mendes’s album?
I was very privileged to work with Michael, Quincy, Sergio and Bruce on several projects. It’s an incredible experience to work with such legends and genius people.

The experience of working with Michael right after Thriller was truly something out of a film and I have enough stories from that session to fill a book! We had one song that had over 1,000 tracks of different parts recorded, which was unheard of in those days of analog recording.

Sergio’s album “Braziliero” is the album I’m most proud of from my session days. It’s an album that will stand the test of time I think. Most of what I used on that record was done with the Roland S-770 (the best sounding hardware sampler ever made in my opinion), but many hardware synths were used as colors.

 

• Spectrasonics uses the challenge/response method to unlock its softwares. How do you feel when composers use your products for free?

To be honest… Horrible. The situation in India is particularly sad for us. Piracy has always been a reality, but it’s not too bad if there are also legitimate users. My impression is that somehow the culture in India changed and it became uncool for professionals to buy software or something like this.

I do hope it begins to change there in your country, and younger composers start to understand the impact of piracy on a small company like ours. I try not to get too heavy and serious about this topic though… you have to keep a good sense of humor about it and hope that people just start doing the right thing.

As an example of how comical it can be, I once had a businessman from India propose a deal to me to sell all of everything I have created on a hard drive for $1 dollar…. he said it was “better than nothing!” LOL! :-)

• Many musicians feel you should be inducted in the “Hall of Fame” for what you have given to the world with your amazing products. What is your response to that?
That’s extremely generous and kind! I am happy that so many have been inspired by what we do… that is indeed our ultimate goal.

• Do you plan to a visit to India in the near future?
Wow…I would love to do that. It would be an honor to visit such an important place in the world of music.

All I say is: “Most Welcome”.

Meet the “Guru” of Acoustics…

A top name for studio design in India, I caught up with Andrew (Andy) Munro at a Juhu hotel in Mumbai. Read it and learn more about the “guru” of acoustics as he is popularly known. Questions by Aditya Mehta [AM], and answers by the other AM [Andy Munro].

The Guru of Acoustics

1. Please share some childhood experiences that drew you to the world of audio and acoustics.

I think the first realization I had about sound was during a Physics class at school. I have always been keen on great inventors and engineers so when I heard about experimenters like Rayleigh and Sabine I was hooked. I grew up with The Beatles and the Rolling Stones so sound and making recordings were a big part of my teenage years. I picked up a guitar when I was 15 and I’m still trying to get that Hendrix sound just right. I met Eddie Kramer in LA and we talked for two hours about those Hendrix sessions in London and then New York. I put All Along the Watch Tower as one of the best examples of recording brilliance of all time. It may have been that way-out spacey sound that made me realise that electro-acoustics is actually a very complex thing.


2. What college education did you pursue?
This was the most confusing part of my life. I was good at first; top 10% in an old fashioned, selective grammar school. Somehow I went from that to dropping out of university in London and going straight into the audio business. I think that I wanted to be a top recording engineer more than an academic or banker.


3. Did you immediately setup Munro Acoustics after your formal education? Or did you work somewhere to gain experience first.
I did a lot of things first but I ended up working for Shure (the microphone company) for five years. That enabled me to go back to college and fill in the gaps that I needed to work with audio technology. My advice to anyone is ‘finish what you start- it’s a lot easier first time round!’

At this point some luck kicked in and I had a great training with Shure. I spent time in the USA, working at the Country Music Awards in Nashville, Countdown recording in Chicago (jazz and blues) and back in the UK I got to know all the crews working with the Stones, Led Zeppelin and all the major recording studios. Everybody used an SM57 on snare or an SM58 on vocals and I remember going to the BBC one day and turning them onto the sound of a dynamic cardioid stuck up against a loudspeaker instead of a ‘broadcast’ condenser hanging from the ceiling. There were lots of experiments in sound during the 70’s when electronics suddenly became more affordable and controllable, using integrated circuits.

Shure introduced one of the first portable spectrum analysers to go with a whole range of mixers and equalizers. All of a sudden we had some really useful tools to balance and manipulate sound systems in some horrendous venues that were never designed for concerts.

 

4. In India, consent of parents for doing something on your own is a big thing. Did you get the support and encouragement from your parents when you chose to setup “Munro Acoustics”?

My parents have always supported my ambitions but when I started in sound engineering they had no reference point to compare. In the early days recording and broadcasting was a different world, engineers wore brown coats (I don’t know why!) and everyone talked like the Queen. I wanted to move to London and that was 200 miles from home and I had no choice but to grow up fast and become independent. What was happening at the time (1969) was a social revolution that in some ways is still going on. My generation changed the balance from the traditional, established way of doing things to a more individualistic, liberal way of thinking. This has had some negative effects on the stability of social structures but in general more people are better off and the opportunity to succeed is there for the taking if someone is prepared to make the effort.

All in all I think I was lucky that my parents went along with my plan rather than encouraged it.

5. You’ve been the brain behind brands like Dynaudio. How did it feel to give it away to another company.
Dynaudio is a very unusual company. They make all their own drivers and they have a reputation for innovation that was not of my making but born out of a Danish-German passion for quality. What I added was some knowledge of studio monitors and the way to build larger systems for recording studios. The brand name Dynaudioacoustics is still mine to use and we build all the larger, custom systems using Dynaudio drivers. The tie up with TC was logical and inevitable (they are in the same area of Denmark) and although TC now distribute the main products I don’t consider them as permanent owners of the brand!


6. How did your association with India begin?

It all started with Empire Studios in Mumbai and Joe Gonsalves at PACE. He is the Dynaudioacoustics distributor and there was a real need for acoustic design and monitoring expertise in India. Everything was very traditional at the time and most music recording was linked to film production. I found that our way of designing rooms tended to suit the instruments and voices of Indian music- lots of complex drum sounds and high frequency, very clear vocals. It is a shame in a way that digital synths and processing has taken away some of that subtlety so that the dynamics are just as compressed as ‘western’ music. I am a campaigner for natural audio with at least some acoustic instrumentation!


7. Which other countries do you operate in?

Basically we are a global consultancy working wherever there is a desire for that ‘Munro Sound’. We work for some of the largest companies (Disney, BBC, Pinewood etc.) but also the local studio with one engineer. My only criterion is sound quality and a realistic, achievable project. We hate bad sound and want it dead.


8. Here in India, there are many engineers who have turned into “acousticians” based on what they’ve seen and even experimented with confused clients. How does one ensure that the design / solution offered is the right one?

This is a tricky one. I know qualified acousticians who have no feel for sound and musicians who can tell me if I am 1dB too high on the right channel! If someone thinks they know everything about acoustics without the experience to back up their work then sooner or later they are going to screw up. It can cost a fortune to put right a badly designed studio so why take the risk of using someone unqualified and with a degree in bull shit. I stand by all of my people and if they make mistakes they are corrected and the client has the final word. If someone makes the same mistake twice they are relegated to testing air-con units on a windy rooftop in the middle of winter or, in Bombay, a wet July morning!


9. You have done hundreds of studios, auditoriums and offices across the world. How do you keep yourself motivated in every project?

Good question! I think it’s the desire to make each project better than the last and to hit that groove, when everything just comes together and that playback makes the spine tingle. I think it is the enthusiasm and energy of the client that feeds back into me. It’s also a question of professionalism; a doctor might have more responsibility with a life at stake but I might make or break someone’s business and future. I take that role very seriously and there is the simple satisfaction that you did the job well and even got paid at the end!


10. Any designs of yours in India which are close to your heart?

It is always hard to single out one project and in many ways it is unfair to draw comparisons. I think it is the people more than the places that make a great studio and the end product is what matters. I am the catalyst that gives someone the chance to make great music or a fantastic film mix. The best studios in the World have a history that gives them a status that cannot be bought. To use a crude analogy, that is why Manchester United will always be better than Manchester City, regardless of who wins this season. I fully expect India to become a producer of world class entertainment and not just A.R. Rahman, as good as he is.

 

11. Is a studio design created based with the starting point as the budget? If not, what inputs are critical to come up with the solution?

All projects have a budget, either expressed or relative to the circumstances. One of the skills of a designer is to find the best solution for the situation and to deliver the most appropriate product. I once saw a studio in a quiet country area sitting on steel springs and surrounded by massive concrete walls, all designed by a university professor of acoustics. I would consider that inappropriate because it wasted a fortune on unnecessary ‘sound-proofing’. Knowing the limits is part of the experience gained over many projects and being able to calculate exactly how much isolation is needed is a real skill that involves many aspects of structures, mechanics and materials science. To achieve NR10 for Foley (sound effects) recording is never easy!

 

12. Can standardized products or even designs work in sound proofing (a popular term in India). Or does every project have to be custom designed?

There is a place for standard products in acoustics as any given room will have common characteristics. However, the materials used to construct a room affect the absorption within it. For example, a wooden floor, on joists, or a simple plasterboard ceiling can absorb a lot of bass and radically affect the sound within. It is our intention to offer a design program that allows interested parties to input their room data and then select the most appropriate treatment from a dedicated range that will be both cost effective and fully certified. There will often be a need for professional advice but this is one way to find out if it is advisable or not.

Sound proofing is all about isolating structures and no amount of acoustic treatment will compensate for that. In any noise sensitive or multi room situation it is advisable to get professional advice.

 

13. High rental costs, space problems in cities like Mumbai, Delhi and Chennai have musicians / studios using temporary solutions like heavy drapes (curtains), glass wool, etc which they get done by a local carpenter or an interior designer.
Is Munro Acoustics planning to enter the home segment with affordable products / solutions?


The most fundamental acoustic issue in any room is the bass reverberation time and no single material will give low frequency absorption unless it either very thick or (more appropriately) it is tuned to the room resonances themselves. This involves some expertise in combining the resonance of trapped air (sealed box) with the mass of a panel. If the panel can be curved or angled and layered with damping materials then you are almost there. This type of product is more expensive but will last a life time so it is worth getting it right. We intend to offer a range of products, linked to the aforementioned computer programme.

 

14. Any future projects / plans in the pipeline which you would like to share with us.

My main aim this year is to work on the acoustic products we have discussed. There are too many brands out there that are either misleading in their claims or at best over optimistic about what makes good sound, which is spectral diffusion and solid bass response, things not achieved with a few bits of foam on the wall.  We also have a new idea called the Mediapod that is a complete studio that can be delivered to site and put up in one day. It is intended for any temporary recording or broadcasting location as well as permanent installations in project or home studios for an isolation booth. It only needs about 100 sq. ft. of space to build and it can even come with an inbuilt and calibrated 5.1 monitor system that is 100% Munro Acoustics.

Most of our larger projects are subject to client confidentially so I usually wait until they are open before making a big deal about any of them. It also removes any temptation for industrial espionage- you would be surprised how much of that goes on!

One last word and that is how much I appreciate the chance to work in India. It’s a great country and it has a future that some parts of the world will envy. Long may it continue, for all our sakes!

***

Meet Lippold Haken, maker of “Continuum”

The first thought that came to mind when I heard the end portion of the song “Rehna Tu” in the film Delhi-6 was – ‘which software sample has Rahman used?’ But soon the word spread that he has bought a new keyboard called “Continuum”. And finally, in the video of the much-publicized “Phir Mile Sur”, the common man saw him play it.

I interviewed Mr. Lippold Haken, the professor who built this new device – which is well, not a keyboard, but a new instrument.  A musical background together with an engineering education allowed him to create the Continuum Fingerboard. (The name comes from continuous pitch, pressure, and front-back position tracking for each finger.)

continuously improving the Continuum...

(1) What is your background in music?

My mother thought learning to play an instrument was important, so she required me to practice viola for an hour each day as I was growing up.  I did not appreciate it very much as a child and I never got to be a very good musician, but now I am thankful for the experience.  I enjoy playing string quartets with my more talented siblings, and the musical background together with an engineering education allowed me to create the Continuum Fingerboard.

(2) How did you come across the idea of making the ‘Continuum’?

When I was in college in the late 70’s and early 80’s, I was with a group of students designing and building music synthesizers for the PLATO computer system at the University of Illinois.  It was before the days of MIDI and general-purpose keyboards, so we built music keyboards to go with our synthesizers.  In addition, we built a Pitch Extractor, a device that would tell you the exact pitch of singing or playing into a microphone.   We could do continuous-pitch input into PLATO and our synthesizers, but only had a discrete keyboard for playing music.  Since I had violin and viola background, I thought it would be useful to have continuous-pitch control over the music, so the idea for the Continuum Fingerboard was born.  I tried many different designs and many different finger detection technologies.  It is challenging to polyphonically track the small finger movements involved in expressive playing, and at the same time have a good surface feel.  In the late 90’s I had settled on a design that is similar to what I have now.  Since then I have been making many small improvements; improvements that a beginner does not notice, but are important for an experienced player.

(3) Why the name ‘Continuum’?
The name comes from continuous pitch, pressure, and front-back position tracking for each finger.

(4) How and when did AR Rahman get in touch with you?

AR saw Edmund Eagan’s Pluck1 video http://www.hakenaudio.com/Continuum/html/examples/ex214.html and that made him very interested in the Continuum and the Kyma system (which was used to synthesize the sound in that video).  He contacted me in December of 2006; he used it on stage for the first time in suburban Chicago in June of 2007.  In front of a sold-out Sears Centre crowd of 11,000 people, he and his MC said:

“Do you want to know something about me? Well, I started playing at a very early age. My father died, and he had some equipment, synthesizers, and stuff. I was very fascinated by them… I took part in music playing for music composers. And it has been a passion. I felt like a king when I was playing keyboards when I was young… but there was one thing… I was frustrated because I could not play Carnatic or Hindustani music on keyboards, because of the limitations of the keys which never let microintonation of notes … so recently I discovered something that was quite a revelation for me: the Continuum Fingerboard invented right here in Illinois! … by University of Illinois Professor, Mr. Lippold Haken … And he is here right now; it is an honor to have you here! …the Continuum plays the notes in-between the piano keys and that is amazing. The sound is generated by Kyma, which is also invented right here in Illinois! … Illinois, you have the magic! [AR plays a Carnatic improvisation] Let me play something you know! [AR plays a well-known piece of his] Stars sang that! I think that is a start and an introduction for kids who want to play [Indian] classical music and not just stick to keyboards alone. It looks like this! [He gestures towards the continuum.] Thank you, Lippold!”

(5) Any other famous composers using the product in Hollywood? If so, which songs feature your product?

There are quite a few Continuum Fingerboards in Hollywood.  In Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull, John Williams included a Continuum Fingerboard in his score, played by Randy Kerber.  The Continuum blends well with the orchestra; you can hear it in several of the new melodies, often doubling other instruments: http://www.hakenaudio.com/Continuum/html/examples/ex244.html

(6) You say that this is not just another MIDI keyboard, and one needs to learn the product like a new instrument totally. So how does a professional musician adapt himself to using the product?

There are two major challenges with the Continuum Fingerboard.  The first is that while the internal sounds built in to the Continuum are beautiful, people need to realize that the performance examples provided by Edmund Eagan were played with a very skilled light touch.

For example, the new Timbre Player sounds http://www.hakenaudio.com/Continuum/html/intsounds/isTimbre.html loaded in the continuum are really just raw material for your fingers — most of the life, the thing that really makes those sounds sing, comes from skilled finger technique….  So an odd thing happens: people download the new firmware and sounds, and think the sounds are broken.  It is not like a MIDI keyboard where you can easily make a single note sound good by just hitting a key — here, on an internal sound like the Pluck Tine, if you just hit it, it makes an ugly squawk — it takes practiced finesse to make it sound Kalimba-like and really make it sing…

So for the professional musician, I suggest they develop their technique by imitating Edmund Eagan’s playing, even if it is not in their playing style.  I suggest they start with the internal sounds that are easier to play, like Timbre Mute — I could do a reasonable imitation of Edmund Eagan’s playing of Timbre Mute after a week of practice.  When I imitate the playing, I go for details of the vibrato and inflections; its pretty hard to try to do everything Ed does, but it is fun trying!

In addition to new playing technique, the Continuum Fingerboard has another major challenge.    You can control almost any MIDI synthesizer with the Continuum, but for many decades synthesizers have been optimized for MIDI keyboards – and many patches that work great with keyboards are not so good with the Continuum.  Making expressive synthesizer patches for the Continuum is a challenge.  I tell professional musicians that they may want to invest the time and effort to learn Symbolic Sound Kyma, or use analog control-voltage synthesizers – because those systems (as well as Reaktor, Max, and some other systems) allow you to “get inside” the sound patches and make useful mappings from finger pressure and position to each individual synthesis parameter.

(7) For Indian music, especially Carnatic music, the Continuum seems perfect. Which other styles would you recommend it for?

I grew up playing violin and viola.  In those instruments, fine control over vibrato is paramount to expressive playing.  I think continuous pitch is not only an issue for tuning systems that do not correspond to equal temperament, but also a wide variety of expression.  My hope is that Continuum players develop a refined light touch with the instrument.  I think the Continuum has a place in a wide variety of music.

I am pleased the Continuum has been used in a variety of styles from classical to experimental (http://www.hakenaudio.com/Continuum/html/examples/ex245.html) to metal (http://www.hakenaudio.com/Continuum/html/examples/ex239.html); and it has been used to control all sorts of synthesis devices, including tesla coils (http://www.hakenaudio.com/Continuum/html/examples/ex241.html).

The keyboard will always have an advantage over the Continuum: it is easier to play more notes more quickly on a keyboard; on the Continuum, it is challenging to place all your fingers correctly in-tune on the surface.  But the Continuum has the advantage that you can shape the timbre and pitch evolution of each note in a way that is not possible on a keyboard.  The Continuum does not replace keyboards, it complements them.

(8) Do you plan to incorporate Indian sounds / banks into the product? (we can help here)

We are continually developing new internal sounds for the Continuum Fingerboard.  At AR’s request, we added the Wind sound as an internal sound this spring.

(9) Is the product price justified?

People are used to purchasing synthesizers and keyboards from large multi-national corporations.  The Continuum is not like that; I build Continuum Fingerboards in my basement (with assembly help from my father-in-law). In a small business like this, quantities are small, and production costs are high.  I don’t make a living by building Continuums; I teach at the University to pay the bills and support my wife and four kids.  If you look at other boutique businesses building fine musical instruments, you will find similar prices.

The cost of building a Continuum comes from its construction.  Continuums are electro-mechanical; underneath a layer of neoprene rubber they contain hundreds of precision-machined aluminum rods that are suspended by piano-wire springs.  The rods have magnets mounted on both ends; corresponding magnetic sensors mounted underneath the mechanical assembly detect the distance to the end of each rod.  The magnetic sensor values are processed by a DSP to detect fingers and track their position and pressure.  The DSP then converts the tracked finger information to MIDI; the MIDI encoding is heavily optimized to work with the limited bandwidth of MIDI.  The DSP also generates the internal sounds, through digital output and high-quality analog converters.

(10)  What are your future plans to develop the product further?

Edmund Eagan and I are working on new internal sounds, further improvements to the Continuum Editor software, and minor improvements to the physical instrument itself.  We have also been working on ancillary equipment; we have the beautiful Continuum Stand available now (http://www.hakenaudio.com/Continuum/html/stand/CSdesign.html) which gives the Continuum a real stage presence, even as a solo instrument for a full symphony orchestra.  (AR has the prototype of this stand in his LA studio.)  We are also working on the Continuum Voltage Converter (CVC) for analog control-voltage synthesizers; you would be amazed at the beautiful sounds you can get from traditional analog designs (http://www.hakenaudio.com/Continuum/html/examples/ex236.html).  (AR also has a CVC and a Voyager in his LA studio.)

(11)  Any other information you’d like to share with the readers / musicians?

I build Continuum Fingerboards because I love it.  In this fast-paced world, my colleagues are incredulous that I am still working on the Continuum Fingerboard, and that I have not moved on to other things.  I am blessed that highly skilled people like AR Rahman and Edmund Eagan and many others understand the dream, and can make such beautiful music with it.  Not being a performing musician myself, I totally rely on others to make my dreams come true.

—-

Amen to that.

This ‘Jalebee’ is different!

Jalebee Cartel has challenged the notion that dance music is a Western domain by single-handedly putting India on the international EDM map. Composed of four members, Arjun Vagale (laptop, mixing and scratching), Ashvin Mani Sharma (laptop and synths), Ash Roy (vocals and percussions) and G-force Arjun (bass/synth-lines), Jalebee has been taking India by storm for over three years.

Arjun VagaleFrom individual DJ sets to collective live gigs, producing to composing, the multi-talented group pretty much does it all. And the quality is evident from the international interest it’s amassing.
Aditya of SudeepAudio.com interviews ARJUN VAGALE here, where he is straight, direct and to-the-point. Read on to know how they function.

Aditya Mehta [AM]: Where can someone find your albums / songs for purchase?
Arjun Vagale [AV]: Most of our music can be found on digital stores like Beatport.com & iTunes under ‘Jalebee Cartel’ label.

AM: Today, there are hardly any CD sales – thanks to people resorting to torrent sites. In such a scenario…
1.    how do you ensure that your band gets noticed?
AV: We basically release music on a lot of international labels, and try and promote the releases as much as possible, by sending promo’s to various DJs. In this way, when they add it in their sets, or radio show, it gives us good visibility.

2.    How do you get people to legally buy your music?
AV: There is no way to ensure people will buy your music. However, we do try and block a lot of shared files online, by reporting them! The other way it to simply make sure that the music is available at all good download stores, so that access to fans is easy!

3.    What marketing strategies come in handy for your album promotions?

AV: The best marketing is yet to be seen. So gigs are the most important way of getting you heard. Ofcourse, other strategies like promoting on myspace/facebook, etc do help.

4.    Any new methods you use, that you’d like to share with us?
AV: I think the time tested “tours” are the best kept secret. For our latest album, we did 15 gigs in 1 month, all over india, and had press cover the entire tour, had blogs do reviews ! This ensured that a lot of people heard about the release.



[AM] There are many new services, like say Rebeat from Sudeep Audio, that help a musician (individual / band / DJ / label) put up the music for sales on digital stores worldwide.

1.    As one of such leaders in using this technology, do you see sustainable revenues?
[AV]
The place the music industry is at, i think its very difficult to any indi act to sustain with just sales of music. Playing gigs is the only other option. I hope it changes in the future, but as of now, No!

2.    In India, where there are hardly any such music stores, how do you get fans to buy the songs?
[AV]
All online stores (apart from itunes) can be accessed in india, so we should start thinking a bit bigger, than just having an “India” site.

3.    Do you see this new trend as a healthy shift?
[AV]
The point is that having a worldwide release is great; but its not ‘good enough’ by itself.

Today, there are a billion tracks on any online store. But how does one know about the music? So publicity & marketing is very important.  That’s essentially the job of  a label, and if you don’t have a good label, chances are not too many people will hear your music.


You can know more about Jalebee Cartel and hear their music on www.jalebee.in. Enjoy!

At his own pace: LUCKY ALI.

In an informal chat with this singer/composer, we share with you information about his latest online release, and also about what he feels about the online music business. Read on…

[Aditya Mehta] Congratulations Lucky, on the launch of your music album “Xsuie”, exclusively on the Internet.
Lucky Ali's latest music album
[AM] What does “Xsuie” mean?
[Lucky Ali] xsuie is an adaptation of the hindustani word “ik soi”, which generally means doing things at one’s own pace.

[AM]  Please tell us something more about this album.
[LA] All the tracks on this compilation have been in process for a while now, some of the tracks go back to early composition years like ‘sea of life’.

[AM] Where were the songs recorded?

[LA] As is our habit, a track isn’t completed until it is released. We are sticklers for change and keep correcting and tweaking our stuff until we release it, the tracks were recorded during our travels, some in New Zealand, Mauritius, Bangalore, Chennai, Bombay and the UK. mike and i like to travel with our studio and we constantly put down ideas wherever and whenever possible.

[AM] Where is Xsuie available?

[LA] This album being an online release, we have distributed our music through www.nimbitmusic.com/luckyali <http://www.nimbitmusic.com/luckyali>, bluefrogsounds.com, itunes, amazon, rhapsody, emusic, cd freedom etc. There will be more indian portals as we go along.

[AM] Why did you choose to release this album “online” only?

[LA] We realised a few years ago that music companies were struggling to keep their heads above water, we were paying for their overheads, and not really getting anywhere in terms of creativity etc. So, we decided to stay put until it passed over and worked on an out of the box release when the time was right…and The Time is NOW.

We have our solutions in place and apart from releasing this music, we are encouraging other musicians to follow suit and experience the direct to fan space which is how any musician/ artist would like to see their work expressed and appreciated.

[AM]  Not many of your fans will have access to the Net. So they may not even know about this album. How do you plan to let them know?

[LA] This is an uphill task. We are aware that not all our listeners have access to the internet, but they have phones which are excellent mp3 players. So they will download the track that they like onto their phones.

Physical sales are history, the general vibe is why should i go out and buy something outside when it can be delivered to me directly in the comfort of my own space. and yes publicity and marketing are paramount.

[AM]  Just being a good musician / composer is not enough in today’s tech-savvy world. What do you feel?

[LA] Being true to your work is enough; all else follows regardless.

It helps to know the direction of your journey so you keep your mind eyes and ears open and deal with the obstacles as they surface.

[AM]  Do you feel that commercialisation affects creativity in music?

[LA] Commercialisation does affect creativity and greed doesn’t help karma. One has to accomplish a balance within in order to differentiate between the wheat and the chaff.

[AM] What is your advice to youngsters today who wish to build a career in the music industry?

[LA] Its a crazy world out there and artists are sensitive by nature. So my advise would be to take small steps, and be aware of the environment you intend to express yourself in.


[AM] Besides online videos, what other ways are you adopting to promote your new album?

[LA] I’ll just keep on writing music, and in this way if the music is good, the listeners will promote it. Its very simple.

[AM] Thank you Lucky. Best wishes, Aditya – SudeepAudio.com

Close up with… Tapas Relia

Music Composer

Tapas Relia

“Kya aap close up karte hain…” still rings a tune in our heads – even after a few years its been off air!! Now that’s what a composer should be appreciated for.

Meet TAPAS RELIA – music composer/producer (also well remembered for his score & songs for the animation movie ‘Hanuman’).

Tapas is currently finishing film projects for director Nagesh Kukunoor (Hyderabad Blues, Dor, etc.)

Here, he shares with us his experiences and thoughts on various issues related to… what else, but music! Read on.

Q1. With easy access to music software, how have you seen the music quality changing?

The onslaught of easily available, and easy to learn software has certainly changed the music scene to a great degree. While some of it has changed for the better, a lot has changed for the worse.

Better: Your imagination is your limit, there is a sound available for every thought of yours. You no longer have to have tons & racks of gear to achieve a certain effect. With an arsenal of plugins and softwares, your demo recordings can turn into an international chartbuster right from your bedroom! You donʼt have to depend on anybody. Today, there are more ʻOne-Man-Bandsʼ than ever before!

Worse: Time & Money have become scarce. Producers no longer give you enough time to deliver the next big hit. Background scores of 2+ hour films are being churned out in 15 to 20 days flat, (thanks to software) eliminating the need of many live instruments, resulting in live players not having money for food.

Its becoming tough for composers/arrangers to justify their costs. In turn, they end up taking on more projects (obviously for money) then they can handle, resulting in average to below average quality being released at an alarming pace.

Q2. Are musicians/composers with “pirated” software breaking the market of established guys like you? If yes, how do you see this coming under any control.

Not really. Thanks to awareness, there are not many (maybe none) established Composers in mainstream using pirated softwares. The ones who use downloaded material are mostly new-comers with little or no experience. Who Iʼm sure would slowly end up buying everything they use.

And generally speaking, companies are not very comfortable working with in-experienced/new composers without a proper infrastructure that is required to handle this kind of work. Some Film agreements have started having clauses that clearly state that any material the composer uses for the soundtrack, has to be copyright free and legally obtained. We have to sign on the dotted line, and thereby absolving the company/producer of any legal charges that might come up due to copyright infringement. Finally.. its our ass on the line!

Q3. Now we have the “Rebeat” software, that gives worldwide – not just region specific – access to music tracks for a release!

Rebeat is new, its revolutionary! And whenever something revolutionary comes along the way, it completely changes everything around. And as always, some for good and some for worse. Quality is certainly an issue here, with no restrictions in place, anybody, anywhere, anyhow can now ʻofferʼ to sell their stuff, however un-interesting and ʻnaiveʼ it may be.


b) Is this harming the quality of songs being released for sale? If yes, is the market mature enough to trash bad songs?

The saddest part is that in this ʻMelaʼ of sorts, truly genuine artists are loosing out. The chances of an average music lover ʻrandomlyʼ coming across a good track are now frighteningly low. I can browse the iTunes store for hours and not come across a single appreciable track.

How much music can one listen to? People have libraries that donʼt fit into a 160GB iPod! How can you make a ʻmemorableʼ track in such a scenario? True music lovers, including me, are increasingly going back to classics all the time for that ʻlistening satisfactionʼ!

Q4. In this digital era that is only growing day by day with powerful tools and techniques,what do you see the future of music to be?

Honestly, I predict a time when ʻSinglesʼ will become the only thing surviving. Albums will be extinct. Budgets will be ridiculously low, and every household will have a record label. CDʼs will vanish and Thumb-Drives with a 1 TB+ capacity will emerge! Not to mention, studios will find it extremely difficult to pull-on. (Thanks to Bedroom Setups) And yes… Earphones will sell more than Stereos!

Q5. Somebody just asked me this: “Buying a pirated CD of an ʻinspired workʼ of Anu Malik and Pritam is ethical or not?”

Its amazing what lengths people go-to just to justify something. Of-course its not!! What about the other singers/writers/musicians/technicians/studios involved in the album? You are directly depriving them of their dues. Please… this is not the same as saying ʻWhy should I pay for stolen stuff, when you got it for free in the first place!ʼ Remember there are many people involved in a song.

Always buy your Music!

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Know more about Tapas Relia and listen to his tracks on: http://tapasrelia.com/Home.html

Through the looking glass: Ram Sampath

Ram Sampath is a composer, producer and musician, working mainly in the Mumbai advertising circuit (and a leading name there). He has also produced music for films like Khakhee, Family, Jumbo and the next release in the pipeline is Aamir Khan Production’s “Delhi Belly“.

Ram

Ram Sampath, Music Composer

Ram is also judging the music quotient of the participants on MTV’s show Rock On. He looks extremely resourceful on the show, where he analyses and recognises good musical skills of young Indian talents.

I met Ram at his studio in Khar recently, to discuss his album ‘Diljale’. This single track has been released only ‘online’ by his company, The Mint. Here is Ram’s take on the world of online music.

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[Aditya Mehta] How did the idea of releasing a song as a ‘single’ come?

[Ram Sampath] Two reasons.

1)    Releasing through a record company has no benefit.
2)    Today, music is a lifestyle. It has gotten out of the zone of being something that people now engage in ‘consciously’. There are various ways of accessing it. People are talking of music. In India we almost ‘watch’ our music. It is consumed as a visual.

[AM] Is it because radio stations churn out the same songs is why we have kind of stopped buying CDs?

[RS] Radio stations play Top 40 / 20 music only. And repeating the same “hit” songs on all stations continuously adds to this factor of reduction in CD sales too.

[AM] Is this trend followed by radio stations in India, or is it the same abroad as well?

[RS] It is completely different abroad. While the mainstream radio stations still play the Top 40 only, you still let the other sub genres exist. There are a lot of other sub genres that are allowed to exist. There’s lots of different kinds of music – folk, country, blue, world, alternative rock etc. All find their own niche radio station.

This is not the case in India. Here, Government regulations make broadcasting very difficult. There’s just no help from the government for artistes – rather, for music. It makes no sense to surrender your intellectual property to a record company for no promotions.

[AM] Don’t you think in such a scenario, where music is not bought in India, you needed courage to come out with a “single”, which is not sold in retail shops?

[RS] No! It is common sense. There is just no use competing with the herd. How is any record company going to bother to promote your stuff?

[AM] Like you said, music is now ‘visual’ in India. So is it not expensive to make your own video and then promote it, etc?

[RS] It is not! Infact, today one can use even a handy-cam to shoot and make innovative videos, and put them up all over the Net. Video-editing tools, other effects are so easily available on affordable softwares. Video making is no longer an expensive proposition.

When we look at the videos of the 80s, we find them funky! Back then, due to lack of technology, they did the best they could – without the intention of making them ‘cool’!!

All you need to be is creative and appeal to the audience which likes your kind of music.

[AM] What about other promotions for marketing your music online, etc?

[RS] Thanks to softwares like Rebeat (introduced in India by SudeepAudio.com), we can put up our song(s) on almost every digital store across the world! Look how technology is helping us access the world markets, sitting right here.

Now its upto you as an artiste to put in the efforts using your site, online forums, live shows, etc. to tell the world about your songs. It’s the “content” finally which will drive the consumer to buy the product.

[AM] How is ‘Diljale’ faring?

[RS] Its doing great! And yes, international sales are bringing in revenue as well. As long as the costs are covered, I think its good. After all, this trend is still new for India. But online music business will soon become a norm. So sooner one catches onto this new model, the better it will be for them.

[AM] Any message to young musicians / composers out there?

[RS] Go ahead and make the music you want – “your way, your style”. A musician knows best about what he/she is capable of creating.

The Net has opened up un-imaginable means and access to the whole world. If you believe in your music, don’t let anything stop you. It is not at all expensive to get your content up there for sale and do business. However, never compromise on the quality of your productions ever.

[AM] Thank you.

Know more about Ram and also listen to his work on: www.ramsampath.com

“Diljale” – a solid example of online music releases from INDIA

“Original, earthy appeal & born to be on stage….”, says her profile on www.sonamohapatra.com.

Who is this singer making waves in the world of music? Well, meet Sona Mohapatra. A trained classical singer who has made a career in fusing pop, folk, bollywood, rock styles and more into her music. She fronts her band consisting of 5 consisting ethnic strings, electrice guitar, bass, drums/percussion and keyboards.

sona mohapatra

After her smashing hits like Bolo Na, Aaja Ve among others, Sona chose to release her latest album “Raat/Din” in an INNOVATIVE manner! The first video single of this album “Diljale” has been shot in the streets of New York, and the music is available on digital stores across the world.

We asked Sona a few questions, for which you find her brief and to-the-point responsed in the interview below. Do post your comments and feedback on the music and this form of releasing your own music, your own way… The future is here. Thanks to musicians like Sona and Ram Sampath (coming up in the next interview).

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SudeepAudio.com {SA}: What prompted you to release a single on the Net, mobile networks?
Sona Mohapatra [SM]: We decided to go with digital distribution because it’s the reality of our lives. We’ve seen the disappearance of the music stores & the emergence of cell phones & mp3 players happen right before our eyes, so why are we reluctant to embrace it?!

{SA} How did you plan the promotions before the release?
[SM] That’s the hard part. It takes persistence & patience to find the right collaborators & partners. The most important aspect is a common love for music.

one of the first online music singles released globally...

one of the first online music singles released globally...

{SA} Do you have any exclusive tie-ups for the promotions?
[SM] Yes. I’ve tied up with The Nokia Music Store (Worldwide) & their ‘Comes With Music’ program. I’ve also tied up with Gibson Guitars & MTV as promotion partners.

{SA} In which stores is your song available for sale?
[SM] As of now, at the Nokia Music Store, my own website – www.sonamohapatra.com & very soon across all other digital stores including iTunes, amazon, spotify, and many more stores across the globe, thanks to Rebeat (www.rebeat.com)

{SA} With tools like Rebeat Digital software that distributes an album to over 350 stores worldwide, its become easy to make sure your song/s is on these online stores.
[SM] Absolutely. What Rebeat is trying to do, is nothing short of a paradigm shift, like Apple’s iTunes store. It could change music distribution forever!

{SA} But for an artiste, is it possible to promote it to the audience / fans on his or her own?
[SM] Of course. Right from Radiohead & Nine Inch Nails to Bob Dylan, every artist worth their name is using the internet to reach out to their core audience. People who follow the artist regardless of the latest fashion. That’s the whole point of it.

{SA} What skills (besides musicality) do you think an artiste / composer must have in today’s digital era?
[SM] As an artist, I think this is the age of DIY (Do it Yourself). You need to have a vision for yourself & your music & you need to have the networking skills to reach out to the biggest audience possible without compromising your integrity.

{SA} There is a definite trend of online music purchasing in USA, Europe. Do you think India will follow suit?
[SM] Yes. It’s a logical progression. I only wish it would happen sooner.

{SA} Any other marketing plans / events in the pipeline for your digital album?
[SM] Yes. Quite a few. You will see them unfold in the coming months!

{SA} Any message to other singers in our country?
[SM] Express yourself. Be heard. One way or another.

{SA} Thank you, Sona. And congratulations on being one of the front-runners from India, in using the latest technology to reach out to millions of music lovers across the world. We do hope others will follow suit.