Life Between Releases
Written by Mae Mariyam Thomas
Downtime. It’s the interim between your music releases when you’re either:
- Working on new music
- On a vacation in Goa/Gokarna/Varkala
- Collaborating with other artists
- Enjoying quality time with your pet after being on the road for so long.
What you are considering at this time are:
- How do I make some money?
- How do I engage with my fans?
- Did I feed my cat today?
- Do I need a break?
Between releases is a time that can be equally productive as it is restorative. Give yourself space to create and allocate time to work for your bread and butter too. There are a plethora of things you could do during this time and I’m no guru but I am a keen observer of musicians and their habits, like Richard Attenborough is to wildlife.
Your social media is your best friend. It’s going to help you keep engaged and let the world know that you’re still alive and kicking. There are some artists who will share their daily routines – playing with their cat (Nush Lewis), fiddling on the guitar (Warren Mendonsa), stream of consciousness posts (Aarifah Rebello), spontaneous songs (Aadar Malik), and more. I could name many. But where do you begin?
Let’s begin with a meditative silence, take a deep breath and now, let’s make a list.
- Daily Life – do what everyone is doing on social media and document your life as you’d like. People who are your fans will like a peek into your everyday shenanigans besides just listening to your music
- Performance – The reason people fell in love with you is for your music. So watching you playing your music is always a treat.
- Interaction – talk to your fans and ask them what they want to hear from you. Answer their questions and make them feel special. Their loyalty is your strength.
Music-Related Revenue Streams
As social media will continue to be the sidekick to your existence, you still need to earn some rupees. Though the live gig circuit is an avenue that most artists earn money from, it lacks consistency and usually doesn’t pay as much as you want. Perform as regularly as you can but don’t put pressure on yourself to perform for pittance. Value yourself and your art as best as you can in light of not-so-great pay masters. Also, since the event industry has taken a big hit during the lockdown, a lot of ticketing portals and event companies are making a shift to going live online and providing alternative revenue streams for artists. It would be wise to follow up with them and find out what’s happening and how you can work with them.
There are musicians that teach music as an alternative form of income, either through institutes like Furtados School of Music, True School of Music, etc, or as independent teachers. There are numerous examples of this, drummer Gino Banks, drummer & vocalist Yohan Marshall, harpist & vocalist Nush Lewis, bassist Adil Kurwa, guitarist Anurag Rao, producer & Ableton trainer Sanaya Ardeshir aka Sandunes, etc. Mastering your craft is important in this regard.
A lot of people are nerdy about music, and learn through playing other people’s tracks. If you admire a musicians’ music, then you want to learn how to play it. A great example is when iconic lead guitar virtuoso, Baiju Dharamajan of rock band Motherjane, put out his guitar tabs for some of his most well-known songs.
Brand endorsements is another window of opportunity. From musical instrument companies like Zildjian, Pearl, Gibson, Fender, etc; audio equipment companies like Sennheiser, Shure etc; Clothing brands like Levi’s, Converse, Vera Moda; Alcohol brands like Bacardi, Jameson, Budweiser and Bira. They have either sponsored specific artists, band hunts, live events, social media campaigns, which can all amount to some level of marketing push and monetary compensation.
It’s about working with people who work with these brands and being open to figuring out what works for you as an artist without compromising your art.
This can also be a time of collaboration – jamming with other musicians & instrumentalists. It can help kindle new creative avenues, give you new ideas, and help you push through those creative blocks. You can also consider working with different producers to remix songs from your album as a way to re-release your music in a different avatar. Indie-folk singer-songwriter, Zoya Mohan created an album called Zoya: Plugged In where she worked with 9 different producers and gave them each one of her songs to remix. The collaboration project was to raise awareness for the need of electricity for better education in rural areas through electronic music. Another example is electro-rock duo Shaa’ir + Func released an entire EP called RE:COVER that were re-produced versions of their previous songs.
Collaboration can also work the other way around, where as a vocalist or instrumentalist you can feature on other artists’ projects. RnB soul singer Azamaan Hoyvoy is one of those and has featured on guitar prodigy, Kush Updhayay’s first album with vocals called Soon You’ll See The Old, on bassist & producer Nathan Thomas aka NATE08’s EP, DRMZ, on electronica artist & producer Kumail’s song Obota, and synth-heavy electronica act Paraphoniks song, Vacillate from their album, Silhouettes. Even if you’re not releasing your own music, getting a “feat” in someone else’s music helps keep your name out and about in the realms of music releases.
Alternative Income Streams
Some left of centre innovative work is also welcome. Carnatic-jazz vocalist & keyboardist Aditi Ramesh, showcased an art installation that presented her musical influences inspired by her synesthesia. This may be unique to her but if you wanted to weave interpretive dance into your musical experience, why not? (By the way, indie-folk singer Raghu Dixit did exactly that with his wife Mayuri Upadhya’s dance company Nritarutya).
And finally, India’s most vibrant music industry is the Bollywood film music industry. Working as a playback singer or playing for film music or producing music for films does provide a shiny coin to anyone working in it. It’s highly competitive but lucrative nonetheless. So is the advertising industry. However, this means you’re working on music that is not necessarily your own. There are some artists that have made a huge success with their original music, like rapper Divine, DJ/producer Nucleya, Punjabi hip hop artist Prabh Deep, Hindi rock act The Local Train, as well as veterans like folk-fusion act Indian Ocean, rock acts like Parikrama and the erstwhile Indus Creed, etc.
Considering that there is a whole lot of space between releases, use this time to work on yourself, collaborate with others, and bring in the funds you’ll need to help you do even more.