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Music Biz: Attack Of The Independent Labels
The music business, especially the recording industry, is dominated by giant corporations. In such a scenario, independent (indie) labels and the surprises they spring up remind us that music is not only about videos, airplay and charts.

Indie music is any type of music that does not conform to current tastes in commercial pop music and mainstream culture. It is characterised by an autonomous, do-it-yourself approach.

Indie labels have been around for almost as long as there has been a market for recorded music. Some of the biggest and freshest names in international music today can attribute their success to independent labels. Oasis, Arctic Monkeys, The Prodigy, Basement Jaxx and Cornershop are a few artistes who have been discovered or nurtured by indies. Though the music industry has become more centralised, independent labels continue to play a significant role in the overall market. In many instances, independent labels have a list of signed on recording artistes that rival those of major labels.

Some define an independent label as one that doesn’t have its own distribution network. Indies form alliances with major labels or retail chains for their distribution. These days they make extensive use of the internet and file sharing to promote their music. It is not surprising to find an indie label operating out of a garage even though its artistes might be selling records by the ton and touring across nations.

As the Indian music industry gets bigger, local indie labels are stepping up for their spot in the sun. A conversation with some of them reveals that the future for Indian musicians who want to deviate from the norm is sounding good.

Girish Talwar is a partner in Counter Culture Records. His Mumbai-based label has recently released rock band Pentagram’s latest album. He says, “We started Counter Culture records around a year ago. We wanted to have a distribution arm for independent musicians in India so that we can provide a tool for artistes and bands who are doing anything non-Bollywood. Since everything that’s ‘Bollywood’ has a set structure and a support system in place, we wanted to provide similar support and structure for artistes who wanted to express themselves through non-Bollywood music.”

Counter Culture Records has signed on five artistes so far which include Pentagram, Them Clones, Pin Drop Violence, Raghu Dixit and Zero. Like most indies, the label had a humble beginning. “Initially, my partner Vijay and I used to work out of our respective bedrooms and at times used to stay over at each other’s house when there was excessive work. We used Internet cafes quite regularly too. Just eight months ago, we started functioning out of a temporary office, which has an Internet connection. From that point we have grown, as more like-minded people joined in, and now have one person dedicated to overseeing the activities of Counter Culture records.

“Counter Culture’s artist and research wing includes us and any other band or event organiser who thinks that there is an interesting sound somewhere out there that needs a platform for more people to enjoy. Once we get in a recommendation, we ask the band or artist for a demo of their music. If we feel that there is a market out there for that kind of music, we then sign a recording agreement with the artist. At times the artist already has a high quality recording of their music, which is when we sign a production and distribution agreement with the artist. We then work on the creatives for the CD. We produce the CDs and work on PR for the artistes and get into marketing deals with sponsors for the release of the album. We also organise promotional events for greater visibility of the album,” says Talwar.

You can read the rest of our special feature Music Biz: Attack Of The Independent Labels in the May 2007 issue of The Record Music Magazine available at your local newsagent.


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