From Spotify's arrival to Gully Boy's release, what to look forward to in the Indian music scene in 2019
For my first column of the new year, I thought it would be appropriate to write about things I’m looking forward to in 2019, each of which are expected to have a lasting impact on the Indian music scene.
The launch of India’s first official music chart
In August 2018, at Dialogue, a conference held by trade organisation the Indian Music Industry, the focus was much on the roadmap to turning India into one of the ten largest music markets in the world by 2022. The event included one announcement that excited me the most: our country will finally be getting its first official music chart “possibly, by January 2019”. Few details have been revealed, but from what I know, it will be based purely on streaming. Two weeks into the new year and there is no word yet of when it will be launched. The delay is probably being caused by the time it’s taking to convince Indian record labels, notorious for not revealing sales or consumption figures, to allow streaming services to share their data with the company that will compile the chart. I don’t know how many positions or for which genres the chart will be but if we are to go by the existing lists published by individual streaming services, they are usually in agreement about the No 1 song if nothing else. For instance, ‘Aankh Maarey’ from Simmba is currently at the top of Gaana, JioSaavn and Wynk’s surveys.
The arrival of Spotify
I have been hearing rumours about Spotify, widely regarded as having the best recommendation engines, launching here for about five years now. All ears were trained in 2018, which seemed liked the year when it would finally happen, with reports of the Swedish audio-streaming music service opening an office in Mumbai and hiring staff here. Then came the news that they had hit roadblocks in closing deals with international labels. As per the last update, via Variety at the end of November, the India launch was six months away, indicating that Spotify will arrive by May. Meanwhile, Indian-American rapper Heems aka Himanshu Suri, who was appointed as the senior editor of Indian culture at the app and works out of their New York office, has been populating Spotify with India-specific playlists, spanning Bollywood, regional and indie music tracks for almost a year now. The main question though is not when they will launch but how much they will charge. With most streaming services offering monthly subscription plans for less than $2 (between Rs99 and Rs120), for Spotify to match them would mean charging their lowest fees in the world.
The release of Gully Boy
I have lost count of the number of times Gully Boy has come up in conversation over the last year. Everybody’s expecting the Hindi film, inspired by the lives of Mumbai rappers Divine and Naezy, to be Indian hip-hop ticket’s into the mainstream. Early signs are encouraging. The melodramatic trailer implies that though the movie will be a Bollywood-ised version of true events, the music will be a more authentic representation of the scene. The track ‘Asli Hip-Hop’, composed and written by Spitfire and rapped by the film’s star Ranveer Singh, has already won fans over while a slew of other MCs, including Emiway, are said to feature on the OST. More than the film, I’m eager for the soundtrack.
The reopening of antiSOCIAL
Mumbai’s indie music circles are abuzz with the news about the return of antiSOCIAL, after its programming head put up a post on social media on New Year’s Eve that “2019 is going to see the dawn of antiSOCIAL 2.0 Mumbai!”. Though he hasn’t said anything else since, the rumour is that antiSOCIAL, the basement venue at the Khar outpost of the Social chain of bars that was shut at the end of 2017, will be back in a new location. In all likelihood, it will be housed in Lower Parel’s Todi Mill Social, which is where a number of the shows by bands that would previously be held at antiSOCIAL were staged last year. If that’s the case, then Todi Mill Social, where currently an elevated seating area is cleared to serve as the stage – which is in only a limited number of customers’ lines of vision – will have to be renovated. The takeover will represent a full circle of sorts for Mumbai’s gigging community. antiSOCIAL replaced the erstwhile Blue Frog, situated in the same compound as Todi Mill Social, as the city’s favourite concert venue shortly after it opened for business in 2016.
Amit Gurbaxani is a Mumbai-based journalist who has been writing about music, specifically the country's independent scene, for nearly two decades. He tweets @TheGroovebox
Updated Date: Jan 28, 2019 15:18:51 IST