For the overwhelming majority of Indians, commercial music would imply songs from the movie industry and a select few regional megastars. As it stands, India’s mainstream music industry’s existing diversity is paltry. While there are thousands of independent artists home producing projects and leveraging social media to broadcast their work, their reach is minuscule. Without a label to invest, support, and market them, independent artists can’t break into the mainstream.
To Raghav Meattle, singer-songwriter and head at ‘Big Indie Bang’, there are swathes of untapped talent who only need a little push to create a future generation of superstars. Raghav interacted with over 600 artists across the lockdown period on Instagram live sessions. Many of these artists were exceptionally talented but lacked the recording expertise and marketing ingenuity to grow a significant following. That’s where Big Indie Bang comes in. Backed by Mumbai based label Big Bang Music, the subsidiary label functions as an incubator for up and coming artists to broaden their reach.
“Presently, we’re looking at working with 12-15 artists over the next year. If even one or two of them turn out to be trailblazers like a Ritviz or Prateek Kuhad, then I think we’ve been rather successful. It’s about cultivating a culture at the end of the day.” Prateek Kuhad and Ritviz started as independent projects but are now megastars domestically, with significant international recognition.
Big Indie Bang’s process for each artist is different. Their first release, ‘Khoye Se’ by Shor, was accompanied by a high production value music video since the artist has a rich visual aesthetic. For others, Raghav feels the concept of spending on a music video is inherently limiting. “When you make a music video, you limit yourself by putting a preconceived idea of the song out there. With Instagram Reels and many short video sharing applications, social media content creators reimagine the track through short videos and viral challenges.”
The general approach is to first master and record the track in a professional studio, one that Big Indie Bang will help support. Rather than owning a studio of their own, they link the artists to producers and sound engineers who will best fit their sound. Raghav’s experience as a singer-songwriter has given him a strong network of producers to connect with the artists. Proceeding that, his team conceptualizes the best marketing strategies and avenues to push out the track.
Raghav notes that boosting a track through YouTube advertisements doesn’t offer much since reputed artists already saturate the market. “With ‘Khoye Se’, alternative avenues provided us with the best success.” By initiating a giveaway with a travel blogger on Instagram, the song could organically generate hundreds of ‘reels’ that used ‘Khoye Se’ as the backing track. He believes that promoting the songs on smaller quickly growing video sharing applications could allow Big Indie Bang’s artists to capture a larger audience in an unsaturated platform. With TikTok’s ban, many of these apps are vying for the Chinese application’s old audience.
From a very business minded focus, you can look at Big Indie Bang as a VC firm, with the independent artists being the startups. Raghav and his team function as the general partners, looking for the right artists and coordinating how to make them succeed. The larger Big Bang Music label functions as the limited partners, providing the capital necessary to make these investments. The artists are the startups, the projects that will deliver a return on their investment in the long term.
Predictably then, Big Indie Bang doesn’t expect immediate monetary returns. To Raghav and his team, it’s about supporting an independent scene that has the potential to be far more than it presently is. By cultivating a culture for these up and coming artists, the label could cause tectonic shifts in how the Indian music industry exists. However, Raghav is aware that Big Bang Music’s backing is not an endless pit. “We have enough to keep us going for now, but we are looking for a way to become self-sustaining in the long term.”
When asked about how he hopes to make it profitable, Raghav turned to brands. “Right now we’re doing what we do well – marketing songs, building up artists, and hopefully marrying brands with a platform. The platform here is Big Indie Bang as it could marry brands with 15 different artists rather than a single one. Many brands want to buy into the ‘indie dream’ right now, that’s where the recoupment starts to come. Bacardi did this with Ritviz and was phenomenally successful for both brand and artist.” He is confident that a brand will eventually buy into this vision, effectively sponsoring the project. “What a band would normally spend on a single Guru Randhawa, this project promises them more than a dozen artists for the same or less.”
The biggest win Raghav sees for Big Indie Bang would be if the platform becomes one that people aspire to be a part of – an idea and dream that artists across the country want to be associated with. He acknowledges that this would be a long term vision to transform commercial music space in India. “For the short term, if we can make one or two of these guys grow, the next wave of artists will dream of being signed to Big Indie Bang.”
Big Indie Bang’s first release promises that the label’s work sees tangible returns, even if these may not be monetary. ‘Khoye Se’ has over half a million views on YouTube alone. Raghav notes that on day one, across all social media platforms, the song generated over five million impressions. However, in the long term, Big Indie Bang’s continuance will be contingent on whether they can draw in prominent brands that will sponsor their vision to transform India’s commercial music landscape.