Story of Musicpreneur and her venture – Artist Aloud
Artist Aloud is a digital media, distribution and talent management platform for talent and independent content across the Globe. It currently houses original content from over 1000 artistes.It’s a one stop destination for commercial Independent content across languages, genres and talent.
An initiative pioneered by Hungama Digital Media Entertainment Private Ltd., Artist Aloud.com is an opportunity for talent to build a connect with their fans and for fans to have access to their content that is previously unreleased and created by the Artist for them. The platform currently houses original content from several genres ranging from Alternative Pop, Fusion, English and Hindi Rock, Bollywood Pop and Classic Indi-Pop in Hindi, English, Punjabi, Gujarati, Bengali, etc.
ArtistAloud.com is a revolution in the Indian independent scene that aims to give not only artists but also fans the control and right to build the demand for independent content from India and across the world at a global level.
Desi entrepreneur interview with Soumini Paul Founder of Artist Aloud.com
Could you elaborate on your journey as a entrepreneur?
I was born in Chennai but spent the first 7 years of my life in a place called Tarapur, Maharashtra. My family moved to Mumbai when I was in my 3rd Grade. I did my schooling from St. Columba, Mumbai and majored in Statistics with a BSc degree from St. Xavier’s College, Mumbai.
I was part of the choir in my school and took part in a number of school programs as well as college competitions for singing. After completing my graduation in 1994, I moved to Bengaluru as my family had shifted there. It was then, during my search for future prospects, that I met a person who gave my career a completely different turn.
While I thought I would land up doing a Masters in Statistics, she asked me about my hobbies and without a thought, I said, “Music.”That made her introduce me to Prasad Bidappa in Bengaluru, with whom I started doing live gigs, at his fashion shows, across the country. After doing so for two years, I managed to get back to Mumbai and get signed up with Crescendo Music as a Pop Artist.
However, after a year, the label and I mutually called off the contract and I was back in Bengaluru, trying to figure out my next steps. In the course of this search, a friend of mine offered to give me an opportunity to come back to Mumbai with a job that involved working on a software in a garment company. My job was to show how a shirt would look on an image of a model. Within a month, I realised that if I wasn’t around Music, I would die. I even tried meeting labels again with a new demo but no one was interested in giving me a chance as a singer.
This got me to meet with one of my sister’s friends, Parag Kamani who was well versed with the music industry as he was working in it and it was something that he said that made me look at myself in a different way. All he said was that if singing was not working out then there are other areas of the music space I could look at.
It was such a simple statement but it truly had a huge impact. I sent out my resume and got hired by the one label I had not met as an artist – Universal Music Group. After working for just a month and a half and learning the ropes very quickly, I got offered a job in Channel [V] where I worked for 4 years before I put in my papers as I got pregnant.6 years and 2 kids later, it was in 2008 that I decided to get back to working full time.
I hadn’t completely shut off during my hiatus though. I continued working albeit as a freelancer managing artists, handling their PR and album deals. These artists included Sowmya Raoh, Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy, Euphoria, Sagarika, etc. Freelancing kept me active and connected and that is what helped me get a job with Gajendra Singh (of SAREGAMAPA fame) in 2008 as an EP for Voice of India in his production house. But working in a production house involves being employed when there are projects to work on. And so, after 5 months, I had to leave and figure out, what next.
How did you get this idea of startup and story behind it?
In 2009, post my short stint with Gajendra Singh, while there was a lull period in my career, I started figuring out what to do next. At that point, all I knew was content and talent.
I was aware that things had gone digital with a lot of platforms such as MySpace, Reverbnation, etc offering music free but somewhere in me, I guess, the artist in me was still alive and I was aware that in spite of all these DIY platforms, every artist wants something which is more official and formal. Hence, I put together a presentation and put down my thoughts on what I had in mind.
From where and when the startup started?
Once I was ready with my presentation, I sent out a message to Neeraj Roy, the MD & CEO of Hungama who was known to my husband, Vivek Paul and who gave me Neeraj’s number.
I messaged Neeraj and literally sent him my CV in 3 sentences via a mobile message. Neeraj replied back saying that he was out of town and would be back after 2 weeks. He asked me to follow up once he was back. I was amazed at how approachable he was and how professional too.
Two weeks later we met and I took him through my presentation. Within the first meeting, Neeraj said that what I proposed was something Hungama was wanting to build for over a year and so he offered me a role in the company asking me to build this under Hungama. And that is how Artist Aloud was born. A platform that was meant to acquire content from talent directly and provide them distribution through Hungama’s Distribution Network.
While Hungama had a vision to build a platform for Independent Artists, it became a reality only after the launch of Artist Aloud on the 7th of Jan 2010. However, within 6 months we realised that a company like Hungama that had built its entire business on aggregation and content distribution worked well for Bollywood and regional content mainly due to the external media that made the content popular enough for people to consume it through digital avenues.
The same was unfortunately not true for independent content. By 2010, the traditional media was so entrenched with Bollywood that there was no interest or space for the independent content space or talent.
Hence in order to survive, Artist Aloud had to innovate and think out of the box. This gave birth to Artist Aloud expanding into other avenues besides just an aggregator of independent content. The need was to build an ecosystem that can be used by the industry as well as us. And so today Artist Aloud runs across distribution, promotions, social media, content and event IPs, talent booking and venue programming.
What are the challenges she faced during this journey?
Artist Aloud has spent 8 years since its launch filled with support and challenges. The unending support from Hungama and its MD, Neeraj Roy has helped us deal with all the challenges we have faced over the years whether it has been through media, budgets, revenue, etc.
Personally, I have thought of giving up several times but then something happens with the business and I feel motivated all over again. Now, I have reached a point where I believe I was born to build something like this. Also, the support has not been just from Hungama.
Over the years some of the biggest artists like Sonu Nigam, Shankar Mahadevan, Pankaj Udhas, Talat Aziz, Salim – Sulaiman, etc have supported us through various endorsements. One of our closest partners has been Hard Rock Café who has helped us to build new event IPs with them on a regular basis helping us grow the independent live space.
Current situation (team, valuation, achievements etc.)
From 2014 – 2017, while the entire industry was trying to deal with the impact of TRAI restrictions, streaming services mushrooming in every corner, copyright laws being revisited, etc. we were putting all our focus on just keeping ourselves alive, thinking out of the box, spending extremely prudently and building value for Hungama.
All this has helped us immensely to identify our core business verticals as well as build a steady revenue model across Distribution and Promotions of acquired content as a service, Talent Booking and Events and a stand-alone destination for Talent and Independent Content through an App and Website which has already won us 4 awards in just 1 year since its launch.
Artist Aloud has always had the first mover’s advantage in everything it has done whether it is as a digital platform or with IPs such as WebCert, Artist Aloud Music Awards, World Music Day Festival, etc. The beauty of building Artist Aloud under a big company like Hungama is to be able to have a core team of a few key people as well as a central team for areas that can be managed centrally such as marketing, admin, HR, finance, etc.
What are you future planning and goal?
Artist Aloud is still only 25% of where it should and could be. We have only scraped the top layer of talent with music. We want to take our philosophy of multi genre, multi language and multi talent across all possible talent including comedy, poetry, dance and not just music in and outside the country and across all areas of our business including Online, Social, On Ground and App.
We want every talent to see promise in creating original content and not be dependent on someone else’s work to become popular. Be Original, Be Creative and Be Known.