The story of the Indian dance music industry is in line with the global story, in as much as it’s a tale of steady growth with joint-venture opportunities for foreign players.

Music - that all too palpable bond between various generations; has grown into something so very physical with the explosion of the dance music industry. Music festivals, concerts, summits, expos, conferences, carnivals, pop ups, and more, have opened up a world within the Indian music industry that a decade ago many would not have thought sustainable. To give you a perspective in terms of numbers, I’d like to quote Zel McCarthy, VP Beatport Media. ‘If you have bought a festival ticket, paid for a drink at a club, or even coughed up $1.29 for a track download, you can take some credit for elevating the estimated value of the global electronic music industry to a whopping $6.9 billion in 2014.’ So that means globally, dance music has specifically grown from a $4.5 billion industry to a $6.9 billion industry in just over 2 years! In other words, physical growth has been stupendous with a huge increase in music-based events and India has not remained untouched.

THE TALE OF A TUNE

The story of the Indian dance music industry is in line with the global story, in as much as it’s a tale of steady growth. Its growth has mirrored the Indian economy and the two are barometers for each other. As the economy grows, so will the entertainment sector. Though physical sales of music may have diminished, a key pain-point of the past – piracy - has become redundant due to the growth of streaming services. There's huge growth in the live events sector as well. With music reaching everyone at the click of a mouse button, there is this raw energy in the air and fans are digging deeper into newer sounds. Due to this increasing demand and piqued interest, India has already welcomed a host of foreign dance music artists and we now are firmly on the horizon of several international music brands. There is now ample space for foreign investors to step in as sponsors, promoters, curators, innovators, artists, and so much more. We have the set up, the step up, the talent, and the platforms. However, the Indian marketplace is a tricky terrain to navigate and serious investors would do well to find local partners to work with, or form joint ventures in their early forays into this space.

GROWING UP NOT OLD

Opportunities for growth and investment – be it foreign or domestic, exist in every industry and I can happily say the Indian dance music industry is no different. We have just ignited what I believe will be our biggest growth accelerator - dance music events at college festivals across the country. At our live events, we're currently selling approximately 150,000 tickets annually for dance music events in India. Our addressable base for music consumption (people with smart phones and data connections) is around 35 million. That number is expected to touch 100 million over the next few years. Try doing the math, because it appears we're at around 0.15% of our potential right now.

The International Music Summit Report provides a vindication of the country’s dance music industry’s growth by the attention it pays in this year's report to the Indian market, with special mention of benefits arising from investments by Europeans and North Americans, as well as local music festivals. The MS ASIA-PACIFIC: SPOTLIGHT ON INDIA report clearly talks about how India has an enormous international presence, both in population size and cultural influence, and an equally substantial part of the Asia-Pacific region. ‘As the seventh largest country in the world and the capital of Bollywood, India is a standout in entertainment culture in the Eastern region. It comes as no surprise that India has quickly become a leader in embracing electronic music culture in the Asia-Pacific region. The populous country has adopted the music with lightning fast speed – already, young festivals have been widely successful and the music, both commercial and underground, has gained incredible traction amongst the country’s audiences. In fact, electronic music’s influence is already so strong that much of Bollywood music has become heavily influenced by electronic sounds.’

OF SETBACKS & COMEBACKS

Having said all this, we still have a range of restrictions that can most definitely hamper the progress of the dance music industry, run all our efforts into the ground, and even send foreign investment back where it came from. We cannot deny that our government needs to get behind the entertainment industry in order for it to flourish. Besides accepting it as a viable part of the Indian economy, the government needs to realize that with each state having its own laws, it becomes increasingly difficult to hold events or build music properties – physical or otherwise.

Businesses too need to invest more in music than they do in marketing. We still require a more effective music discovery platform for fans (currently non-existent), more curators need to emerge from the scene, we need better business planning for promoters, added infrastructure, and a simpler licensing mechanism in order to tip over.

HOMEGROWN

I was also asked recently about the Make In India campaign and whether it has touched the music industry in any way. I could make up a fancy story, but the truth is that we have been making in India forever, as far as dance music is concerned. Submerge, Sunburn, and Vh1 Supersonic, all brands that I started in India, were started with Indian friends and partners and are there to speak for themselves. They’ve been built with our own talent, infrastructure, and with the support of our local dance music community.

This is also why I believe foreign investors need to partner with local entities. We don’t need foreign brands; we’ve successfully built our own. What we do need however is a transfer of knowledge. Globally, dance music’s been around for about 35 years, while our scene is relatively younger. We could do with their experience, while they could do with our newfound enthusiasm for the genre.

About the Author

Nikhil Chinapa is a name as indistinguishable from dance music as Cadbury is from chocolate. An old soul yet fresh talent, he is constantly innovating and curating new ideas. One can’t help but be in awe of this man, whose hard work and charisma have literally moved mountains in the Indian music scene.

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