2020: The year indie music made it to the mainstream
With over a thousand song releases, independent musicians look back at how 2020 was the biggest year for them and hope that the popularity continues to grow in 2021......
No one at the start of this year would have guessed that 2020 would end up being the biggest year for independent music. If the first six months of this year saw over 300 albums/EPs/singles and over 700 music videos released independently, over 1300 singles, music videos, and 200 albums/EPs, were released independently in the last six months this year!
“[It] Doesn’t really matter if it’s independent or commercial music [anymore],” says singer-songwriter Kiara Chetri, who released her debut album 4am in November this year. The 17-year-old has already caught attention of some of the biggest musicians in this country including Ehsaan Noorani.
“I feel like independent artists deserve so much more attention. I don’t think there will be a massive change in people’s music tastes in 2021. I think it all depends on who makes the best music that catches the audience’s attention,” she adds.
A slew of independent artists have been releasing music consistently this year. In November, singer Sona Mohapatra, in an interview with us, spoke about releasing 11 singles during the Lockdown, out of which nine tracks were released independently. She has never done that before in her career that spans over a decade.
“This time has been an opportunity for all of us to expand our skill sets. My last single, Heere Heere was a completely in-house production with Ram Sampath turning director, editor. I produced the video with a skeleton crew of four during the lockdown. It also gave me the opportunity to reach out and collaborate with other creative forces,” she says.
One big reason behind the growth of indie music, as we reported earlier this year, was the fact that movie music releases were few and far in between, which pushed music labels and big record companies to make deals with indie artists or focus more on non-film music.
“The reason independent music is on the rise is the non-availability of new film songs and that the audience are now open to choose their preferences from available music options, their understanding for good music has grown for the better,” says singer-songwriter Sadasivan KM Nambisan aKa Sadu.
“Commercial music requires a high budget music video to back it up along with lots of marketing. Since shoots and videos were nearly impossible, audiences were left with listening to lots of new kinds of independent music mainly for the musical content and perhaps even with some home-made or creatively done animated videos,” says the electronica duo, Midival Punditz.
The lack of commercially produced music and videos left a void which was enthusiastically filled up by independent artists who produced music from their homes and released videos which were mostly shot on their smartphones .
“My recent track Jab Se Piya was a song that I wrote and recorded in my home studio in the San Francisco, collaborating back and forth with Holmes Ives who was living in Mexico during the lockdown. The video was shot using backdrops in our respective homes and edited together over collaborative video conferences,” says singer-songwriter Devika..
“[Indie music] regained momentum due to the fact that Bollywood songs/releases couldn’t be pushed as much as previously because shooting music videos has been very difficult due to the pandemic and in India, a song doesn’t work until there’s a proper video asset for it. Therefore, indie music filled it in the most brilliant way,” says singer-songwriter Armaan Malik who however insists that it can only flourish if it doesn’t sound the “same as a film soundtrack.”
Armaan, is o one of the few mainstream artists who jumped on the indie music bandwagon successfully this year, thereby blurring lines between the non-film and indie music.
“One of my favourite songs from 2020, Armaan Malik’s Next to Me is the case in point, for this! Being such a huge Bollywood singer, Armaan took the risk of releasing independent music that too in English and boy did it work! People are definitely more open to listening to independent music, and I think artists are realising that in the longer run, it’s way more beneficial to be yourself rather than trying to be someone they’re not!” says music producer Srijan Mahajan aKa Pupster.
The future, therefore, only brings in hope for these musicians, who feel that 2021 will see more people exploring all forms of music. “Of course, it will take a long time for the music to reach the masses since independent music doesn’t quite have the same marketing muscle or distribution network as that of a label, but we can already see a gradual and formidable shift,” says Varun Rajput from the rock band Antariksh.
“Their following may be considered “niche” for now, but it’s certainly growing. The fact that a bunch of indie artists have made it to the official playlists of various streaming platforms is so encouraging,” adds singer-songwriter Rohan Solomon.
Internationally too, music being independently released seems to be the popular trend as well. American alternative hip-hop group Flipsyde’s lead guitarist Dave Lopez tells us that no live shows and “no big label push these days” is making artists “adapt and form a stronger bond with the audiences.”
“There is no filter that is put on by the big labels, as far making everything so perfect and polished. People are relating more to real messages and real topics,” he says, hoping that “audience continues this closeness with the artists” in 2021.
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