Some time ago, a
little quote by ex-
Nirvana drummer
and current Foo
Fighters main
man, Dave Grohl,
started making the rounds. I
may not recall the exact line
but I do remember the gist
of it: that the era of album
sales was well and truly over.
True, there used to be a time
decades ago when album
sales were everything and
Billboard charts were a
measure of pride and
prestige. Now, it’s about
all hits and likes and,
without sounding like
an old timer, sometimes
I wish it were a little
simpler. Although a
niche audience still exists,
the phase of buying
vinyl, CDs and tapes are
long gone and so has
a musician’s chance of
making a living through
sales alone.
Live Gigs, The Saving
Grace
It may be hard to
believe, but when
Black Sabbath first
appeared, they were
reviled and panned
by the British press.
Termed “crass and
loud,” they were
viewed as the ugly
step child of the
great British music scene
that boasted the likes of
Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple
and Pink Floyd. However,
they persevered and became
legends. So much so that they
would charge a whopping
250,000 dollars for a live
show at the peak of their
popularity! Zeppelin would
book similarly lucrative
concerts in cities around
the United States and Floyd
would demand the highest
prices for their laser light
music spectacles. Turn
towards Nepal and you see
the live music culture still
alive, but maybe not all
that profitable. From the
weekly or bi-weekly gigs in
Thamel and Jhamsikhel to
playing in one off festivals,
keeping the cash flowing on
a regular basis is an uphill
task. Not to mention the ever
increasing but necessary
demands of updating gear.
But live performances can be
great sources of revenue if
done right and more so, if
the group connects with the
audience on a level that they
would pay to see them play.
Case in point, Cobweb, who
perform every week at The
Reggae for their fans. “We
could be content playing only
in festivals but it is a great
way to meet music lovers and
those who have appreciated
us over the years,” says
Divesh Mulmi, vocalist of
the band.
iTunes To The Rescue
A decade or so ago, the
music world was abuzz with
discussions about online
piracy and how it was
eating up billions of dollars
worth of revenue from the
industry. It was a nuisance for
musicians but a lot of them
later on went to support it.
Who can forget Metallica
drummer Lars Ulrich suing
Napster for allowing their
music to be shared online
in the late 90s and how that
turned a lot of people against
the band? “Metallica is
already a bunch of millionaire
rockers, now they are trying
to stop some kid in Africa
from listening to their music
for free?” was an often heard
argument. Later, Ulrich
would concede and state, “It is
about those distant fans who
can’t get our music. If they
can download it and listen to
Metallica, that’s pretty cool.”
Half a decade later, in
2006, the introduction of
Apple’s iTunes Store would
prove to be revolutionary
and a much needed boost for
the flagging music industry.
The store would let users
download music at a meagre
0.99 dollar per song. Even
if we convert that amount
to NPR, it seems reasonable.
The future is digital music
and it is something that
Mukti Shakya has embraced
as well. “We decided to
partner with muncha.com
for our album Sadhai Bhari’s
digital sales and the response
has been quite good,” says
Mukti n’ Revival’s main man.
With bands like Newaz,
Albatross and Underside also
using the online sale format,
one can only hope it reaps
monetary benefits for local
musicians.
Entrepreneurial Ventures
Let’s be honest, unless you
are a breakthrough star
like a Gaga or a Bieber, any
talent would look at other
business opportunities as
well. Owning clubs, lounges,
music labels, production
houses, etc are all part of the
deal and, in all honesty, in
no way a step down for the
artist. Johnny Depp himself
owned the infamous Viper
Room in West Hollywood
and Jay-Z has a plethora of
nightclubs under his name. It
is an investment opportunity
that many musicians have
grabbed and run along with.
Many such establishments
exist in Kathmandu and have
done quite well. Ti Amo at
Freak Street, with Roshan
Kansakar, bassist of Newaz,
as one of its principal
proprietors, is one such place.
Robin Tamang, Nima Rumba
and members of Looza have
all owned, or currently own,
restaurants at one time or the
other. Many other musicians
run studios, music stores and
production houses as well.
So there you have it, a
musician plays his tunes
while doing all THAT along
with the practicing and
recording. No wonder we are
a thin looking lot. !