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Giving back to the Industry: In conversation with the founders of Engage Music

In the day and age of what feels like an overall sense of saturation within the music industry, Engage music was just what the Indian music scene needed. We had the opportunity to speak with Bhishma Sagar and Himay Kumbhani the people behind the platform, being fan-favourite music veterans already, its truly outstanding to see how they set out to create Engage Music and how they proceed with what seems like giving back to the original music-makers of India, and the world.

Interviewed by Zarah Noorani (@zarahnoorani)

How did this come about? How did this happen?

B: We basically started during the pandemic. You know, that was when all these wild ideas run through your head and I was asking my friends what they thought about this. I’ve been in the music industry for the last 10 years in India, and right now, we run Regenerate Music and Far Out Left festival, so through that, we saw that there was definitely something to explore. At that time, this was a very vague idea and it was only Himay and I that felt it made sense and could be a good thing, especially in India. Even now, you’ll see that all the royalties that Indian artists pay is to foreign countries, unless they take licenses to do parties. So what we were trying to do is form an ecosystem of sorts where we have everything an artist would need to know about the music industry. We’re now in the first phase, and we’re exploring more of what we know which is the dance music industry so all the music we have on the platform is more dance music centric. Of course, we’re still looking to do everything, but only after we finish doing what we know first. 

H: Of course, during the pandemic, touring artists lost their primary source of income. So with no money coming in, there needed to be an alternative. I mean, touring is also not sustainable in the long run - healthwise and all, and of course, age catches up so that needs to change. The value of recorded music is constantly diminishing to almost nothing, so we wanted to try and change that by bringing more value to the music. 

I know you guys have been in the music industry for so long and you’ve done a lot of work within the business aspect too. I’m curious to know your relationship with art and business - did it come naturally? 

B: I think this comes from our common Gujarati background [laughs]. I think we just have a passion for this, and to be honest, we’re both getting older so we wanted to try and build a better ecosystem for India. I mean, how do we go from doing what we did for the last 10 years and see how that works in the next 30-35 years? The culture seems to be falling  apart and how do we keep it all together? At this moment, there seems to be nowhere every bit of the Indian music culture can come together. People want to see artists of diverse cultures, and what we realized is that with this, one can find artists from all of Asia on one platform, in addition to back catalogs. 

We’re trying to build a community for the music industry in India, from zero. 

I hear you talk extensively about community being a part of everything you guys do. Is this a core value that ultimately led you to start Engage Music?

H - If you think of gaming as a space, it’s really community driven and I feel like music is very similar with its smaller, more segmented communities. Naturally, community becomes a large part of the music industry, and by focusing on the smaller bits of community, we can see that artists find their audiences and vice versa. 

B - It also kills the entire factor of having to be “someone” on social media. This way, musicians can do their thing without worrying about that. If you look at it, social media is based on the idea of communities and in a way, we’re also driven by that. 

Over the last years, we’ve seen a significant shift in the music industry (or just creatives in general) within India, how one can make money has been on everyone’s minds. With that in mind, there ought to have been some sort of struggle developing a platform that works on a system that majorly favors the artists financially. How are you making money?

H - At the moment, we charge 10% on each sale that takes place through our platform. Of course, the store is really just a part of what we do, coupled with the streaming platform that charges on the basis of subscriptions and social networks. 

Lastly, what’s next?

H - There’s definitely a lot of things we have in store like the launch of the marketplace and the social network. This will come out over the next 6 months! There’s also a lot of onboarding new artists and their music, because essentially that’s what it really comes down to. 

B - We’re also looking forward to giving artists the space to reupload new tracks in different capacities and reach new audiences! There’s a lot coming and we’re excited to bring these features out very soon.



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