Updated: Mar 4
For this new guest written Logbook piece, US-based and India born Antriksh Bali dives into the remix economy, its origin and how it can affect the music industry and its creators in India and beyond.
Antriksh Bali is a composer and music supervisor for films, television and interactive media. His work lies at the crossroads of orchestral music and avant-garde sound design.
Over the the past few years, he has worked on orchestral scores for films, sounds for art installations as well as music supervised several visual media projects. He has been remixing for about 5 years.
Twenty-twenty and twenty-twenty-one have been unique years in terms of trends, disruptions, the influx of new ideas in the music industry and the media ecosystem. There has been a shift from people paying for online experiences with money to paying with their time and attention.
While the origins of this can be traced back to gaming, mobile/social video, and mobile apps, there is a strong suggestion that it could also be attributed to the start of a global pandemic. When creators, music producers, and artists are universally stuck within the confines of their homes, what happens? They start looking for ways to keep themselves busy, and, as we found out, they got very creative.
Even before twenty-twenty , user-generated content was pulling in revenue of over a billion dollars, which is a pretty sizeable chunk of the global music industry. Online social media platforms like TikTok, Triller, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram put in motion a social media landscape which translated into something of a gold rush in the early twenty-tens
A lot of music creators started to build huge fan followings by interacting with and talking to their fans directly, as well as music performances. This does seem somewhat analogous to how remixes and mashups are considered today.
Memes, Instagram stories and virtual rooms in emerging apps like Clubhouse are the new mediums that seem to be pushing new undiscovered music to be discovered by the masses. Interestingly enough, all of these seem to have very limited search and/or indexing capabilities leaving music to be discovered organically through the artist’s own social media or reposts and re-shares.
This can prove to be challenging for the average user that is slowly becoming accustomed to consuming content just as the algorithms are providing it to them. In such a landscape, creativity comes into play where artists are picking up sound-sources to sample from a myriad of different places that they don’t usually look. A few such examples of creators that sample a lot of pre-existing material and even memes to create new, interesting songs that are transcriptions or remixes are Yashraj Mukhate, Mayur Jumani, and Charles Cornell.
While viral TikTok memes can sound like the figurative ruins of a past by-gone era of vines, Quibis, or strategically named ‘short-form content’, it seems that as time passes by, the line between content traditionally associated with the music industry and casual content posted by everyday users increasingly blurs and sometimes disappears. Apart from the thousands of covers, remixes, and reworks that can be found on YouTube for literally every popular song (not forgetting the excellent infinite Billie Eilish cover playlist that got released by YouTube earlier this year), there is something more interesting and worth looking deeper into when user-generated content (UGC) or fan-made covers show great performance metrics on one social media platform but do badly on another.
These dynamics of differences that exist from platform to platform are somehow starting to shape not only how we are consuming and finding videos on the internet but also how music is being produced, marketed, bought, sold and distributed. It is easy to discern similarities with how albums as a product have lost a fair amount of relevance in the face of the streaming boom over the past twenty years, or how a lot of mainstream songs are made and tailored in length and structure so that they are streamlined for streaming services.
In India, while there is still a healthy independent music scene that is full of artists and singer-songwriters making originals as well as covers, there has been a shift towards local-focused original music that is more regional in terms of a push in marketing and resources by companies like JioSaavn, Gaana, and Wynk. At the same time, there still are a lot of hurdles that currently exist for artists, performers, and the music business alike in India. For them to break onto the global stage or US they need to be backed by and pushed for by major labels and even then, manufacturing global appeal takes a lot of resources.
In a situation like this, the power of social video and UGC as well as the direct nature of social media communication is significantly helping artists to bridge the gaps and find a new voice by remixing an older generation of artists and songs like RD Burman’s Bachna Ae Haseeno, Dum Maro Dum and Zoheb Hassan’s Disco Deewane, among many others.
Karan Kanchan, a Mumbai-based music producer frequently posts mash-ups of older Hindi songs remixed with modern beats and sounds on his IGTV page which has helped accumulate hundreds of thousands of views on his page, and has helped pique interest in the potential of remixes, covers, and remakes in the subcontinent.
While the trend of covers, remixes, or remakes is nothing new and has been going on since the eighties and nineties, over the past decade a new wave of artists rediscovering older songs and reworking them into new genres and sub-genres has emerged.
Heavy metal bands that release covers or reworked versions of Bollywood songs or film music from Hollywood have also been emerging. Additionally, plenty of newer songs that have also been released as re-adaptations of older songs with changed instrumentation or sampled hooks have appeared.
Whether these remixes and mashups can eventually benefit the original creators of the original versions of the music is a question with a lot of complicated answers. music. The traditional record label structure is still largely prevalent in India and mainstream attention still goes to film music as opposed to non-film music. With the increasing complexity of social media and the licensing agreements with major labels that are in place, the question of the independent creators and artists compensation remains.
Would you like to dig into the subject a bit deeper? Check out the links below!
Attention Economy Media Consumption Q2 2020. (Midia Research, 2020)
The Rising Power of UGC . (Midia Research, 2020).
The Best Place to Discover New Music? Well, It's Instagram!. (Mashable, 2019)
The impact of technology and social media on the music industry (Econsultancy, 2019).
How streaming affects the lengths of songs. (The Verge, 2019).
Is the Music Industry Too Optimistic About India's Potential? (Rolling Stone, 2020)
The Curious Case of Covers and Remakes. (Musicplus, 2020)
March 2021 - Written from the USA by Antriksh Bali, and edited from the UK by Compass Music.