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Live Entertainment – It’s far from Dead!

Brian Tellis, Chairman, Fountainhead Promotion & Events and a veteran of the Indian entertainment industry talks about the live entertainment scene in India and its prospects.

Which way is the live entertainment scene in India headed? Is it at an inflection point, from where things are absolutely going to skyrocket? Or is it business as usual – with no clear roadmap belying the immense potential that exists?

One way or another, there is no doubting the future prospects of live events and activations. A cursory glance at broader figures reveals an industry currently worth Rs. 2800 crore, growing at 20-25%; equating to a CAGR of around Rs.4375 crore for FY 13-14, as indicated by industry white papers.

Historically, brands account for most of the spend, and all indicators suggest that little of that is changing. Still, there exists a huge opportunity for activating consumer spending towards live entertainment – starting at the very core of the concept: tickets and merchandising.

But, for this to happen, it is imperative to create a healthy live scene – especially in the domain of music. Simultaneously, influence the mindset of the consumer… develop a culture of paying for live entertainment, as they readily do for fine dining, designer clothing and movies.

To be sure, it isn’t all just future potential. The live music scene is definitely alive, if not kicking. Annual festivals like the Mahindra Blues Festival, Sunburn, Ragasthan, NH7, Live from the Console, etc. have captured the imagination of target groups. Music gigs, while far from being a flood, are no more merely a trickle. In the past decade, the country has seen a regular procession of artistes from Bryan Adams, GnR, 50 Cents and Norah Jones to renowned DJs and independent artistes – between them, covering the entire spectrum of electronic music, rock, rap, etc.

A very encouraging trend is the acceptance of original home-bred music. People are moving out of their comfort zones of willing to pay only for an evening of recognizable, popular music. Today a local musician has a good chance of finding a paying audience – something unthinkable of, several years ago.

The digital world has also opened new and exciting options of marketing and distributing music – giving consumers convenient online gateways to purchase event tickets.

Unfortunately, the challenges still abound. Onerous regulation – primarily direct and indirect taxes – hangs like the sword of Damocles. Grossly inadequate infrastructure results in a perennial drag; although there are encouraging green shoots like the Blue Frog and Hard Rock Café. For the live scene to flourish in our neck of the woods, there’s a crying need for more of these.

The event industry, however, can fuel growth by its own design. Simply by developing a means of measurement to justify spends. The lack of a RoI indicator is keeping sponsors coy. There could be big monies waiting to be deployed; but since they are unable to determine how much it does for the brand, marketing managers are in no position to justify spends.

Lack of trained support manpower as well as local talent is also holding back the momentum. In this regard, it’s gratifying to hear of initiatives like The True School of Music. Kudos to the people behind such efforts. They need to be wholeheartedly encouraged as it develops an increasing talent base, with possibly a domino effect on the live entertainment scene in India.

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