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Indian live music industry – an analysis by Harindra Singh, CMD, Percept Limited
19 February, 2019

The live music festival domain has grown in popularity and is, today, the one-stop music destination of the millennial. India is one of the world’s largest music markets and holds great potential in the live music domain. With 1.3 billion music lovers, a large youth population and strong economic growth, India offers a promising destination for music festivals and events. Social media and live streaming has further enabled audience awareness and growth in this domain.

We spoke to Mr. Harindra Singh, Chairman & Managing Director of Percept Limited, to get his viewpoints on the same.
 
“I see the live music industry growing at a massive pace in 2019-20 provided festival organisers engage actively with their audiences and continuously reinvent their brand and associated experiences basis what’s trending. Festival promoters must stay focused on all aspects of the experience spanning content programming, stage visuals, SFX, production, F&B, fan experience, safety, security and cleanliness. Only by delivering a holistic good experience will organizers be able to build the live music space,” Singh explained.
 
Challenges Faced
 
India still faces many challenges in organising live music festivals. There are multiple permissions required, with the process differing in each state, making it all the more difficult to navigate. India is also not a mature ticketing market either, and event promoters still rely heavily on sponsorship. Most cities don’t have proper venues and infrastructure, so music festival organizers have to literally build the festival from scratch. It definitely is a tough task to build a live music festival in India, and one has to be passionate and committed for the long term.
 
“Organising music events in this country is extremely challenging. Initially, in Mumbai to put up a Sunburn-type event one needed 71 permissions, and this process could drag over 6 months. The same applied to most other cities across the country. The good news is that after a decade of our relentless effort the Delhi government now provides 24 hour approvals, and Mumbai is also moving in that direction. As an early mover in any domain you face both advantages and disadvantages. You have to break your hair over all kinds of opposition, including moral policing. Laws that were incepted when the world and people were nothing like they are now,” said Singh.
 
Adding that, “Despite the numerous challenges, over the coming decade I see tremendous potential in India in the live events domain, with 65% of the world’s youngest population and so many new tier 2 and 3 markets to tap into – the opportunities for growth and expansion in the live music domain across India are endless.”
 
According to the sheer size and scale of the event, the venue and destination also plays a key role. Festivals are usually destination events and are planned around a suitable destination so as to enable the growth of the festival as also ensure that the entire eco system around it works towards making it successful and mutually beneficial to the location, local economy and the State. It’s an uphill task given the limited venue and infrastructural availability and we have to build most of it from scratch.
 
Sunburn events happen across multiple states pan India and in partnership with the State Tourism ministry, various departments of the state, local associates, partners and promoters. Fortunately, they understand the value that we bring in terms of tourism, eco-tourism and brand image promotion of the state. A music festival organisation and development of the local Eco system go hand in hand and that’s what we did in Goa and Pune since 2007 till date.
 
“Our biggest challenge is that people often misunderstand what it is we are trying to execute, which leads to protests and opposition from local quarters. Then it becomes our responsibility to educate and demonstrate what we truly represent – a colossal, open, collaborative, engaging platform for the Youth of India to connect, engage and just be themselves. Music festivals like Sunburn encourage a ‘healthy social’ experience. Our aim is to encourage people to come out of their homes, get off their couches, take their fingers off their phone’s keypad and TV remote controls, forget about the office workload and have a good time outdoors. Because that’s what being truly ‘social’ is all about.
 
The safety of our fans is and always has been our main priority. We work closely with all the authorities to ensure we have all safety measures in place. We also have a ‘Zero Tolerance Policy’ to drugs and ensure no ‘Banned’ substances enter the festival zone. Sunburn along with our promoter Klassique will also ensure that no norms or laws are violated in any manner and that the entire event is incident and glitch free. We have always strictly followed the laws of the land and it has always been our top priority to provide a safe and secure environment for our fans,” said Singh.
 
Government Role and Support
 
Music is a great unifier and music festivals offer a great opportunity as they bring together a varied range of individuals, activities, artists and locals to help make the destination a global landmark. People from all over the country and world travel to attend these festivals and enjoy the local music, art, shopping and culture, therein putting the destination on the global map and driving footfalls, revenue, imaging and creating a positive impact on the overall economy. Over the past 12 years every time as Sunburn moved from one to another destination, it added phenomenal value to that place and converted it into a tourism hot spot. Young Indians and global millennial travellers are now willing to travel in huge numbers for Sunburn wherever the festival shifts, therein adding massive long term value to that destination and State exchequer.
 
“At the time of its exit from Goa in 2016, Sunburn’s direct contribution to the Goa economy stood at close to Rs 700 crores, besides generating employment and creating an entire ecosystem. Apart from putting the state on the world music tourism map as a preferred destination, Sunburn benefits and supports local businesses across hotels, F&B, travel, shopping and transport. In 2016, Sunburn once again shifted to an absolutely unknown and empty destination called Kesnand. The place didn’t even exist on the satellite map and an entire infrastructure had to be created to host Sunburn. Sunburn 10 contributed approximately Rs 1.4 crores as direct revenue to the government and generated a business of about Rs 250 crores for the region through hotel, F&B, transport and miscellaneous expenses incurred by the festival goers,” said Singh.
 
More and more State Governments have now seen the potential to boost tourism through musical and cultural events and have started taking proactive decisions and offering solutions to make it easier for Festivals like Sunburn to thrive and grow. We are immensely grateful for the received immense official support received from Maharashtra Tourism for Sunburn Pune over the past three years.
 
With respect to Goa, in business there are bound to be differences. However I am glad to say that Goa Government has been proactively trying to seek solutions and arrive at a mutual resolution.  It feels great to have arrived at a consensus to bring Sunburn back to its State of birth and continue to engage proactively to narrow past gaps and close. I can state clearly that we are close to resolving all matters amicably and the gaps will soon be a thing of the past. We are very thankful to the Government for its support and recent announcements. We will always be very committed towards positioning Goa as the ultimate destination of choice for entertainment, lifestyle, creativity, fun and business through our initiatives with Sunburn. That’s our way of paying back and thanking the beautiful destination of Goa and its people for all their love and support they have given us into making Sunburn the super global iconic success that it is today.
 
Percept IPs in 2019
 
Goa is Sunburn’s home but we are outsiders despite having spent years here. We faced challenges understanding the local ecosystem, rules, needs, expectations etc. We left Goa in 2016 with a very heavy heart. Both parties are proactively trying to seek solutions and arrive at a mutual resolution, and it feels great to have arrived at a consensus to bring Sunburn back to its State of birth and continue to engage proactively to narrow past gaps and close the matter. I can state clearly that we are close to resolving all matters amicably and the gaps will soon be a thing of the past.
 
“We have tied-up with Mr. Shailesh Shetty, Klassique who will be representing Sunburn in Goa and taking on the onus of handling all the local logistics, permissions and licenses for ensuring a smooth and successful homecoming of Sunburn Klassique in Goa. The weekend of 23rd and 24th February 2019 will be the first two-day Sunburn Klassique showcase at Vagator. The plan is to start with one event and based on the success and feedback increase to two events. Ideally, we would like to have one in the first quarter, one during the monsoon and one in the 3rd quarter,” said Singh.
 
Sunburn Klassique Goa is a completely different format. The music curation and programming, décor and setup will ooze the legendary nostalgic era of Sunburn in the state. The December Festival event as of now will continue to take place in Pune.
 
“We will also be introducing new formats like U21 which is completely targeted to the youth Under 21 age bracket as the name suggests. These shows will be held at more accessible venues and at a much lower price point which will make an outing for a Sunburn U21 experience similar to the cost of going for a movie or a meal. And we are confident that this format will enable us to tap into a new audience segment altogether and achieve really massive numbers,” Singh confirmed.
 
Given our popularity overseas, International growth will see the brand extend its geographical footprint into more countries across Asia, Europe, South America and West Asia. Digital reach is targeted to scale up to hit over 50 million views this season with live streaming and other innovative Technologies backing our endeavour.
 
India has a massive vibrant and cosmopolitan youth populace with a fan following that adores all genres and styles of music. Keeping this in mind we have designed products exclusively targeted at each audience segment. Percept Live is an umbrella for live media assets. Apart from Sunburn, we have designed Eat Play Love (EPL) – a city food, fashion and music festival which showcases multi genre artists; Bollyboom – a Bollywood Dance Music IP that has witnessed phenomenal success through 2018 with Guru Randhawa and other popular Bollywood music talents. After a successful first year of FLY with the iconic Ed Sheeran we plan to get FLY again later this year and will announce Arenas with many popular and renowned international talents. At Percept Live we shift the needle and curate our offerings basis what’s trending and popular with our consumers, 2019 should see the announcement of many more exciting properties and talents from Percept Live.