Want to work in music but can’t hold a tune? Ria Jaiswal gets an artist manager to spill on how she’s making music work for her.
Tell us about yourself
Anu Anna George joined the music industry, fresh out of college, in 2009. Having represented artists such as Shaa’ir + Func, Sky Rabbit, Donn Bhat & Monica Dogra, she began her career in music business as an intern at a time when the industry was a small community of people promoting non-film music. Her first steps were at Only Much Louder where she worked under the now defunct music label Counter Culture Records, following which she joined the marketing and activation team at Rolling Stone India where she executed music IPs for brands such as the Jack Daniel’s Rock Awards that honoured independent musicians. After a two year stint at Rolling Stone, she joined Mixtape where she has been working for the past 5 years. Mixtape is primarily an Artist Management company that has a bookings division that organizes tours and club nights around the country and has been long term partners with festivals such as Magnetic Fields Festival, Sula Fest, India Bike Week, to name a few.
“I represent Donn Bhat, Sky Rabbit and Monica Dogra for Mixtape, an artist and event management company. We end up doing everything, from booking shows to PR, tour management, digital marketing, brand development, and sometimes even being a tour photographer.”
How did you en dup in such an offbeat, unconventional and interesting career?
Growing up, I’d wake up every Sunday to the radio in the background as my parents prepared Sunday feast.
They’d take me for all sorts of concerts around the city and my first concert memory was probably from when I was about seven years old when Deep Purple performed in Bombay.
I grew up knowing I did not want to be a doctor, lawyer or an engineer. At some point I considered working in events. A friend of mine introduced me to Vijay Nair (Only Much Louder) who was willing to let me intern with him one summer in college. I graduated and returned to OML as a full-time employee and have worked with music ever since.
How was your initial phase?
Apart from myself there was no one really questioning what I was doing. I did not imagine it exploding into an industry in this manner and it’s only going to grow here on. We just need more people to consider investing their time and energy in this space, which is happening, so we are headed in a good direction.
Tell us about Mixtape
I had worked with Naveen (Deshpande, Director of Mixtape) in the past – both as a colleague and as a client and all through those years the one thing that stuck out was that his vision was never blurred. He always knew what he wanted for his artists. His bands trusted him to make the right choices and were comfortable to look to him for guidance. I was fortunate enough to learn at an early stage the importance of loving your job and he seemed like the ideal person to join forces with.
I think the biggest difficulty faced would be time management since you are the one that needs to take care of the tiniest factors to driving the largest decisions and simultaneously be constructing a future plan and working towards it. At no point is there nothing to do. You need to wear the hat for so many roles that should be played by professionals but unfortunately there isn’t enough money for people who are not passionate about the music to want to dedicate their time just yet. But you can see a gradual change taking place and so it is only a matter of time as long as we are persistent with our efforts.
Have you seen the role of the artist manager in the Indian music industry change/evolve – from when you first started to today ?
Initially it was all about making gigs happen. Now with the rise in the number of festivals, venues and people paying attention to independent music produced in India, the focus area has expanded. It has become important to not only play as many shows but to also package each act in the right way, perform at the right events, be associated with the appropriate brands, have a strong digital presence that portrays the bands image. The roles have increased. The number of people taking notice and getting involved has increased as well. It is important for us to collaborate with the right people.
What is one of the biggest mistakes you see artists in India making today – and how do you think this can be addressed?
There are a lot of people getting carried away with the idea of being a musician. By no means is it an easy ride. There is so much that goes into making this work and there is so much that needs to be done by you even if you have management support. If you don’t talk about your work and try to push it out it is going to take that much longer to get noticed. If you think by being signed with a management agency you will make it work that is not true. A management agency can only provide you with support and some amount of guidance from an outside perspective. We too are learning every single day and the more that everyone involved tries to contribute to find a way forward, the sooner we can take that step forward. It is unfortunate that there is no real formula to make this work but at the same time it makes it so interesting.
What are your top priorities when helping an artist develop and maintain their careers?
The biggest factor is knowing that the artist is in this for the right reasons and he understands that there are endless difficulties that will be faced along the way. You cannot do this like it is a job where you make your money. You need to be willing to consistently invest back into your craft. It doesn’t end with releasing a song or an album. You need to keep working at it. Be it writing new material or finding ways to get better. Most independent musicians have other jobs and work outside of their comfort zone. Unfortunately that is the current reality for those who have bills to pay. But as long as you are passionate and think you have something to offer, work hard at it and with the right support people will pay attention and your music will take you to the places you want to go and beyond.
In today’s context – what is the primary medium/way you discover an artist/new talent?
Gigs and festivals largely. Music that is sent to us by the artists themselves. We just returned from IOMMA, a conference in Reunion Island where every evening they had showcase gigs. Those three days were probably the most fruitful days I’ve had in a long time. We went from stage to stage and checked out new bands from different parts of the world showcasing their music in 30 minute sets. Each day ended feeling like I had been so productive.
Finally – a bit about the Chennai chapter at The Park on June 13th. Tell us something about the artists performing and what do they have in store for Chennai audiences?
We are celebrating Mixtape’s 5 year anniversary with showcase gigs in 5 different cities. The idea is to present the artists we represent. There will be no entry fee charged at any of these gigs giving people the opportunity to experience a live performance of the artists we are proud represent.
The Chennai leg will have performances by Sky Rabbit and ViceVersa. Sky Rabbit will be playing material from their previously released album and EP and will also be performing a few songs from their upcoming EP due for release in October 2015. ViceVersa will be performing ‘Get Rowdy’ a single they are about to release in the coming months.
The best part of your job?
Seeing a live concert through, looking at what goes into working a crowd and creating an experience.
The worst part?
Having to turn down honest artists who are looking for representation.
My dream is to put together shows that people will remember for the rest of their lives.