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Who wants to carol in a slowdown

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MUSIC: Bands face the music as shows have been cancelled and fees slashed

The economy is in the doldrums, the pall of gloom over Mumbai after the terror strikes refuses to lift and music bands no longer find themselves in demand. Live shows have got cancelled, fees have been mercilessly cut and some bands may even have shut shop. Mind you, the period between November and March is peak season for these bands. This is the time they make serious money. The slowdown couldn’t have chosen worse time to strike.

Not just the last few weeks, the whole of 2008 will go down as a dull year for most music artistes across the country. “Mumbai isn’t in any mood to party,” says singer who is recording for his next non-film album in the city. While he says there were no New Year eve shows offered to him, he discloses that many in his peer group have seen their shows cancelled.

Subir Malik, the founder member of well-known band Parikrama who also manages 26 music bands from different parts of the country, agrees that 2008 has been a slow year. “If the economic meltdown wasn’t enough, Mumbai blasts have had the ultimate impact on artistes’ performances,” he says.

Here’s how. Bandish, one of the more popular Delhi bands admits to have taken a fee cut for its shows. From Rs 2.5 lakh per show, the band this year has charged around Rs 1.75 lakh and has at times settled for even for Rs 1 lakh. Sadly, its biggest show, at the annual Navy Ball in the city, has been cancelled.

Though most well-known bands have cut their fees from Rs 5-6 lakh per show to Rs 3-4 lakh, it’s the younger artistes who will be hit the worst. Carnations, a band that was formed last year, had managed to get Rs 1.5 lakh for a New Year eve event at Tabula Rasa, one of the more popular joints in New Delhi. “This year,” says Malik, “I don’t know whether the band even exists.”

The meltdown has done two things that have landed these bands in a fix: One, companies have drastically cut their sponsorship budgets, and two, audiences no longer seem to be in the mood to celebrate. Many five-star hotels are learnt to have curtailed their New Year eve events – a big draw for bands as well as other performers.

The artistes, on their part, are only too aware that they can’t remain untouched from what ails the whole world at present. Malik says artistes should go with the tide and continue to perform, even if it means taking a cut in the fees. “All sectors are doing that (taking cuts), we artistes can’t afford to be different.”

The top names in the business insist that they have still not been hit hard. Palash Sen, the lead vocalist of Euphoria, one of the most well-known bands in the country, says, “As a band, we’ve never charged too exorbitantly, nor did we charge too little. And, believe it or not, we have hiked our price this year and yes, we do get paid.” Euphoria charges Rs 6.5 lakh for a corporate show and takes home Rs 4 lakh for a college show. It is reliably learnt that the band didn’t have a very good November – it performed only for two shows, unlike the 10-12 shows it does otherwise.

What Sen does mention, however, is the cancellation of Live Earth 2008, a huge concert that was to take place on December 7 in Mumbai’s Andheri Sports Complex. It was supposed to attract 20,000 people with performances by Roger Waters, Jon Bon Jovi and the Bachchans, besides other artistes from all over the world. “We had,” mentions Sen, “created a song especially for global warming that was to be launched at the Live Earth 2008 platform but that’s cancelled.”

In fact, as many as 40 live music shows have been cancelled in Mumbai alone following the attacks. In fact, other cities too have felt the double impact of the economic slowdown and the attacks. Bangalore Hubba, one of the biggest rock acts in Bangalore, where music band Mrigya was to perform, stands cancelled this year. “The slowdown in the economy had drastically reduced fees of bands by 30-50 per cent. But after the attacks, shows are getting cancelled altogether,” explains Malik.

Instead of tuning guitars and jamming for the next show, music acts aren’t in a position to give too many performances now. The sad part is this is season-time for them. Anyway, thank you for the music.

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