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(Published in "Studio Systems" Jan-Feb 2002 issue)

"Passion demands ... outta control!
If things seem under control, you're just not going fast enough."

Mario Andretti, race-car driver

My recent exposure to this incredible quote and the ultimate truth it contains reminded me so much of my early days as a Rock singer in the seventies that it made me reexamine my entire life thereafter! Throughout our existence, we try and acquire skills that allow us to exert the maximum control over our lives and we are thrilled when we achieve a modicum of success. Yet the happenings of 11th September make it even clearer that in reality, we have not even a shred of control and all our well thought of plans can be reduced to a joke! If this can happen in a reasonable safe country like USA, in India, it can get even worse! Wouldn't it then be great to be like this race driver and live life to the hilt, for every day, every minute and every second of our existence?

Living life on the edge was what we did in the seventies as we experimented with the arts, music, drugs etc. Fortunately, life was much simpler then and the trick was to be just 'out of control' and not allow yourself to be consumed by it. Unfortunately, a lot of my friends did succumb to the danger of this lifestyle and I would definitely not recommend it today's dangerous times. Yet, this thinking made us stretch the boundaries of possibilities in everything that we attempted. Today, everybody seems to going about their business with their hands tied behind their backs. The constraints of control at every step of the way have curtailed our very existence and we are reduced to being slaves to market forces, to government control, corruption and mediocrity. Innovation seems to have gone out of our lives and yet in today's recession ridden world, this is the very need of the hour. As Kevin Kelly, Executive Editor, Wired says in his book the New Rules for the New Economy, "Wealth in the new regime flows directly from innovation, not optimisation. That is, wealth is not gained by perfecting the known, but by imperfectly seizing the unknown."

Each one of us has to reexamine our work and find a new way to combat the sweeping changes that are taking place throughout the world. Terrorism has brought in the new element of "out of control" in our lives and we have not been trained to handle these possibilities. The only way to combat the evil passion of terrorists is with the passion of the good. With rapid technological advances and liberalization reforms like Dollar convertibility and with the reduction of import duties on the cards, paradigm shifts in ways of thinking will have to be achieved by each of us if we have to face the challenges that India will go through in the next few years.

The future of the Music Industry

The rather dismal state of affairs in the music industry of India and the rest of the world has seen almost the entire Indian recording industry paralyzed with nobody knowing what the future has to offer. These very concerns were addressed at the second annual Future of Music Policy Summit, held in Washington, USA on 7th and 9th January. Musicians, members of Congress, recording-company executives, Internet entrepreneurs, copyright lawyers, union representatives and computer experts got together to figure out what lay in store for them and how musicians were going to make a living in the Internet age, preferably without another job?
These were some of the possibilities discussed.
a) Everything ever recorded will be available on demand via the Internet, through a high-speed wireless connection to your wristwatch.
b) No one will be willing to pay for any of that music, leaving songwriters destitute and bands trying to make a living from touring and selling T-shirts.
c) A handful of multinational corporations will control virtually all recorded music, limiting public access to it while ruthlessly exploiting musicians.
d) Musicians will reach listeners around the world instantaneously, with no need for intermediaries, so fans can support their favorite performers directly.

According to Soundscan, the company, which tabulates retail sales, the US sales of albums in 2001 have dropped by 2.8 percent as compared to those in 2000. The west is seeing a time of disarray and repositioning in the music business. As Miles Copeland, the former drummer of the Police and owner of Ark 21 records said "We have to rethink our business, and it may not be the record business anymore," A senior Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee said "Technology is forcing the record labels and the artists and the writers and the composers to come together. The Internet says to the industry that you folks are yesterday's news, you're following outdated models, your business strategies don't work anymore, and your profit motive is showing rather vulgarly."

Musicians and listeners have been looking to the Internet as a way to exchange music without corporate bottlenecks. The music business has been shaken up by unlicensed file- sharing services: first Napster, which is dormant, and more recently Kazaa, Audiogalaxy, Music City's Morpheus, Grokster and others.

As far as India goes, it is wrongly perceived that the Indian Music Industry is not going to be affected by the Internet phenomenon. In today's recession ridden recording industry where every rupee is being fought for, every sale lost is going to affect the bottom line and the Internet has its maximum effect on the upwardly mobile who are the biggest buyers of CDs and cassettes. Today, every computer assembler packs the hard disc of every computer he sells with hundreds of songs in MP3 format along with all the pirated software it can take, as a part of his "value addition" program to his consumer. Also the rise of FM radio and free TV music channels is going to result in less direct buying of music by the consumer. So where does this take the Music Industry of India?

It is necessary for Industry leaders to take measures to address these issues urgently. It is also necessary not to solve these issues in the normal 'restrictive' way of thinking which has pervaded our way of thinking all these years. We will have to remember that everything that can be shared, will be shared! Thankfully, there is light at the end of the tunnel. We need to examine the basics of our business and think back to music before Edison and before it became a commodity in the form of recordings. ." As Eben Moglen, a professor of law at Columbia University and the general counsel of the Free Software Foundation, said "people make music because they love it, and they'll pay for it because they love it".

Ban on Synthesizer

The recent controversy over this often repeated topic of "technology replacing man " truly brought into light the issue of the questionable tactics that politicians adopt by taking populists stands in times of elections to bolster their chances at the polls. That the press once again fell for it hook, line and sinker with the screaming headlines in the papers that followed was indeed surprising. The skill of the Shiv Sena leader in manipulating the press is truly amazing but does this issue really warrant serious discussion?

The Musician Unions in the west have tried hard to curb the use of synthesizers over ten years back and did manage to postpone it's use in specific areas where it actually replaced humans e.g. strings, brass etc. Unfortunately, they just succeeded in making the use of these instruments redundant as the synthesizer is capable of hitherto unheard of sounds that can very well replace the use of these traditional instruments. The public's insatiable appetite for new sounds resulted in the active use of the synthesizer for new styles of music that could no way be said to have truly replaced traditional instruments. Thus effectively, the unions, by placing restrictions, dug their own graves as the innovativeness of the creative mind found ways to counter them.

The same story will repeat in India if restrictions are placed and the Indians are well known all over the world in ways to cut corners for a lower price. The musicians of India, like everybody all over the world, will have to learn to embrace the technology and counter the challenge with their innovativeness. In any case, even with the enormous technological advances that have taken place in the field of music production, to replace the technical skills of Indian Classical instrumentalists with synthesizers or samples/loops seems like a tall order.

Roger Drego

The name Roger Drego is today synonymous with excellence in Indian live sound and Roger has pioneered many a sound innovation in India. Yet there was a time when Roger was just a struggling young man, making small amplifiers, strobe lights and repairing equipment. Truly a great leap for this genius that would never allow any difficulty stop him from achieving the seemingly impossible. For somebody who has seen him through all these stages of his life for the last 25 years, it was a source of great joy for me to attend his silver wedding anniversary celebrations that were held in Bombay recently. I have seen Lucia and him through the ages and it was great to party with them, his children Dave, Adele, Mirelle and all their friends at the grand party they threw at the Bandra Gymkhana. Roger is always looking for ways to introduce the latest in the country and I am sure he has many an idea up his sleeve. More power to you, Roger and I hope I am around for the 50th.


Nandu Bhende

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