(Published in "Studio Systems" May-June
In keeping with the current trend in the country,
I recently decided to update my homesite on the Internet. It had been lying
neglected for almost a year now and with the country going "hi-tech", it seemed
like the correct thing to do! I really had no idea what I was getting myself
into as I chose to do what seems to come naturally to me. I took the most difficult
path and decided to do it myself! Within a day I had chickened out and took
the help of my friend, Manoj Agrawal, who is learning Web designing. He naturally
had the edge on me, being a Chemical Engineer who had dabbled in software training
for a few years. His computer basics were impeccable and aptitude for learning
new software far outshone my enthusiasm. We got hold of some web-designing software
like Macromedia's Dreamweaver, Flash, Fireworks, Photoshop, Audio-catalyst etc.
Then started the endless task of scanning the pictures/photographs, newspaper
articles/reviews, documents etc. and converting some of my songs into MP3s.
It took us a whole month but I have, what I feel, a reasonably commendable site.
It was a trip down memory lane for me with pictures and MP3s from the Alyque
Padamsee's production of Jesus Christ Superstar, my days with the rock bands
"Velvette Fogg" and "Savage Encounter" and lots more. Do visit it and tell me
what you think. The address: http://nandu_bhende.tripod.com The technology is
truly stupendous and as I have always said in this column, I truly believe in
the future of the Internet, notwithstanding the Love bug!
The research for my website brought back a lot of good
memories which were further reinforced when I visited, after many years, one
of Mumbai's finest audio studios, Western Outdoor. Situated in the heart of
the city of Bombay, it has become a major trek for us suburbanites to make it
to what was at one time one of my favorite studios. I remembered those hours
spent in recording with some of the finest engineers in the business. Not only
were they great and efficient at their job, they were also excellent human beings.
I fondly remember Sood Saab, Avinash, Balaji, Shaikh, Chitre and later Victor.
Almost all of them are still working there, which goes to show what a great
place it is. Western Outdoor always upgrades their equipment and keeps in touch
with the latest breakthroughs abroad. Sood is always in sync with the audio
industry abroad and periodically visits international exhibitions and seminars
to keep himself abreast of the west. The visit was truly a nostalgic moment
for me. Thank you Mr. Nanavati and Mr. Daman Sood for giving us a place that
we can always look upto.
One of the finest things that Western Outdoor taught
me, as a studio owner today, was Studio Management, a subject that is grossly
underrated in our business. I have had the privilege to be on both sides of
the fence, both as a client and a service provider. Hence certain aspects have
become more apparent to me. This is especially true of the music business, which
I am quite familiar with. To run a studio professionally is indeed a tricky
task as you are dealing with artistes who are totally a different breed. I have,
at times, felt uncomfortable in certain studios where I have gone as an artiste.
Yet there has been no intention on the studio's part to make me feel that way.
They just seem to go about it the wrong way! Western Outdoor has always made
the artist feel important and at no time allowed the artiste to dictate terms
to them. To succeed in achieving this is truly a difficult task. Ask any professional!
It literally is the case of having the cake and eating it too! And even more
so with us "sensitive souls", who are used to be pampered by the adoring masses!
Unfortunately these aspects are totally ignored during the educational process
as the focus is only on the technical. I guess, we folk in India will have to
be satisfied with what we get, as that, in itself, is insufficient.
Audio education, or rather the lack of it in India,
is one of my pet peeves and so my chief recordist, Pramod and I decided to visit
the University of Mumbai Audio facilities. Situated at Churchgate in the heart
of town, we were pleasantly surprised to see a well-equipped control room with
both analogue and digital recorders, a great mixer and some good outboard gear.
The large air-conditioned dubbing room also serves as a great classroom and
the studio is equipped with a good array of microphones. All in all, it is a
facility, which is as good as anywhere in the world. Manohar Kunte, the head
of the department, showed us around and played us some of the work recorded
by him in the studio. The studio is also rent out for professional work, which
gives you an idea of its inherent worth. At present, the university runs a short
time course for six months and I understand that it is in great demand. Mr.
Kunte informed us that the University soon plans to have a yearlong intensive
course, which would definitely serve to meet the demand of well-trained recordists
in the industry. At present, the short-term graduates can best serve as trainees
and they would have to wait for a long time before they could hope to handle
a session. As in any professional course, practical training and experience
play an inordinately important role in the development of good technocrats.
All in all, Mr. Kunte and his staff are doing a great job and deserve to be
commended. More power to them!
The need for Media training colleges throughout the
country is stupendous and the Media boom has made it imperative to have well
trained professionals, who understand technology, to be at the helm of affairs.
Unfortunately the quality and quantity of the education available to the aspiring
student is inadequate to meet this yawning gap. Unemployment is one of India's
big problems. Yet, is it not an irony, as any employer in the media industry
will tell you, that the shortage of trained manpower is acute?
I understand that the animation companies have tackled
this problem head-on by starting their own training courses with the best of
the crop being absorbed by the companies themselves. Unfortunately in the Audio/TV
industry, there is no single employer of technical personnel who needs to hire
hundreds of people. However, an association of Media companies can definitely
undertake or support such a venture. It has been done all over the world and
in India too, other industries have successfully done so. The infusion of stock
funds in the media companies needs to be efficiently used, so that the value
created is shared by the entire country in as short a time as possible.
The opening up of the economy has become a tremendous
opportunity for enterprising people in India and in this regard, the licensing
of FM stations in the metros of India is indeed an important event in Media
Industry. The power of the radio is enormous and it is a very cheap and efficient
means of communication. Inspite of the incredible pull of Hollywood films, TV
channels, live music events and vibrant Broadway productions, FM radio in the
USA has a captive audience that is constantly growing and the programming is
both unique and entertaining. The local flavor of FM is what differentiates
it from other medium and it needs to be exploited to the hilt in order for it
to succeed. Also the instant interactive nature makes it unique and immediate
and totally different from any other form of mass communication. I am so glad
that it will finally be in private hands once again as it can only prosper with
private initiative. I hope too that the government is never allowed to treat
the private companies as shabbily as it did the last time around when they withdrew
the licenses in a matter of days. The total disregard for the time and investment
of hundreds of people, in building up a format from scratch, was disgusting.
Even now, the incredible fees that have to be paid to the government are totally
ridiculous and will lead to losses and desperation. At best the business model
should have been based on revenue sharing with a guaranteed minimum. Above all,
barring a few monopolistic considerations, the FM frequencies should have been
open to all. As is well known to all, the best place to determine the fate of
any business is the market place, where the people can decide for themselves
and where the best man wins.