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(Published in "Studio Systems" May-June Issue)

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: 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.

Nandu Bhende

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