The current pandemic has wreaked havoc on the entertainment industry. Like any other business and industry, the entertainment industry also has suffered heavily. As a precautionary measure to prevent the further spread of the virus, studios have postponed upcoming films where individuals are without jobs and smaller companies are struggling to make ends meet. With no live performances, artists, particularly musicians and dancers, have lost earning opportunities as well as zeal and motivation for creativity. This is alarming! If you are one of them and looking for an escape boat, then the discussion with famous entertainment personalities Kundu and Tracy would give you insight into the issue and helps artists escape the crisis.
People are enclosed in their homes in isolation to deal with the virus crisis. With restrictions on free movements in public continuing, suddenly, live performances have become a thing of the past. Now, performing artists like dancers and musicians are left with little options than to reach out to their audience through social media and other online platforms. But a majority of artists are not well versed in using social media effectively.
So, how should the entertainment industry behave and work in the COVID pandemic? That is the one question that every stage performer and artists are trying hard to figure out. There are many issues that the artists need to tackle during these days of the crisis.
To help them address the issue, Designhill, the leading creative marketplace, conducted a panel discussion with the experts from the entertainment industry on 27th May 2020. The topic of discussion was Entertainment Industry vs. COVID-19 where renowned performers Prosenjit Kundu and Tracy Desa were the expert guests. They shared their rich experience and gave tips to the performing artists on how to turn the adversities in their favor in these difficult times.
Here Is The Video Of The Webinar
Talking About The Panelists:
Prosenjit Kundu is a globally recognized choreographer, dancer, and hip-hop icon. He has worked with figures such as Madonna and R.Rahman besides collaborating with brands like Reebok, Nike Presto, Bacardi, 7up, FIFA, etc. Whereas, Tracy Desa is a world-renowned French Rapper.
During the session, the two experts showed how to keep the creative juice flowing despite the lack of a real audience. They also dwelled on what marketing tactics should event organizing companies adopt and other aspects of the entertainment industry crisis.
Here Is What Prosenjit Kundu And Tracy Desa Have Shared On Different Issues That The Entertainment Industry Confronts Today:
Designhill: How did the lockdown impact you personally?
Prosenjit Kundu: This whole situation did not affect me that much. Tracy and I were supposed to do a gig in Mumbai. Then, there were a few other gigs we did recently in Vietnam and Kerala. But these were just gigs and might not happen now, but it will probably happen in some months or another year. I am doing some reading and more yoga than before. So, I am taking the time for myself. It has not hindered my life. Just put like a nice little pause on it.
Tracy Desa: I think it was tough on my side as I had to cancel a lot of international gigs. I had done these gigs in India and had come back to France. I was meant to go back to Bombay in early March, but I had to cancel five to six shows due to the coronavirus situation. I also had gigs in Canada, but that new door also closed for me.
Difficult To Position Myself As An Artist
What is weird is that I don’t know how to position myself anymore as an international artist. I know that I’m not going to be able to travel to a different continent for the rest of the year. Now, I develop my music and own content so that I can build an audience and then open up new doors from 2021 onwards. I am trying to take this as a break. I didn’t know as an artist we were working 24 seven including weekends and public holidays.
So, it’s cool to have like a break and do all these things that we never have time to do, like reading. But at the same time, it is tough to figure out what the next step is going to be as all these doors of opportunities are suddenly closed.
Nowadays, people are so fed up with the situation that they’re not even on their computers. The only things that work today are like Netflix and YouTube. But people are not streaming music anymore. While a music track was consumed in one week, now no one is going even to remember that you released a record. So, the issue is how do you position yourself as an artist when you have content to release. You want it to be released and appreciated by the public.
Everyone is at present waiting to release music in September. At that time, the market is going to be saturated with new tracks. When there will say, 100 single tracks released in the market all of a sudden, promoting your music is going to be a problem.
Designhill: How do you think the backstage people in the music industry will be impacted?
Tracy Desa: It is harder for those people who work behind the scene in the music industry. They will be waiting for us to release our tracks. We artists can still diversify and work on our content, develop our capacities and skills.
For example, during this quarantine, I’ve been doing a lot of my graphic design that I never did before. I’ve learned how to edit a video I felt like I had to do it myself. But people who worked backstage are losing more work than we artists are because the only thing they can do is to network and to have more projects to work on. They cannot put out content themselves like a sound engineer. It is harder for them because they would have material to work on, but they wouldn’t be able to monetize it as much as we would.
Prosenjit Kundu: Well, I am in a different space than Tracy. I do everything on my own and manage myself. I used to take care of everything and do a lot of editing. I think creative people will naturally find ways to execute and utilize their plans.
Designhill: A lot of dancers and performing artists are coming on digital platforms very aggressively now. They are doing dancing classes on Zoom and Instagram. Do you think it will be a permanent change?
Prosenjit Kundu: I don’t know about that, but it is excellent. A lot of people are doing it for free. I know some dancers are charging for their online classes. The dance has come like a huge thing here, and everybody’s enjoying it. It is also about connecting people. There’s a lot of online battle as well. I am helping to organize something about India vs. New York. So, a lot of people are getting to meet people, while they probably would not have had an opportunity to meet because of this whole situation.
Instagram Performances Are Temporary
Tracy Desa: I think DJs and other artists performing on Instagram is not going to be a permanent trend. Instagram lives have always existed, and people haven’t been using them. This is because being live on Instagram is not the same thing as going to a show or going to a dance class. It’s just not the same energy. As an artist, I find it weird to do a live show on Instagram, it’s like you’re performing in front of your phone or computer.
It is like you lose the essence, the stage presence, and the interaction with the public. I have been conducting dance classes on zoom. And when I ask if they understand what I am teaching, there is no answer. Then, I say, can I see your thumbs up at least. It is such a weird way of interacting. I think people are starting to miss human interaction.
But I felt that over the past years, concepts were getting empty as people were so used to streaming music on different platforms and apps. And by downloading everything on the internet people didn’t feel the need to go to a concert anymore. So this is going to redefine what and how we want to consume culture and art.
Monetizing Live Concerts
How do you monetize these live concerts? That is a fascinating question. This is because none of them have paid for those venues and organizers don’t have money to pay you for life. People should still be paying to see you perform, but they feel like oh, it is just an Instagram. But no behind that there’s a lot of work and organization. There’s a lot of skills and all the production of the music and everything. So, you still need to monetize it, but you can’t win today as it is a financial crisis, and nobody has money to spend on anything today. So I think it is important to look at it as a way to finance and monetize your actions for the future.
In these days of the crisis, you will be performing to an online crowd. But they will discover you and come to a concert or a dance class in a couple of months after the crisis is over. And at the same time, you can still negotiate with these venues about monetization. For example, somebody asked me to perform live but said that they could not pay me. But I responded by making this offer that they should include me in their program at the next festival in 2021. So, you can still negotiate and try to monetize it for something in the future.
Designhill: How small studios like dance studios can have a revenue flow?
Prosenjit Kundu: I know someone who has a dance studio, and she is stuck. Hopefully, those who own the property give her a break. I never wanted to own a dance studio because it is about a lot of work. A lot of businesses are suffering badly.
Designhill: Kundu, how was your experience while performing on an Indian channel recently?
Yes, the experience was great, and I enjoyed it. Um, I think the TV show catapulted the street dance phenomenon in this country. Because of that performance, I became known in different parts of India. They do a lot of these TV shows like Indian music and stuff like that in Hindi. It was like a very niche kind of channel, and they were open to experimenting. With that show, I was able to talk expressive, and the show was kind of ahead of its time. I think it was a more significant production and I enjoyed it.
Designhill: How to make an earning as independent artists post COVID times?
Tracy Desa: I think this is an exciting question that a lot of hip-hop artists should ask themselves. We were not ready for this crisis. But it shows us that we need to think about having more than one source of income. We cannot only depend on live shows and need to have other money coming in from different things.
So I think what is interesting when you are a rapper is that you have good writing skills. You need to learn how to monetize. Many artists are looking for people to write for them. We haven’t united these two worlds yet. For example, I write for people, and I have that source of income since COVID started. This is because people are coming to me saying, for instance, that they want to release this EP, and I should write three songs. I will still be getting money for that even if it is not my product.
I have seen a lot of dance studios doing crowdfunding campaigns. Whatever we perform, we give in to that culture of the city or the country. And that is part of everybody’s life. I have seen many dance studios putting out crowdfunding and asking their members or people interested in dance just to get one euro, and you know, accumulated if 1000 people give to euros that are going to make you 2000 euros at the end of the day.
As individual artists, we can also do that as independent artists. We can also say that I wanted to release my projects in 2021 and need my fans to help me put this out because I don’t have any sources of income right now. You can also ask for advances.
I know DJs that have asked for advances from the artists they work with because they are still capable of doing the work. So if you, as an artist, can support your DJ for the time, I think that is important. If your DJ says, he needs an advance for the next three months, and when the show starts, I won’t take any money from you for like the upcoming ten shows. So, we’re still like helping each other out in the hip-hop community and different actors.
Learn Music Branding
You should also learn how to brand your music and how to network because now we have the time for the promotional activities. We can also learn from tutorials. Also, we can interact with people on Instagram and YouTube and try to look for cover collaborations that you can monetize in the future. If you talk to a big DJ or big artists and show them how much money you can bring into their business, they can ask you for a collaboration. That artist might ask you to help him out with a song or with his social media. So, I think it’s time to multiply our skills. Think about actions that are going to help us develop our brand and music in the future.
Designhill: How to brand yourself and have this natural digital leveraged?
Know Your Audience
Tracy Desa: I think the branding side of music is one of the most complicated to handle. As an artist, you create music, and you don’t know how it will be perceived or how people will see it. But I think one of the first steps is to know where you want your music to go. Do you want your music to be commercial and mainstream or underground, to be a niche, etc.? Therefore, the first step is to know who your music audience is and write down a couple of words about how you define your music.
Know Where Your Music Fits In
And then the next thing is to know where the music fits in. Does it fit into a broad media? Or, do you aim for more specific brands that are only looking to develop a certain kind of artist? For example, you have a lot of labels that only developer you know, cow rap, for instance, once you know that you want to do caliber, you’re going to aim your product towards those kinds of labels.
For example, I think you’ll have to define what kind of public you have in front of you to be able to adapt your communication skills towards them. For example, it is pretty funny, but I make very feminist music. I talk about women’s rights, women’s pleasure, and sexuality. But at the end of the day, more men than women listen to my music. So how do I adapt my music to that? How do I adjust my communication skills and social media presence to the kind of public I have? And then how do I make my music valuable and recognizable?
Work On Your Niche
So, for example, I know that I use a lot of fast styles. I read very quickly in a lot of my songs. And when I go to a club, I try to do like a dance that people recognize my voice. And now, for example, I tend to talk a lot about sex. When people come and approach me, they use some symbolisms around sex and female pleasure. It is a concept that people relate to easily. When people see something related to sex, they send it to me to find out if I have anything to do with this project kind of a thing.
People know that I talk about feminism, hip hop culture, and multiculturality. So, when a brand wants me to sell its sneakers, they know what to expect from me. They know that I will sell them with a feminist and multicultural approach to my audience. But if I had not developed my brand, then brand owners would want me to sell their sneakers in their way to their audience. A problem with that approach is that it does not correspond to what I want to do.
So I think it’s essential to have a brand that is clear for everybody. When somebody wants to work with your brand, they know about your approach to selling that product.
Designhill: What will be your tips to make a brand out of oneself ?
Prosenjit Kundu: I am just a free-spirit person. I just dance and enjoy it. I’ve been fortunate to make it a career and life out of it. But I have never been a very goal-oriented or business-minded person. I just do it, and things happen.
I think it is a combination of different things. Networking, having the right contacts, is essential. Many times, we see that the most talented people do not succeed or get somewhere in life. So, I think success is about a combination of things. It is about being at the right time at the right place and having the right contacts. I think a lot of super-talented people don’t become successful because they are so into their art. They put so much energy into their craft. On the other hand, many people might not be as talented, but they put a lot of energy into the business side and become successful. So, it is each to his own.
Tracy Desa: I think easygoing is also part of branding. Being supernatural with your dance and super old school hip hop about it is also part of your brand. It is also what people appreciate. That is why they follow. It is about human interaction, which is super important.
You can build your brand on human interaction even if you don’t have a substantial social media presence. People are still going to talk about you because they know you are cool. They know you are easy to approach, and that is also part of your brand.
Prosenjit Kundu: I think of myself as anybody else is around us. Everybody who messages me, I message back. I am just another person on this planet. I do what I do, and just because I am in a position that does not make me any better than anybody. That is just my mindset. I am just the regular guy who’s just trying to make it to the end. Hopefully, I can make it to next year.
Designhill: What about merchandising during COVID times, maybe an autograph printed stuff if you connect to your favorite artist, a win-win for both of them?
Tracy Desa: This is an interesting question that I have been thinking a lot about during this season. And there are a couple of difficulties that people don’t see because it is all about the backstage work. First of all, it is about how do you put merchandising out. But that is still relatable to the ongoing projects. For example, I released my first album last year, and I am already working on the second one. But there is no point in releasing merch related to my first album when I am already working on a second one.
Recovering Merch Cost
So, I would rather wait for my second album out and then release merchandise around that project rather than just release something for the sake of it. Also, we know that due to the COVID crisis, people don’t have a lot of money. There are a lot of production costs, shipping costs, paying people to do the graphics, and creating the products. Still, you might not get as much money as you would expect to and not even be able to pay back all the costs that you have put into creating that merch.
The other hurdle is that shipping has also been paused. And, sending stuff takes a lot more time. I released a poster yesterday. It’s an illustration that some fans did for me, and I wanted to create a poster out of it and send it. So, we were talking about creating a frame. But with all this crisis, I don’t know when that frame is going to arrive at the address of that person because it’s going to travel to different countries.
Difficult To Personalize Merch Today
I wanted to personalize my merch and sign those posters. But if somebody in India is producing it, or somebody in the states is producing it, am I going to sign it? It is not the same as when I first released my album. The week before, I sat down with my label, took all the records, and signed all of them. And then I went to the post office to send everything off. We made sure the addresses were right and that I put like a little thank you note inside of the CDs. It was more like a personalized experience.
But today, everything seems super unnatural. I am even thinking of sending a digital signature to this illustration company so that they can just put on the posters graphically. And I feel that is kind of cheating on my public because I am not sitting down and signing it. I feel like the same amount of love is not put into that product at the end of the day.
Designhill: How can a music record label agency go for funding?
Avoid Launching A Project Right Now
Tracy Desa: I think this is a complicated situation because it’s tough for a record label or a talented agency to start right now. If you are ready to launch your business, you should wait for a couple of months before beginning it. This is because there is no funding in the industry at present. The only things you could do is crowdfunding, and then maybe finding sponsors.
However, a sponsor won’t invest in a company that has no audience because it has not been launched yet. That’s why to create your brand and build an audience and demand is essential. Then sponsors can think of investing money as they expect more exposure to their brand. But right now, sponsors do not want to invest in any project. This is because they are going through difficult times, such as a tight budget.
Secondly, it is hard to build an audience that can pay for your product. And thirdly, the industry also is lacking in money. So even if a talented agency wants to hire people, it would be difficult for it to pay them. So I think it’s it’s a challenging situation to launch your projects.
Do Some Backstage Work
You should focus on doing a lot of backstage work to prepare for the launch of your project. So, pay attention to networking, branding, building your audience on social media, getting more following, tiny collaborations with different artists, going live on Instagram with these artists. These moves will help you get more exposure and visibility. We all talk about art and art is beautiful. You have to learn how to appreciate it. Instead, we all look at numbers.
When an artist contacts me, I usually want to collaborate with that artist. The first thing I look about the artist is how many followers he has on Instagram and YouTube. This is because I want that collaboration to benefit me. I can collaborate with somebody who has 100 followers if I like that person and appreciates the music. But I know that I will not gain anything, and he will gain from my audience.
So if I want to sell my product to somebody with 500,000 followers, I need them to know that my product is worth consideration. I think that backstage work like building your audience, numbers, getting more exposure, and more visibility is essential. Despite the superficiality, we have to work on that whether we like it or not. It is part of how the business works and how you grow the value of your brand. There is a lot of work we should, such as buying equipment. For example, when this current COVID crisis started, I did not have a mic, lamps, a good camera at home. So, I thought, how was I going to create content? At that time, I felt that I needed to build skills, and I bought the equipment.
Right now, I am learning how to use the equipment because I want to be independent in taking the content to the audience. Because in this coronavirus pandemic situation, we cannot depend on others. I cannot ask somebody to bring a lab for me when everybody is on lockdown. I cannot ask a videographer to come to my house and record me as that is going to put him in danger. So, it is crucial to develop skills, get the right equipment, build your audience, and find collaborations. These things don’t look monetizable right now but will do monetize your brand in the future.
Designhill: How can an agent with limited money to pay access to a pool of artists who are not visible these days or are online?
Trust Your Team
You must trust your team. But in case you feel that your team didn’t put enough effort behind a project, then it is your right to walk out of that. For example, I know that my label is having a lot of trouble with funding my second album, but I trust them. And I know that they are going to work to get out of this crisis. Even if my music album is not released in November 2020, it will be released in March 2021. We will get it done in a bit more time, and we are still working on it.
For instance, I have told my label that this is the moment to get your Instagram going because they don’t even have an Instagram. So, when they go out and talk about my projects, they will ask what kind of following I have on Instagram. They would like to know who my subscribers are and who are following the music of my artists. Therefore, work on your branding.
So, I was thinking about the crowdfunding thing, but I did not want my fans to pay for my work. This is because I want to give my fans a product, and I don’t want to feel responsible. That means I have to make a piece of authentic music that they are going to appreciate.
You should figure out who is responsible for what labels and who is a responsibility to finance projects. So, if you have a record label, you need to secure enough money to cater to these kinds of situations. The way live shows are configured today is going to change for the future. Maybe in the future, we will have driving shows where cars come in, and they watch from a distance. How are your teams going to cater to that as a band? If you play with like 12 people, you’re not going to be able to respect the one-meter distance. So you have to restructure the configuration of your team. So it’s a lot of work that comes from different angles that have to be processed.
Designhill: How to have a social media presence for artists?
Prosenjit Kundu: I don’t put a lot of energy into social media. Of course, I do post here and there, but I lost interest in it. If I post once in a week, that’s fine for me. It consumes too much of my time. I think of fun things to do. I was doing some series called each one, teach one and was on YouTube mostly. So then, building upon that, I did this thing called the step of the day. Every morning our teachers step in and put your little tags or the hashtags, etc. Then, people try them on. It is just a little interactive. But I am not like a big person on Instagram.
Designhill: Tracy, what are your thoughts on social media and strategy?
Tell Your Story On Social Media
Tracy Desa: First of all, you must know what you want from a social media page. And as much as you want to make it business-oriented, it is going to be personal, especially when you are an independent artist. People listen to your music, but they want to know more about your lifestyle. They want to know where I come from and what did it do before getting into music. Therefore, you should work on your storytelling on your social media as well. You should make it clear what kind of person you are and who is the person that is behind the music and the final artistic product.
Social Media Is Superficial
What is funny is that I feel like I have been analyzing social media a lot as I had a lot of trouble with this media. For instance, I used to be addicted to looking at my numbers all the time. I used to wonder why one photo would get 600 views and why another photo would only get 100. Later, I thought that it was due to algorithms. I now know that when I put a picture of my face, I get a lot more likes than when I put a picture of a poster of a show, I’m going to or a show where I’m going to perform myself. And it’s superficial. It is hard to accept how superficial social media can be, but that’s how it works.
Challenges Women Face
Therefore, you have to adapt to the superficiality of social media. When a girl puts a half-naked picture, she gets a million views. I have tried that myself, but I wasn’t looking for the views. I talk a lot about feminism, and I wanted to contradict the fact that you know, why is Instagram censoring nipples? So I put out a photograph where I was wearing a see-through t-shirt where you could see my nipples, and this was a very political picture where I was talking about how censorship is just about controlling women’s bodies. I lost 200 followers and got so many hate comments that I thought that the image we have is fake. Women are so criticized social media because people could just hide behind a screen and say whatever they want to say without taking responsibility for it.
So they can say whatever they want and send me to hate messages. While nothing is going to happen, it still affects me as I lost public, credibility, and legitimacy. People thought I was trying to sell my body and that I was no longer working on my music. But people do not understand that exposing your body does not mean that you are less good at what you do.
You have to take that into account when you are using social media.
These were the vital tips that Prosenjit Kundu and Tracy Desa gave to the performing artist while they think of dealing with the current crisis effectively. As a budding or established dancer or musician, you should pay heed to the experts’ advice. This is the way to grow your career in this crisis.
One of the tips that the experts gave was to develop some extra skills that you can earn money. Considering that, you can open your online store at PrintShop by Designhill and start selling your merch such as t-shirt and hoodies with your music company’s logo and your illustration to earn money.
During the discussion on the entertainment industry vs. COVID-19, both Prosonjit Kundu and Tracy Desa emphasized that performing artists should explore social media to be in touch with the audience. They advise being more active on Instagram and YouTube to build an audience by telling your story. The artists should develop some additional skills to earn money during the ongoing crisis.