The sound and the fury

The sound  and the fury
Bengaluru is known for hosting international acts. The fairly low entertainment tax, large fan following and the space for different genres to co-exist has allowed a variety of musicians to come home and perform.

On face value, the act of international artistes touring home grounds looks cheerful and attractive as they garner large audiences, hold their fans’ attention and add a different chord to the existing culture of music in India. However, troubled waters run deep beneath the process of roping in musicians from abroad.

Most of the time, it’s the event coordinators, managers and organisers who face innumerable challenges and bear the brunt of bringing an international artiste to local grounds. A lack of support from venues and local authorities, unnecessary permissions and visa regulations, lack of manpower and legal issues — international acts and event managers have seen them all.

Salman U Syed, the organiser of the metal festival ‘Bangalore Open Air’, explains that most organisers contact booking agents to get in touch with bands. A contract is then adhered to after which certain legal processes start. He says, “There are always hassles from local authorities, especially when one is trying to build a festival from scratch. We have faced situations where police and organisers have come in the middle of a show and have asked us to reduce the volume. We can’t reduce the sound during a heavy metal concert. I also don’t trust existing manpower or bouncers. Many of them don’t understand the magnitude and importance of the job. Many bouncers take bribes and let public meet the artiste.”

Sandesh Shenoy of Cyclopean Eye Productions and one of the organisers of ‘Trendslaughter Festival’ looks at the lack of support from venues and sponsors as major problems. “Tickets have to be priced well while booking bands. Apart from entertainment tax, one has to look into other relative taxes to publicise the show. Older venues aren’t professional in their approach as well. They change ticket prices and try to create confusion when the band is at sound-check or practise.”

Apart from such challenges, event managers and organisers often face legal issues and challenges in procedures as well. Most event coordinators echo that the visa procedures and process of registering with the Foreigner Regional Registration Office (FRRO) is quite redundant. Musicians have to register with the FRRO depending on whether they are on a business or an employment visa. Salman adds, “Once the band lands here, they have to get a stamp on their visa. In 2012, I know that the band ‘Dark Tranquility’ stayed back three days as they didn’t know they were supposed to get a stamp. They weren’t allowed to board their flight. There are also a number of licences and permissions one has to get such as clearance from commissioner of police, clearance from excise department etc, which requires effort.” 

However, Arpan Peter from Overture, a company that handles concert production, artiste management and curates of musical acts, has never had problems getting an artiste down as he says that it is all about proper planning and booking them well in advance. But like other event managers, he does say that processes can be eased a little. “A single window licencing has to come in place, where permissions and licences can be obtained from one office at one time. I also feel that artistes have to have a separate visa. Some procedures have to be standardised as too many procedures and too much of running around confuses people.” 

Rudy, the event coordinator of Windmills Craftsworks, a space which has been instrumental in getting international acts to the City, wishes for transparency. “The entertainment tax is low but we should know what the authorities are doing with it. They should support local acts, use it for education or even helping other international acts from coming here.”  However, Sandesh says that such processes won’t be eased until there is a fundamental change in attitude and mindset of authorities. He adds that local authorities and venues must first respect Western music and see that there are great artistes in this genre as well, and their performances here can help the overall scene.

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