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How to build an event IP from an idea to a brand

I still have clear memory of the adrenaline from when Michael Jackson came to India in 1996. It had taken a lot of convincing at home to get my parents to buy me a train ticket from Nagpur to Mumbai to witness one of the most historic events India ever hosted. After experiencing MJ live, there were only so many career choices that my 17-year-old mind allowed me. Little did I know that one day, Viraf Sarkari and Sabbas Joseph would accept me into the blue blooded institution that produced that very MJ show.

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In early 2000, I’d usually be intrigued to understand what everyone meant when they asked me what it felt like to be a part of India’s largest IP, IIFA. Today, as a festival director curating some of the nation’s largest sports and entertainment IPs I can safely say that no other career choice would have come close to the enormity of satisfaction that this space provides.

The Indian live entertainment industry is defined by the sheer size of the share of the Live IP business. In an industry that boasts of over Rs. 6000 cr. in size, it would only be fair to estimate that close to 30% of the revenue comes from live event IPs. So what is it that makes an event producer aspire to become a festival producer? Until a decade ago, you only heard of Tomorrowland, Electric Daisy Carnival, Ultra or Bonaroo. Some of us IP nerds followed the Woodstock case studies; probably in some cases, even begged, borrowed and travelled to a Glastonbury to experience the thrill. Long story short, when an entertainment IP sells over a million tickets in under 14 minutes, when a stadium is filled under no time, when a music property makes you travel half way around the world just for those 4 days filled with friends and music, you know you are addicted to the world of IPs as a fan or as a producer.

Closer home, when Sunburn was first announced, there was no end to the joy in my heart. An Indian producer had started what would soon become a movement. Nh7 followed and so did many others. When Nikhil Chinapa and I charted the blueprint of Vh1 Supersonic, I knew there was no looking back. The electronic live scene was at its peak, the Indie scene picking up and over 50 top global talents were making India a part of their tour calendars. While producing EVC in 2014 with Shoven Shah, its promoter, my team and I started mulling over a thought. After I became the CEO of Event Capital, that thought started taking shape. Months of research later, we created what is now a phenomenon known as the Bollywood Music Project along with our partner, Tarsame Mittal.

The Bollywood Music Project or BMP, as it is endearingly called, was a concept we chose to dive deep into. Event Capital had established footprints in kids fashion and lifestyle, education conclaves and luxury expos, in addition to a bike festival along with Mahendra Singh Dhoni. Music, for us, was the natural choice of genre to grow the IP portfolio; our only challenge being that by 2016, there were close to 26 music festivals thriving in India, 5 of which were really noteworthy. In spite of the clutter in the scene where top talents from across the world performed electronic, indie, rock, hip-hop and Indian music in various capacities, how did an IP the size of BMP manage to pull off two successful editions in its debut year, you ask?

The answer to this, is research. How much Bollywood music does the urban millennial consume? How many individual concerts/events/tours do Bollywood music icons perform at? Can we classify genres? Is Desi Hip Hop in Bollywood big enough? How many hours of content can we program? What’s the best venue to host 20,000 Bollywood music fans at? Should it be a destination festival or one that you simply can hop on to a rickshaw and arrive at? Will the electronic and indie fan be attracted to the property enough to buy tickets? Will sponsors understand the need gap? Is there a need gap? Can we integrate sponsor brands seamlessly with the fans? Can it be digitally aspirational to consume? And finally, does the business forecast and investment allow a market condition for a festival in Bollywood?

Just as we floated the idea in the market, we attracted eyeballs; the most important of all these being Hungama. I want to take this opportunity to thank Siddharth Roy, whose insights on consumption and demography were unparalleled. With his backing, we became Hungama BMP, a credible footprint in the scenario.

Talent: Is the talent too expensive? Is the talent too small? Will Bollywood talent ever perform in a festival format? Will it help, if we classify them in genres of hip-hop, rock, sufi, funk, pop and commercial? Most festivals suffer losses on this one front. But when the life and death of a music festival is dependent on experiences and talent, whom you collaborate with is your only forecast of risk. We obviously, had that covered because of our partner, Tarsame Mittal. His genuine understanding of programming a Bollywood festival is something I have always respected.

Business: BMP is a multi-genre music festival that celebrates the Indian footprint in sound under the umbrella of Bollywood. We positioned Desi Hip-Hop and had Badshah and Raftaar perform which enabled a Honda NAVi to come on board, as the Desi Hip-Hop fan is their primary target audience.  For our evolved audiences, we offered a Sufi, Jazz and an eclectic line up with artistes like Rekha Bharadwaj, Hari Haran and Shefali & Joe Alvares allowing HNI oriented businesses like Radius Developers and Bhutani Infrastructure to come on board. Since Bollywood music was the core of the festival, Hungama became our title sponsor. From a business point of view, with my experience of electronic festivals, I was able to position BMP as far more sponsor integration friendly and fan engaging.

Risks: Tarsame, my partner in crime Deepak Choudhary and I will never forget that we almost cancelled BMP Mumbai because of the rains a week before the show. We had considered returning thousands of tickets and talent cancellations. Our entire pre-festival buzz would have gone down the drain. However jointly, along with India’s top music arranger and producer, Sunny Sanour, who is also the chief music programmer of BMP and a close friend, we decided that we either do it now or we never will. But when the show materialised and 20,000 people stood in the rains to watch Arijit headline the second day of the Mumbai show, we knew we had created a monster. Today, two successful shows, 50,000 on-ground fans and four very credible awards are a mark of a well-researched, forecasted, calculated risk that created a festival to address the largest music genre an Indian consumes globally. We hope like IIFA, we can take BMP to Indians across the globe in the near future.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house


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swaroop banerjee intellectual property Event Capital

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