We've Always Been On The Side Of The Artists - Gunjan Arya
Read this exclusive interview with Gunjan Arya, CEO, Only Much Louder (OML) as she delves into the company's approach to leveraging digital platforms and shares her perspective on the constantly evolving industry
In an insightful conversation with Gunjan Arya, the CEO of Only Much Louder (OML), a pioneering force in the entertainment industry, we delve into the dynamic strategies that have propelled OML's success amidst the ever-evolving digital landscape. With a rich history in artist management, including influential forays into the realms of music and comedy, Arya illuminates OML's unique approach to leveraging digital platforms and subcultures to foster organic growth and innovation. Her perspectives shed light on the company's relentless pursuit of groundbreaking initiatives and its commitment to staying at the forefront of an industry defined by constant change and unpredictability.
How has OML adapted to the changing landscape of the entertainment industry? Especially in the wake of digitalisation and the rise of online content consumption.
Digital has helped us go around gatekeepers, that's always been our approach to everything that we've looked at. We started 20 years ago as an artist management company, initially for the independent music industry. The way we worked with them was to take their music online because back in the day, the gatekeepers were record labels who had access to distributing your music videos to television channels like VH1 and MTV or getting you heard on the radio, that was the only way musicians got discovered then.
Our pitch to artists was to give your music away for free on YouTube, we're all online. This is how you will get discovered and fans who love you will come and pay ticket money to watch you perform live. You get to keep the rights to your music. I think we've always benefited from that, and luckily for us, that bet paid off. YouTube is the biggest music engine in the world now.
Similarly, when we started managing comedians. I think for us, it's always been, let's figure out where audiences are and digital has expedited that for us.
OML is known for its work in artist management, particularly in music and comedy. What are some key strategies that have contributed to OML's success in this domain?
I feel like some of the key things that we learned along the way, for example, when we were working with AIB, trying to figure out how to get branded content on their channel, everybody uses the phrase influencer marketing nowadays. When we did the first brand integration in an AIB video, nobody knew how to even charge for it. We had to come up with a formula where we asked the brand, hey, how much do you get per view on YouTube? We said you give us the rate you would’ve paid YouTube per view. That’s how we stumbled into the world of influencer marketing.
We've always been on the side of artists figuring out how to either grow their audiences, get discovered, do newer things, or then get paid in different ways.
A lot of our strategies were not necessarily strategies as much as they were, let's try something.
The entertainment industry is driven by trends. How does OML stay ahead of the curve and ensure its offerings remain relevant to changing audience preferences?
I think it's about figuring out two things. One is subcultures that we believe are going to become large enough and over time become mainstream. For example, when we started Breeza Vivid Shuffle, which was a celebration of hip hop, that was still three years before Gully Boy and Apna Time Aayega.
It's also about going through the gatekeepers and figuring out how you're going to be able to work around that. It's a combination of these two which will allow you to do anything unique and meaningful in this industry. But I think the industry comes with this pressure of uncertainty and you've got to be okay with that.
OML's work spans various entertainment genres. Are there any emerging trends or areas within the entertainment industry that you believe hold significant growth potential?
I think that we're at an interesting time and place now where every subculture is a large enough niche to be able to serve audiences 360 degrees. For example, if you look at makeup and beauty, that's a subculture that's large enough to have its trending hashtags or reels.
People will subscribe to just certain hashtags because that community is important to them. From having TV shows around makeup, to then now Nykaaland, which is an on-ground event. I think that is one of the most exciting things about what is happening now, where there's just an explosion of opportunities for all nations, especially in a country like India, where each region is large enough to be able to be served with significant IPs.
Zakir Khan's show in Royal Albert House, London, what do the logistics behind pulling something like that off look like?
Honestly, we've been working towards it for the last two or three years and getting a date at the Royal Albert Hall is incredibly difficult. We have partners like AEG who we've been working with, so we were able to get a date. It was just an incredible experience.
I remember walking into the venue in the morning to set up for the evening, we entered through a production gate, and I was walking around this circular alley, and it said room number one. That's what I thought our room was. I walked through and I realised I was standing right on stage. It was quite an incredible moment.
The grandeur of the venue and the scale at which that venue operates was incredible. We had a chance to have a lighting designer plot the sound and other things for us beforehand. We moved in with a ready template, saying, this is what we need for the show today and we worked with engineers.
The fans queued up a couple of hours before the show, chanting Zakir's name. When he went on stage, he had to request them to let him start the show.
It's a big year for him, he did the Sydney Opera House, he's done Dubai Opera already and now the Royal Albert Hall is done. Madison Square Gardens is next, the Etihad Arena is next and there is a lot more coming in that sense.
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