The rise of a musical entrepreneur - AR Rahman

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The rise of a musical entrepreneur - AR Rahman

Post  ravinat on Wed Sep 20, 2017 3:34 am

I watched the AR Rahman interview with Thanthi TV recently and I am surprised at a number of Raja fans getting emotional about this interview. Most of them who reacted have taken it very personally too. I look at it with a completely different lens.

ARR does not claim that he is a great composer. He just wants to establish that he is a musical entrepreneur. His entire interview is a testimony to the fact that he is a solid businessman. Music happens to be the product that he sells. Like many corporate giants, his product sucks, but he has created the necessary apparatus that will keep it alive and thriving. He operates like Oracle or SAP or Microsoft. Most Raja fans argue as though product quality is the single criteria. Most corporations know how to get around product quality issues. So does Rahman. I will tackle this by first listing a set of focus areas for any large corporations and in the detailed posts try to point out the parallels AR & Co  in these areas.


  1. Financial and business management
  2. Human resources management
  3. Customer relationship management
  4. Legal and public/media relations
  5. Product portfolio expansion
  6. Marketing and product management
  7. Corporate social responsibility
  8. Globalization initiatives


  I have taken these 8 areas to draw parallels to ensure how the AR juggernaut works and how product quality does not matter anymore. It is a clever way of growing an enterprise on weak foundations. Like corporations, such endeavors do not last long. However, all these business processes ensure that the product, despite its poor quality survives longer than it truly should. 

  Those in the computer industry will remember OS2 from IBM, Lisa from Apple, Oracle reporter and many such adventures - add AR's musical albums in the 21st century to it.

  Feel free to add your views as we navigate the AR enterprise.


Last edited by ravinat on Sun Oct 01, 2017 2:45 am; edited 1 time in total

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Re: The rise of a musical entrepreneur - AR Rahman

Post  Usha on Wed Sep 20, 2017 12:19 pm

ravinat,
   +1... ungalai pola solla theriyavilai.. anal en ennamum idhu dhan.

veetil solluven........  Musicai business aga parukum oru person....... 

IRai patri.. indirect or direct comments.. idhil 2 ennam iruku.......

1. IRin isai vetri.. ARR parvaiyil.. vetriyaga ilai.. ( apadi oru garvamana humble md....)

2. ipadi sonnal.. IR Fans.. enna solgirargal endru....

sila varudangal munbu... (Bengal interview.. endru ninaikiren.. correct aga theriyavillai.. andha interviewil.

ARR solgirar.. India vil mudhal mudhalaga... Harmony ( idhai than sonnar endru ninaikiren.....)  than seiya povadhaga... 
idharku enna artham....

idhu varai.. Indiavil irukum harmony ellam harmonyaga ARR ku illai............. idhu dhanae artham......... idharku peyar
humble aaa..........

neenga solvadhai pola.. ARR oru entrepreneur dhan.. anal .. Marketing illamal ponal.. kanamal pogum......

Grade ...down agi ponal...local market ku varum............

Grade......  idhu ivar kaiyil illai.. ivar kodukum panathil dhan iruku.........

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Re: The rise of a musical entrepreneur - AR Rahman

Post  ravinat on Thu Sep 21, 2017 4:29 am

Financial and business management
----------------------------------------


AR enterprise may not have formal accountants and financial managers, I guess. But, he has a number of business managers, looking after his financial interest, safeguarding his royalties and other income in various currencies very carefully. (he says that clearly in his Thanthi interview)

He definitely has a business strategy of growing his musical enterprise. In my observations, here is how he has approached the various markets he operates:

- Create an impression of a tech wiz, who is shy and geeky (a cue from the earlier Gates, Zuckerberg)

- Create an impression of an innovator - detail credits, promote team over self in the earlier days
- Obtain expertise in music technology (gadgets) and software - this is an easy way to beat a behemoth like Raja, who is full of knowledge that is impossible to beat. Remember how Microsoft took on IBM in the late 80s. Called it an Incredible Bunch of Morons and promoted team over starch collared direct salesperson, promoted channels based distribution. MS showed the world that they are nimble and on top of technology - something IBM was good at, but could never break that impression. IBM did not want the message of technology as it feared that it will hurt its business revenue. Raja never put technology as his center piece as it was just another way to do music, which was his center piece. It is all about shifting the center of gravity and destabilizing your opponent. This is the AR enterprise lesson from Microsoft. To this date, Raja is unable to reset this.
- Shift focus on the mainstream delivery mechanism - in the case of AR enterprise, use of new voices such as Hariharan, Shankar Mahadevan, Unnikrishnan or Chinmayi. Get them to be his promoters and spread the message of his 'humble' nature. Though many composers have tried new voices (Vidyasagar in particular, after Raja), they never used that as a strategy to promote themselves. Coupled with the explosion of TV, AR managed to create brand ambassadors who would promote his message of a humble talented musician. (three oxymorons rolled into one). 

- Shift focus away from Indian classical music systems. Create a false impression of expertise with Western music by obfuscating electronic music with classical. This is like the earlier application strategy of Oracle, where as a database vendor, it could not establish itself in the application space. It managed this by a huge set of acquisitions and re-positioned itself.
- Operationally create layers of bureaucracy and barriers of entry to ensure that only the most funded producers can ever get to him. Small directors get weeded out by this setup
- Collaborate with musicians around the world and create an impression of a global player, regardless of how successful such collaborations are

- Provide easy entry into the AR enterprise for those who fit into his expansion plan (RGV or Subash Ghai or Danny Boyle) and use them as loss leaders to tap into a new market (standard enterprise strategy of many corporate vendors). 

I can list some more, as this is a carefully crafted enterprise with a strategy where he tries to understand the playing field and tries to shift it (Microsoft).  It also involves understanding of your strengths and your opponents'. Avoid getting sucked into your opponents strength. You can see that AR tries to stay away from ICM discussions for the past 25 years as that is his weakness. You do not see a Ajoy C or a BMK praising him, but that does not matter. You are a global player and you get to represent a nation of very rich musical traditions, thanks to your focus on things that matter in today's world - tech savviness, collaboration and presence.




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Re: The rise of a musical entrepreneur - AR Rahman

Post  ravinat on Fri Sep 22, 2017 3:26 am

Human resources management
-----------------------------------


This is something that the AR enterprise in my observation does very well as it is first made to look like a job. You have defined role and you get a chance to show up on the album cover credits. That easily buys bragging rights to most of the musicians who work for the enterprise. If you observe his Thanthi interview he clearly outlines his inner circle - H Sridhar (sound), Murthy,(conductor),  Noel (manager) and a few others. These are like his top management team that sort of deal with his interests. The rest of the teams fall under two categories (which will sound very familiar to most of us in the corporate world).


- Employees in different facilities with defined job functions
- Contractors (they can be musicians, technicians) who are brought on an as needed basis


Don't get me wrong. Raja has used several musicians on a one-off basis. This is different.


Contract musicians are sold the idea of bragging rights (I have worked for AR) and unlike other composers, they get a different treatment.
- their shortcomings are glossed over as they can be fixed in post production
- they are allowed to improvise as there is no definitive plan of the composer on instrumental music
- where possible, they are utilized as brand ambassadors


Contrast this with a composer like Vidyasagar. He has used Rajesh Vaidhya more than any other Southern composer. On rare occasions, Rajesh does talk about VS. But that's about it. Being a veena player himself, Rajesh does not get much slack from VS. VS operates pretty much like Raja, where he drives the instrument player to deliver what he wants. He does not let RV do the improvisation as he chooses. RV's mastery gets him repeated assignments with VS - this is perfect old music school.


With the exception of a select set of musicians - Keba, Naveen, Shivamani etc, all others are simply contractors to the enterprise. This includes Western conductors who take care of AR's Hollywood scores and also a similar set of hired guns in Bollywood. AR does understand the production process of all the three centers (Chennai, Mumbai, LA) and operates on Hollywood terms in LA, Mumbai terms in both Mumbai and Chennai. Chennai composers are very fast compared to AR, but that is something that can be handled by careful PR and marketing. All you need to do is to do a quality spin.

Not sure, if there are promotions, in the enterprise, but you can see AR talking a lot about teamwork in the Thanthi interview. Music is definitely teamwork - however, he sounds more like a HR guy than a musician.

This whole HR setup around him is very crucial for the success of his enterprise. Most of his inner circle is intact and they know exactly how he operates.

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Re: The rise of a musical entrepreneur - AR Rahman

Post  ravinat on Tue Sep 26, 2017 3:12 am

Customer relationship management
---------------------------------
The CRM strategy of the AR enterprise is not exactly the same as a corporate organization. It is full of holes. These holes are managed with the public relations which is one of the other areas that I will cover later. All large enterprises try to address a customer base that is banded into groups. Tier 1 customers have a far more preferential treatment than tier 2 and they in turn enjoy a better treatment than tier 3. Most of the large enterprises are transparent about how they arrive at these tiers and make their customers clearly aware of  the tiers and the benefits of being in that tier. Airlines are good examples. You can be a loyal, an elite or a gold customer and depending on how often you fly, you get into various tiers and enjoy preferential boarding, lounge access and so on. In the AR enterprise, there is tier 1 and then cattle class. Tier 1 is for Maniratnam, Shankar, Kathir (you can see this confession in the thanthi interview)  and a few moneybags of Bollywood and everyone else is cattle class. 

Like some large companies such as Oracle or SAP, who have serious limitations in addressing the SMB (small and medium business) world, the AR enterprise has difficulty dealing with small directors or producers. Most of these ventures by the enterprise have turned out to be disasters. However, within the cattle class, there is a preferred class as it helps with improving market penetration in Bollywood. This is the cattle Hollywood class. No problem about taking on small budget Hollywood films (they turn out to be tier 1 by Indian standards anyway). Accepting work from Hollywood studios to do B-grade films improves your Bollywood penetration - it is a pure business decision. However, a South Indian small director does not fall into any of these segments and the bureaucracy takes care of keeping them away. The AR enterprise is arbitrary about its customer segmentation and is decided by the whim of AR.

The AR enterprise has done more anti-CRM than CRM itself. It has kept a large number of customers out of reach by design. In my view, it considers this approach as a cornerstone for the success of the enterprise. Remember an important thing: small charities buy you a lot more than ventures with small guys.

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Re: The rise of a musical entrepreneur - AR Rahman

Post  ravinat on Mon Oct 02, 2017 10:45 pm

Legal and public/media relations

 One of the greatest pillars of success for the AR enterprise is Legal and public/media relations. The foundation of this pillar is that any lack of musical knowledge can always be compensated and corrected by an orchestrated (pun intended) campaign.

   Music composers are generally moody, short tempered creative individuals. Nothing new with that. However, a MSV or a Raja did not get any mileage with those credentials. Also, these legends did not have a huge media presence and focused more on their work than their image. With the dawn of the Internet and the media (social networks, television, youtube etc.), these traits must be obfuscated sufficiently using the right techniques and ensure that the image that is projected is beneficial to the firm.

  Working unearthly hours, endless jamming sessions, very long delivery times - these look like disasters that cannot be dealt with. However, the AR enterprise with its clever media relations takes care of this shortcoming by way of using the very instruments that are impacted by such limitations to its advantage. A budding singer is so thrilled to get a call from AR's studio at 1:30 am for an opportunity, that the media does not question its stupidity but simply tom toms it as though it is a musical revolution.

   Very long delivery times - though there are a few murmurs from directors of small budget films (who the AR enterprise signed up unfortunately), they are successfully suppressed by an audio launch where songs with a mayfly shelf life is sold as the greatest pop music out of India. AR makes it a point never to talk about techniques in his audio launch (it was done so long ago, you cannot blame him if he forgot what he did at 4:30 am in his Logic Studio). General talk about directors, plot and some actors (you can get a film journalist to do a far better job) is all the musician would do.

  Endless jamming sessions - release it as a video to bore folks to death and make it fashionable. This technique is now copied by all budding composers including Iman (thanks to cheap storage and video).

   For those who can read Tamil, here is a spoof that I wrote some months ago:

abortedsong.pressbooks.com

  On the legal relations part, the AR enterprise is very good and a number of musicians need to take a lesson. AR himself says in the interview that he leaves the legal matters to his managers in the respective geographies to deal with and follows their advice. He ensures that folks are not screwing around his copyright and ensures that he gets paid. While he may have a good show going abroad, I still do not know how effective his managers have been in India.

  As far as public relations go, AR ensures the following message that resonates very well with minimal investment with his audience and viewers.

  - he is a shy but humble guy
  - he is not evil and cares for the good of the world (this is like a beauty pageant message - empty but works) 
  - his mission in life is to elevate people from poverty and suffering (this is to project himself like a messiah, without doing much)
  - his investment in improving musical talent in India (he actually does only technical infrastructure improvement - this is like a data center guy pretending to be an ERP guy). This requires a minimal investment that has a huge return in public relations. You will notice that in the interview he talks about people who cannot afford their next day meal playing a 2 million rupee piano). Most viewers fall for such things and say, what has Raja done to nurture new talent. Few know about the work that Raja has done by training hundreds of musicians inside his studio in sessions by teaching them new instrument techniques.
- he carefully chooses to project his Logic Studio and other gadget skills in his foreign interviews. In the CBC interview, he talks at length about how he mastered every keyboard shortcut of Logic Studio. Granted, this is his strength. But that does not fly with the Indian media.

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Re: The rise of a musical entrepreneur - AR Rahman

Post  ravinat on Thu Nov 02, 2017 3:20 am

Product portfolio expansion


Most large corporations keep an eye on the niche players in some fields till they are the right targets for takeover. They also invest a small seed capital to keep the niche player to flourish to a point. Google, Microsoft and a few other keep doing this and finally they gobble the niche player. They use their brand name to rake huge profits from these niche acquisitions. This is a standard business practice in the tech industry. This also allows for easy expansion of the product portfolio.

The AR & Co operates on similar lines. However, there are subtle differences as this business itself is done subtly. Here are some examples of how the product portfolio expansion works in the AR & Co.



  • One of the niches that AR & Co has successfully exploited is the use of some musical types that not many folks paid attention. There is HCM, CCM, Qawali, and a few others that have been used by other MDs. But the AR enterprise looks at Sufi as the one to go after. Now, how do you exploit this acquisition and make it your own brand? Work on it and create a couple of hits. With the right marketing, turn this to look as though you are the lone authority in Sufi music. I have heard many AR fans brag that there is no better authority on Sufi than AR. Sufi music is in existence for ages and all those Sufi experts are conveniently brushed aside as the fan base now thinks that AR invented it. Contrast this to Raja fans who will talk at length about Raja's knowledge and exploitation of CCM techniques, but will be careful to understand that he is an innovator and not an inventor of this genre. In the AR world, Bru was invented by Unilever, Visio by Microsoft, Iflex by Oracle
  • Another niche that is promoted by AR & Co is the way percussion is used in his music. If you talk to the fanbase of AR & Co, you will get an impression that all other composers are stuck with the dholaks and tablas of the world, but AR is absolutely modern. In fact, he invented modern rhythms. It does not matter that his music which is based on a number of bought out software components is not very rhythm rich both by Indian as well as Western standards. It is attractive sounding. Starting from his first film, he created a niche that modern rhythms is something he invented and all other composers are biting the dust. The rhythm arrangements of AR in the past few years have got worse and there is no innovation. However, it is a mind game where the niche called, modern rhythm has been acquired and the portfolio now shows off that as though it is the greatest thing and also 'invented here'


Though the product portfolio expansion has a lot of things that are borrowed from product positioning and public relations. However, this is a careful strategy in growing the AR & Co. I will add more examples as I find them.

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Re: The rise of a musical entrepreneur - AR Rahman

Post  ravinat on Fri Nov 10, 2017 4:26 am

Marketing and product management

There are many words in English starting with ‘P’ and the marketing folks like to pick three ‘P’s when it comes to marketing. These three Ps vary depending upon the text you consult and the marketing consultant that you consult. The ones that work best in our context  are ‘Product’, ‘Positioning’ , and ‘Promotion’. We have discussed ‘Price’ and ‘Place’ in the other posts in this series.

The marketing strategy of AR &Co needs to be reviewed in this three ‘Ps’ context to understand how the deliveries are managed and how ‘All new Surf’ strategy is adopted for the detergent line of products. Remember, Unilever has several detergents and claims that every product whitens and brightens clothing better than ever before. Though this appears confusing when you consider the entire product line, it is an attractive message when you look at a product in isolation. Unilever is also very careful not to promote too many products in its detergent line (that applies to every consumer line) at a time with similar messages. It is the careful positioning of the product that keeps the engine humming.

AR & Co had its beginning in the advertising world. The advertising world is all about 30 second glory and pays very well for that. However, nothing lasts from the ad world in memory. Extend this to AR’s music and you will quickly realize that his strategy into the film music world is just to take that 30 second glory to perhaps a glory of a year. Nothing from the AR & Co stable lasts beyond a year. Granted that the 90s had some good musical output – this served in establishing the brand. After that, it is a matter of focusing on the 12 month shelf life at best. In fact, the shelf life of most output today from AR & Co is less than 3 months.  Let’s now see how these musical detergents are placed, positioned and ensure that it gets consumed.

Product: AR & Co throws an extensive amount of glossy at the audience stating things like:

  •         No half baked product ever leaves the studio (tested and proven by scientists to be safe detergent)
  •         The recording quality and technology ses the best in the world (state of the art detergent manufacturing)
  •         The genres used in the music is ‘first of its kind’ (All new detergent)



Most of the new music hardly has true musical value. It hardly elevates the listener (detergents do not). However, it is the perception that the product is of the highest quality, using the latest and greatest in music and it si the first of its kind that helps build the hype cycle. Contrast this to wonderful melodies that VS is still weaving in Malayalam today without any fanfare. With huge hype, every album can be elevated to a level that it does not deserve. However, the elevated approach does help sustain interest on the product from its fan base. Contrast this to IR fans who have to dig deep to find out about his latest work and share as ‘rare compositions’

Positioning: AR & Co, like all musicians have an assembly line of work that is done for Chennai, Mumbai and LA. However, you will notice that Chennai and Mumbai hardly clash in terms of hype. When its time to Ranjhanaa, no Tamil album will be given any airtime. Only the Ranjhanaa detergent whitens best now. I watched a film called ‘Highway’ that had AR’s music, and the entire enterprise dropped the ball on this one. The music was such a disaster that even AR fanbase needs to dig it out as a ‘rare’ composition!  Barring such exceptions and other Hollywood B-graders, all other market positioning is done very carefully. Though AR takes an enormous amount of time to compose music, the teasers are released carefully one film at a time so that the product messages stick for the current positioning. Also, AR’s output is always on decent labels such as Sony and not some local ones. This ensures that the reach of an album cuts through languages and geography. Barring perhaps a 1% exception (Malargal Kaetaen from OK Kanmani) the CCM based songs must be avoided as it will not have much coverage in North India

Promotion With the product and positioning done, promotion is relatively easy as you can use a tech savvy PR team to take care of splashing the release of a new album in all social media, TV networks and the internet. Couple this with formal audio launches and special programs on TV to launch the new album. Every album can be spinelessly positioned as the best things since slice bread. When all things do not work, AR makes it a point to show up on music competition shows to prop the prospects of his latest detergent. The comperes will praise him sky high and ask a bunch of canned questions which are aimed at increasing interest in the new album.


All these approaches ensure that bad products are pushed to naive listeners with the hope that it will stick for at least a few months. These days the number of balls being thrown at the wall do not seem to stick regardless of the amount of positioning and promotion. The marketing engine has however been very successful for the last 17 years though the quality of the products have been shoddy. The listeners are bombarded with Rin, followed by Surf, followed by Tide and then by Gain. None of them wash the clothes as advertised. However, neither Unilever nor AR & Co gives up promoting their line as the best the world has ever seen.

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Re: The rise of a musical entrepreneur - AR Rahman

Post  crimson king on Sat Nov 11, 2017 7:06 pm

To some extent, these comparisons can also be evoked - strictly from a marketing perspective - to SRT vs Richards or Federer/Nadal (especially Nadal) vs Sampras.  Like why am I supposed to care at all about whether or not SRT or Fed is humble and nice to be the point of being a cuddly bear?  Richards' gum chewing flamboyance was actually celebrated in his time but in the noughties he would have probably got trashed for being arrogant.  Of course, Tendulkar has the weight of achievements to justify his place in the pantheon of greats but it's funny how many people have forgotten about 189 not out. Federer is a bit of a nightmare for the PR agencies because he decides to be honest and speak his mind from time to time but Nadal manages his image to perfection so much so that some of his fans actually think of him as the rebel fighting the establishment (what kind of rebel happens to know Moya very well personally).  Like Ilayaraja, Sampras was a marketer's nightmare (who instead preferred to market the image conscious Agassi, complete with wig), singularly lacking in charisma and not renowned for being very graceful in defeat.

I would disagree a bit about the rhythm part because while Rahman may not have done anything particularly complex on rhythm either, he did bring something fresh and that was mainly by experimenting in genres like hip hop that Raja didn't really warm up to.  Not the distinction here:  Raja did use rapping in songs like Santhu Pottu or that SPB solo on Honest Raj (even Sonnapadi Kellu) but he didn't use the typical syncopated rhythms of hip hop music, at least not before Hey Baby on Kadhalukku Mariyadhai.  As such, Rahman dramatically increased the level of African music influence in TFM and was thus the first guy to capture Youthu Factor.  The first 'rockstar' of India in the sense of capturing the teenage/young adult demographic.  This parallel may ruffle some feathers but then, were there really not better singers than Plant, better guitarists than Page or better drummers than Bonham when Led Zep became wildly popular? Of course there were, they just happened to do something that the youth loved (something that involved borrowing blues songs without giving credits, I may add).  There is a whole conspiracy theory that Ed McGowan concocted about the sudden rise of psychedelic rock in the mid 60s even as LBJ sent American troops to Vietnam, detailed in a book called Inside Laurel Canyon.  Whether or not there is merit in the theory, it was marketing that propelled rock well past the musically/technically superior jazz rock/fusion pioneered by Miles Davis.  That is why critics hated prog rock from the get go because it attempted to restore the supremacy of technical music and was even finding an audience in spite of the best efforts of critics to shoot it down.  And so the establishment manufactured a punk rebellion but that is another rabbit hole and I will stop here since my point is made.

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Re: The rise of a musical entrepreneur - AR Rahman

Post  ravinat on Sat Dec 02, 2017 2:31 am

Corporate Social Responsibility
 
There are many flavors to how Corporations hold themselves socially accountable. The greatest example, I have experienced is the way Jamshedpur is managed by Tatas. Nowhere in the world, I have seen anything like what the Tatas do to the neighboring villages around Jamsehdpur apart from the city itself. The entire city’s infrastructure is managed by TISCO and even schools are run by the company. Villages around Jamshedpur are also provided assistance by the company by way of social programs, agricultural inputs and health programs. This is the extreme commitment to social responsibility.
 
In the Western world, I have also seen the way RIM used to transform the Waterloo region in Ontario, Canada. While providing steady jobs to the Waterloo grads and also coop jobs, RIM set a huge example of how to tap young talent from a premier engineering school. The founders of RIM went beyond that and created the world famous PI (Perimeter Institute for theoretical physics) and the IQC (Institute for Quantum Computing) in Waterloo. These are world class research establishments that will survive beyond RIM. Mike and Jim set an example of setting up their business where they went to school and not running away to greener pastures. The entire Waterloo area is someway connected to RIM. Today, companies such as Google are taking advantage of what Mike and Jim did 15 years ago.
 
There are several thousands of other business folks who provide large grants to hospitals and medical research. The Belinda Gates foundation is a great example of corporate social responsibility providing sanitation, health care and education for the impoverished.

On the other extreme, most large banks and businesses do not go to this extreme – they think about simple social work by their employees with some good advertising is social responsibility. Initiatives such as:

  • 1.       Run for cancer
  • 2.       Marathon for Alzheimer’s
  • 3.       Walk for breast cancer cure
  • 4.       Participating in Habitat for Humanity


And so on. This gives you bragging rights without spending much. Matching the donation efforts of employees and showcasing the employees who take part in social causes though important, is a huge leverage factor for the business for a small investment. The AR &Co business model on social responsibility falls under such initiatives. Small investment and big leverage. You will notice that most large sponsors for public causes will somehow get their brand into it. It will be a ‘Verizon breast cancer walk’.

The AR & Co, does a few such social leverage projects such as:


  1.      KM Conservatory
  2.      AR Rahman foundation
  3.      Sunshine Orchestra





http://arrahmanfoundation.org/projects.html
 

Now, this makes perfect business sense as you do not have to slog in a studio to create some innovative music. It also helps in promoting the image of AR as the demigod of the youth. In the thanthi interview he clearly brags about a kid playing on a piano that is worth 2 million bucks. Granted that he had challenges in his teen years. However, his social projects have the same level of sincerity as a bank sponsoring a cancer run.

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Re: The rise of a musical entrepreneur - AR Rahman

Post  panniapurathar on Sat Dec 02, 2017 4:08 am

Ravi Sir!  This is a fascinating series of posts!  Thank you.

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Re: The rise of a musical entrepreneur - AR Rahman

Post  ravinat Today at 1:22 am

Globalization initiatives

Thanks to a number of marketing campaigns, most of the AR followers somehow associate him with ‘world music’. He is indeed a musician who travels the world – far from someone who has assimilated ‘world music’. That is a very tall claim that nobody can really make.  Even Raja.

After Internet became ubiquitous, there is a wider exposure not only to electronic music, but also to a number of traditional musical forms around the world. Thanks to the growth of electronic music, you can now easily get a lot of western forms of music by way of samples, loops and plug-ins with most software created in the west. Using these facilities does not convert somebody to a ‘world musician’. Nor does adding a couple of foreign flavors make you a world musician.

For example, in the 80s, when Raja figured how to use disco in his music, most of his fans did not claim that he is a disco king or something. There are several compositions of Raja which has rock elements too. Neither Raja nor his fans claimed that he is a world musician. Even today, most Raja fans still claim that he is a genius due to his mastery over ICM. There are few exceptions such as me who still think that his mind takes his initial idea (especially his instrument music) and somehow runs two parallel streams of WCM and ICM and manages to merge them with his end product still using a Western staff notation. How his mind splits and merges these two diverse systems at lightning speed will always remain a mystery.

Back to AR & Co, how did this ‘globalized view’ of music got sold to the average listener? In my view, the generation that got carried away by AR & Co did travel the world as a result of liberalization/internet penetration and found that some of the genres that were not ‘Indian sounding’ appeared in his music. When you find those elements being used as is, you declare that ‘world music’ has arrived.  For those in computing, it is easy to build any website today which makes a simple call to google maps and provide driving directions to your store/office and make it available to your customers. Imagine, how silly it will sound if such a store that posts a youtube video, a google maps address and a google news feed claims that it is the mini google of that country. I rate the ‘world music’ claims of AR &Co as a call to google maps. That’s all there is to it.

Granted AR has collaborated with several international musicians and I am not taking that away. To just add an element of church music, a choir here, a small jazz passage here, an R&B element there just not make anybody a world musician, however much of the world you travel as a musician. Yitzak Perlman will be a Western violinist and can never claim to be L. Subramaniam or vice versa. L. Subramaniam does more world music than AR, Prasanna, Zakir combined as he makes it a point to work with several international musicians every year.

Even more than the claims of ‘world music’, what irritates me is what V_S used to say about staying within ‘Indian boundaries’ in our music creation. Only staying within that envelope ensures that there is a long shelf life for your creation. Stepping out of it, makes you surrender to a foreign culture and there is no returning – you’ll end up like today’s Bollywood. Unfortunately, AR &Co began this march and instead of condemning such a blatant cultural surrender, it is unfortunate to see the followers of AR praise it. If you really wanted to hear those elements, the internet allows you to hear the best forms directly from the source. Why do you need an Indian composer to give you part garbage that does not connect with the listnener.


This is a passing phrase and I only hope sense will prevail in the longer run.

ravinat

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