Does nepotism exist in the Music Industry as it does in Bollywood?
The news of Bollywood star Sushant Singh Rajput's untimely death had not even sunk in, when singer Sonu Nigam made some shocking allegations in a video, claiming that there's growing nepotism in the music industry as well.
Captioning the video, “You might soon hear about suicides in the music industry,” the singer went on to claim that “it's very difficult for the new kids, very difficult... I speak to every one of them. They are troubled that the producer wants to work with them, the director wants to work, even the music composer wants to work with them but the music company will say: 'This is not our artiste'.” He also alleged that the music industry is controlled by two mafias, without naming anyone.
During a conversation with a leading news channel, several talents from the music industry - number of singers, composers and lyricists - took the nepotism debate head-on and shared their opinion on the same. While they were quizzed about their point of view, all six of the talents on the panel - Amaal Malik, Sachet Tandon, Jubin Nautiyal, Rochak Kohli, Manoj Muntashir and Rashmi Virag - challenged Sonu's views and shared a common notion - that while nepotism might be prevalent in the film industry, the music industry is purely based on talent, merit and luck.
Sonu has alleged that several times, singers are called in to sing a song, only to be told that their version won't be used in the film. Music director Rochak Kohli addresses the accusation and reasons, “First of all when I approach a singer for a song, I always tell them that I want to try you for this song. And we will try our best to keep your voice in the song because things change. It's not just for new singers. I also tell the same to people like Arijit (Singh), or Jubin (Nautiyal) and Sachet (Tandon). Everyone understands. Singers come up to me and tell me they want to sing maximum scratches. The singer also gets his taiyaari and his voice also reaches out to a lot of people. It's indeed a very progressive process.”
Kabir Singh fame Sachet adds, “I haven't faced it yet. I sang for another composer and it has turned out that way only. At some point in time, it happens. Rochak bhai is right. You tend to check a singer's voice to see if it goes with the song. Being a composer, you want to do justice to your composition and it's all for the film. So, it's okay.”
Singer Jubin Nautiyal strongly questions Sonu's claims of prevalent favouritism and nepotism existing in the music industry and asserts, “We all have to understand one thing, there was a time when there was no Internet. But today, it's more content-driven. Nobody knows but now, even a small song from anywhere can turn out to be a huge hit. Whatever sounds best to the ear, to the whole team of people who are producing the song, is what works eventually.”
He further adds, “You can have favourites but sometimes, when a singer or a composer comes up with a great song, you acknowledge it. You can't deny that, right? Nepotism can be one of the factors that affected the industry in the past, but today, what matters is good content, talented artists and good sound. That's what every music label, director or producer is looking for.”
Talking about nepotism, Amaal Malik, who happens to be from a family of musicians, shares how it's equally difficult for an industry kid to get due recognition. He discusses how being Daboo Malik's son has got him no extra favours from anyone within the industry. “First of all, with due respect to my dad, he wasn't an ace composer. He never got the success that my uncle did. So it wasn't a phone call that went and someone said, 'Please listen to my son, he is a composer'. He's obviously done his share of songs and he found his little bit of success. When Armaan sang his first song for Vishal Dadlani, he didn't know that they were making Daboo Malik's son sing. He went inside the studio when he was 10-11, sang a scratch and it went on to be part of Bhoothnath. He didn't get the opportunity because he was so and so's kid.”
Just like the 'nepotism' debate in Bollywood, the common perception seems to be that artists who come from a gharana already have it easier than the other. But Amaal begs to differ. “A lot of people have that notion that it must have been easier for me because I had the Malik tag. But I don't feel it's right. With due respect to someone like Ankit Tiwari who leaves everything at home to come and make it big here without any backing, I agree I have an advantage. I know how things work. I have seen the failures of my family members so I know how it would work and that's the only difference. I have been doing it since the age of 19 but I got my first film at 24. Even for that film, my younger brother and my mom went on a film set to meet Salman Khan. We waited for 7 hours until he could hear a CD of our work. We wanted someone to launch our music and maybe just say something if he liked it. Because the music was good, he gave us an opportunity.”
But that wasn't all. He also shares that even then, his journey wasn't a bed of roses either. “I miserably failed in that film and that song didn't work despite being on such a huge scale. For one year, I had no work. I don't think anyone repeated me just like other newcomers. So it's been a 50-50 situation. It's not happened overnight for me and my brother as well. Maybe, it's even a bit tougher for people who have a name.”
Lyricist Manoj Muntashir also sides with Amaal and explains why the systems and structures of the music and film industries are extremely different. “The music industry is not just about Bollywood, it's beyond that. So nepotism or dynasticism exists in Bollywood and we have had several debates about that. But in the music industry, there's nothing called nepotism or dynasticism. Take singers of '90s then because if nepotism was prevalent, then only the kids of the popular singers from that generation would have ruled now, whether it's Kumar Sanu, Udit Narayan, Alka Yagnik. Then how did we have Rochak, Jubin, Sachet or even Tanishk Bagchi? They are all outsiders. If nepotism chalta, then they would not be here.”
He clearly makes a point and says, “We, as a bunch of people, are clear testimony to the fact that nepotism doesn't exist in the music industry. In fact, we are doing a huge disservice to people and new talents by propagating fear because now, they will feel our industry is filled with tyrants and they will destroy you. Let's get it clear: there's no dictatorship, no tyranny, no anarchy, no fascism in the music industry. There's no democracy either. Democratic values don't count for great business after all.”
Another popular lyricist Rashmi Virag addresses a major element that the others missed. He believes that along with talent and hard work, what works is the 'luck factor. Elaborating on that, he explains, “Over here, hard work and talent are pre-requisites. But there's something which is equally important: luck. It plays a major role.”
Sonu, in his video, also shared how people are not paid their due. Calling that out, Virag continues, “There's a lot of confusion regarding lyric writer and writer in the industry. Let me clarify: any good writer/lyric writer is making as much money as a singer is making today. Gone are those days when there were situations like these. It's a very close-knit team altogether. We are all good friends, we all work together and it's a fairly transparent set-up. Either of us does any setting. WE serve the cause of a great song. The ultimate goal happens to be humara gaana kaisa banega. I have been told to change the lyric writer sometimes when we felt it didn't suit the song. I have personally recommended sometimes saying this melody requires this person, so there's a lot of transparency. There's no need for PR building among the core team.”
With all the musical geniuses sharing their own standpoint, it can be easily established that the tall claims made by Sonu in his controversial video stand null and void. While he claims to have been the voice for several artists who are not getting their due recognition, he seems to have forgotten that the majority of the bunch think otherwise: both old and new.
All six of these talented artists - both insiders and outsiders - clearly don't agree with Sonu's point of views about the music mafia and hopefully, this will bring closure to the entire debate for sure! Need we say more?