120 Days, 200 Calls, Learnings, and Staying Alive!

There is a need for Transparency Design in the Music Business

Vivek Paul
11 min readJul 4, 2020

The last 120 days have been about absorbing a whole lot of information and content coming from different sources. It has been like a tsunami which has no human control or aspect of curation and hence needed putting the right filters to it. Data can be complicated and uncomplicated, depending on the eye of the beholder.

Like any other area, the Pandemic has created a segmentation that has led to people absorbing and reacting in many different ways. The critical and underlying question for everyone is — What’s Next?

With over 200 conversations I witnessed in these 120 days, which included talking to people over Zoom, WhatsApp, Phone Calls; listening to Conference Speakers; reading Blogs, News, Books; watching events in the World unfold; completing courses to develop new skills; activating new product Launches; completing extended Education, and making little money to stay afloat, my inference is that in their lifetime, people have been more productive than ever before.

For me, what stood out was the surge of emotional highs and lows that people were going through. Anxiety, Hope, Honesty, and Introspection ran wild. The entertainment business which had not seen such unprecedented full stop and restarts now seemed to lean more towards Fair, Transparent, and Trustworthy business practices led by human relationships. While emotional wellbeing, mental health, and loss of lives became part of the equation, it also opened up human hearts in public forums. Rahul DaCunha wrote an interesting article highlighting the social media aftermath of a celebrity suicide.

We now need to wait and see, whether the emotion of Fear leads our societies and relationships towards Empathy or not? The game is not over yet, the new normal is going to be different from the previous normal. Good feelings around the new normal are about Reality, Realisation, Introspection, and Mindsets. There is a significant paradigm shift here.

Illustration by Vivek Paul (www.gatsvy.com)

The Wave of Conferences — What they don’t teach

The easiest thing one can expect is to plug online and create a conversation. That’s the power of technology, expression, and networking. But, we often notice that the intent to create a dialogue is to bring an outcome that is solid and unimaginable.

Of many that I attended this season, it was tiring, exhausting, and completely out of sync. > 50% of the narratives were repeated to the extent that it seemed like an extended Radio Show. ~ 15% were well thought through, and the curated experiences came from segments that mean real business and not exploratory or timepass dialogues.

I spoke to people across multiple geographical locations and the majority of them were creative artists. All our observations were similar, some of them are compiled below:

  1. The good thing is that many people were put in front of the camera for the first time, so they could share their experiences. But, the audience is looking for more than just experiences. They seek answers to hard questions like survival, income, and open jobs.
  2. In a traditional sense, the majority of the conferences are built on the premise of being networking events. The ecosystem comprises of a bombardment of a huge dataset in a short timeframe. < 10% of participants earn a business deal, job, or future assignment or get their queries answered. Online Conferencing, followed suit. Technology intercepted the opportunity correctly. The participants became presentable as it grew from Day 0 to Day 45. What remained missing were the key messages that the audiences could carry.
  3. An over-dependency on similar experiences and similar profiles. There is a failed objective here because the experience may or may not have had a background in rebooting a business or facing major business or operational threat. So to create an equal ratio of Time vs. Learning, we are quite far from this goal.
  4. In a cross-pollinated conversation that can create friction through the intersection of diverse minds discussing the same topic, the outcome is solution-oriented and the narration far more real. Some topics demonstrated it. It comes out clear that the entertainment business, within that the Music business, needs to learn a lot from Education, Fintech, Future Tech, and Startup ecosystems. ‘Learners Curve’ is an insightful inflection point.
  5. Fixation with numbers on packed slots makes no relevant messaging or an attractive proposition to the audiences. It is evident that in emerging markets like India, we follow a herd mentality. Recounting my own experience, swelling conference requests mounted to 50 in the early part of June with a single-day high of 15. They comprised of = 60% similar messaging themes, 70% repeated the same tonality. How does one expect the learner to learn when the educators and enablers are not judicious with messaging itself? Many in the creative community continue to struggle with this.
  6. Many narratives missed on the relevant audiences. Audience fatigue is a significant negative for online stories when there is an abundance of live interactive conversations. Topics prioritization by the spectators, peak traffic in a discussion outline learnings. >40% especially the artists and first-time entrepreneurs, did not visit a similar discussion topic.
  7. Approximately, 3% of the discussions went on to publish keynotes and outcomes of the talks. >90% just republished the complete recordings, without a cutdown or more exceptional themes. Cutdown to key messages is an essential outcome that can be shared deep & wide.
  8. Collectively everyone felt that post-event analysis reports should be made compulsory for all online conferences. Such a mechanism is followed by all structured businesses, even in the analog structure. In terms of Gap Analysis, there were teething issues to realign with the tech-enabled environment and, perhaps, lack of preparedness. Thereby, a missed opportunity to build viewer loyalty in the first instance.
  9. 3T’s — Time, Trust, and Transparency. Value retention of the goals here is necessary for engaging online audiences. Not only it shows respect it also acts as a value creation objective. People, who come with a preconceived agenda, steering narrations to the topic of their own choice, beats the straightforward purpose of Fair Play, Equality, and Unbiased Approach, thereby, Transparency. The general sentiment of a learner is based on trust and diligence. Like, the criteria of how the Council or Board and Advisors are selected — Relationships, Experience, Clout, Credibility, Achievements, Merit, or Genuine Effort? In this unprecedented time, we are witnessing discussions that demand consumer choice, vote, and participation too. Solving queries like, Time is no longer a Commodity. Trust is not a Variable, and Transparency is necessary for Social Change.
  10. The democratization of real, honest, trustworthy narratives found curious audiences. Such transparency aligns with the shift in thinking of our societies, technology at hand, and the currency in use. In parallel, we are witnessing a shift from centralized to decentralized systems. 4 segments of conversations spotlighted it too: Branded Events, Academic Institution Discussions, Master Class Module, and Linear Focused Topics. 3:1 (90%) of learners become intelligent in smaller groups and 1:1’s. 10% get audiences aligned to the branded events wrt to learning as an output. They feel such narratives and curations comprise of a prior agenda of the narrators, hence, it has little to offer for learners and their general human growth. Listening to the 4 segments, plus, additional content, it is evident that just replicating traditional models into the digital sphere can never create great business models or businesses. The peak of 500 concurrent users x an Hour, had a swinging majority towards - smart-insightful content. Meaning, the audiences are far more intelligent and receptive to change, than the promoters thinking and curation.
Illustration by Vivek Paul (www.gatsvy.com)

It was interesting to see how crowdsourcing and collaborations of ideas were becoming — curators and audiences inclusive. Such initiatives should apply to the Board, Advisors, and Think-tank as well. For a fair, transparent, and broader view, the advisories should be on a rotational chair year on year. Tough ask, or perhaps it is early for such thinking to crop in Conference’s Management. But, to take a position of being an industry-wide voice, it defeats the purpose when openness and inclusiveness are not demonstrated right at the top. As the internet comes more in use and data become more transparent, it is natural that the factor of control will be questioned for authenticity and intent.

The audiences deserve it, they sign up for a broader view, not for a collective unified view of a few.

Few, discussions that caught the attention and were thought-provoking, different, and refreshing for the emerging talent to learn from:

  • Jasper Donut’s Friday Conversations. A true FRI-YAY!
  • IPRMENTLAW Roundtable on, Changes Needed in the Copyright Act of India
  • COVID-19 Report by Berklee Global Society brings focus on the aspects the entertainment industry can possibly consider
  • eCorner, Stanford’s Speaker Series
  • Mark Mulligan’s Webinar on ‘What Comes After Lockdown’
  • Rafael Perreira conversed with Yuri Dokter and Christina Löwenström, on The Future Media Tech in Music (Blockchain, MRT, PRO’s and Setlists)
  • Unique discussions like Lydia Buthello and Shaju Ignatius

Living with Covid-19

Pandemic has given rise to new survival instincts of the creative artists and early-stage entrepreneurs. The survival kit comes from deep introspections done in the lockdown period. Crossing the 30th Day of Lockdown and going beyond is viewed by many creatively engaged professionals as a “Critical Period of Survival”.

Many conversations bring attention to a ‘Hard Stop Date’ and its importance in the process of introspection and self-realization goals. The initial 30 days were driven by a notion of taking a break, soon this will be over kind of thing. However, as the lockdown periods started extending >D30, blocking human movements, social distancing, facemasks, disinfection etc., it became evident that the Times have Changed, Life is moving towards a New Kind of Normal.

While the broader media talked about many social evils, radical changes, erosion of businesses, dropping revenues, realignments, lack of options, and so on, Early Adopters and Early Majority stood out as gig segments. Understanding them is critical, as it sets the tone for any form of public opinion or a unified voice. This segment also has a healthy outlook for Mentorship. The artists do look up to unique experiences that can help in shaping their thinking, validate them for vulnerabilities, and guide them towards a reality check.

Staying Alive and Living with Covid-19 is a reconciled thought in >75% of the conversations. Followed by Survival and Empathy.

Mental Health, yet again, has become a big discussion topic opening a new chapter on the protection of humans, human rights & human dignity in the entertainment industry. As the conversations have erupted, so has the demand for a call to action, questioning the ecosystem, which leans towards the Top 5% workforce, primarily the corporation jobs’ ecosystem.

The other 95% workforce operates in freelance and assignment-based structure. They are driven by daily, monthly, and quarterly cash flows with financial liquidity ~90 days. The stated turbulence has started to open new avenues to bring unilateral thought process that can help in addressing such pressing matters.

Two big questions take center stage — Are Humans Safe? How to build safe & secure business environments where creativity and equality flourishes?

Many entrepreneurs have started to create exciting products, designed to keep a check on safety, evolving businesses, and building new lines of revenues — a real space for real innovation.

The story of Warren Dsouza and ISO SHIELD is very inspiring. From being a conventional Sound Design Company for Live Concerts (http://www.online-sound.com/), he has moved to make products addressing Social Distancing. This is a true sign of a true entrepreneur.

ISOSHIELD Project by Warren D’souza


The center of all aspects of humanity, their creativity, skills, and responsibilities.

While the search for the next business model is still in motion, we do have clarity on the division of business structures: the Corporations and the Independents. At one level, the corporations are struggling for their own survival and scaling up issues. On the other hand, Independents are not shying away from trying to innovate.

We are aware that there is a new creative industry’s ecosystem in the making. The creators, therefore, need to pin their hopes and where would they do so. Perhaps, they will align with the quickest and robust part of the value chain. It is quite evident that the power is once again shifting towards direct between an Artist-Fan or a Creator-Consumer relationship.

To protect their own creativity, principles, and value systems, the creator (first source of creativity), is left with limited options. In times of rapid transformation, they have to introspect, defend, and innovate to address their own vulnerabilities. The majority of creative professionals are skillful wage earners and get engaged on a work for hire basis. Radical changes in the business are making the artist engage with their fans and a preferred business model of direct fan-funding is becoming a new focus area.

Unlike other natural calamities, COVID-19 is different. Its differentiation lies in challenging every aspect of life we knew prior to the hard stop date. The very fact that we are witnessing a global meltdown and restart, with very little in precedents, warrants a rethink.

>70% of the conversations highlighted that controlling their own destiny is essential. Soon the role of intermediaries will be reviewed as the Artists become more aware, wise, and intelligent.

Illustration by Vivek Paul (www.gatsvy.com)

Accelerating towards a New Playground

Technology will play a significant role in defining the future of creative industries. COVID-19 is not limited to the way the businesses — create, store, or transact. Acceleration to the adoption of the next level, be it 5G, Blockchain, VR, AI, and/or Robotics seems evident. The critical aspect, however, is mass adoption. One such case is of Zoom’s overnight success.

There is a large role of automation and Robotics as we are moving towards a hybrid human to human engagement structure, considering Social Distancing will remain in effect. Most creative artists, especially musicians in studios, digitizers, and critical functions like finance, legal, administration, now highlight a big concern for assets management and account keeping.

The lockdown created a dual work environment with #WFH (Work From Home). What became critical was the management of paperwork and bookkeeping, further referencing, and maintaining material proof. Work from home, home studios, online education are some of the new normals.

While Royalties allocations, tax filing, invoicing, and payments have been racing towards digital systems. Analog tasks requiring human interference, audit, judgments, etc. need permanent fixtures. Blockchain, Fingerprinting, and Holograms are interesting and essentials from this point onwards. They eliminate the need for excessive paperwork and allow fair trade practices in the most authentic way using the internet and encryption systems.

ZEPTAGRAM — Revolutionising the Music Industry


BEATDAPP — Bridging the streaming music gap

Outlook 2025

We created a SWOT analysis (illustration below) from various inputs that came from multiple conversations. The critical point is financial stability, low or negligible income periods, and carried forward impacts. The independents can make quick adjustments or realign their financial goals based on inputs presented below.

Illustration by Vivek Paul (www.gatsvy.com)

Fearless — Walk Alone! Tribute to Mental Health

By, Vivek Paul in collaboration with Rafael Perreira and Dr. Ankit Chugh

  • The views of the author and collaborators are personal. This resource is created to invoke constructive thinking in the segment of Independents
  • The data insights are from individual experiences during the COVID-19 lockdown period

Thank you for stopping by here and spending time with our thoughts! Stay Safe and Blessed.