An accomplished sound engineer with years of experience behind him, Nitin Chandy has worked with industry bigwigs such as AR Rahman, Ilaiyaraaja, Howie B, Sivamani, and Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy. He’s also been the man behind the success of erstwhile live performance venue, Blue Frog, besides creating jingles for more than 2,000 brands. And now, in a bid to give back, he has launched True School Of Music in Mumbai.
In an interview with IndiBeat, Nitin Chandy talks about the music scene in India and shares tips for young, aspiring musicians.
IB: What drove you to launch True School of Music?
NC: Having spent time in the music industry, pursuing both, the studio and the live (Blue Frog) side of it, I realised that we are a country with a lot of potential but with very little direction. When I worked with Blue Frog as their CTO, I remember how people enjoyed good local music and it gave rise to some very popular acts like The Other People and Spud in the Box. However, a majority of them just disappeared into the horizon and I’d constantly wonder why. Then it struck me that it could have been due to lack of musical vocabulary. If you wanted to pursue music other than Indian classical, there were sadly no avenues to learn.
We had and still have, only a handful of serious music schools. For others who could afford it, there were overseas options like Berklee, Musicians Institute, and Dubspot. Some others had to resort to private tutors, mentors, musician friends or even the Internet. I felt that in a nation of 1.2 billion people, there was almost nothing available locally. That’s why we set up a music school, where aspiring musicians could gain knowledge in areas of performance, production, sound engineering, and music business.
IB: Tell us how you started off in music. What problems did you face as a novice back in the day, and how are they different today?
NC: I was always passionate about music. I used to perform as a young boy in competitions conducted at school and ended up winning a few. I came from a family that thoroughly enjoyed music and was exposed to great repertoire growing up. My family had state-of-the-art audio equipment, which I mastered at very young age. I was making mix tapes and CDs in my early teens and started Dj-ing by the age of 15.
By the time I was in college I developed an evolved sense of music and sound as a result of my early exposure. The biggest problem was that I had very average teachers and hence regrettably didn’t get into the theoretical side of music, which I now feel, could have helped me with my career options.
I don’t believe the situation has changed much for kids today, which is actually quite sad. Music needs to be encouraged more in schools.
IB: In India, music is an unstable career option. Do you agree?
NC: I wouldn’t actually agree. I think there’s a lot of ignorance out there with regards to the kind of opportunities available in the music industry. People generally associate success in the music industry as someone being a celebrated rockstar or a playback singer, but there are so many other roles people can fulfill— sound engineers, arrangers, songwriters, sessions players, live musicians, artist managers, music curators, music tutors, radio promo producers, the list can go on. People should no longer look upon the music industry as something that is hard to break into.
IB: How, in your opinion, has the music scene evolved in India over the past decade or two?
NC: Much like the rest of the world, the music scene in India has had to reinvent itself in the last 20 years. Till around 15 years ago, Bollywood, Devotional and Indian Classical music were probably the only genres worth categorizing as the Indian Music Industry. But slowly and steadily this has been changing for the better.
With the advent of online peer-to- peer services like Napster and uTorrent, piracy crashed the age-old model of royalty from record sales. Record companies and artists had to reinvent themselves and look at other innovative ways of earning revenue, such as live gigs. In India, this trend caught on a few years back, around 2008 or 2009. The live music scene started growing and companies like Blue Frog and OML, and Music festivals like NH7 and Sunburn played a huge part in shaping the future of independent music in the country.
Music in India today has become a serious business with huge potential of growth. India being a much younger market compared to the West, has far more opportunities for young entrepreneurs, musicians or musicpreneurs (a combination of both), to carve a piece of the pie for themselves.
IB: What advice would you give to those aspiring to make it big on the commercial music scene?
NC: My advice to young aspirants would be to seek out knowledge and excellence. The world has become a much smaller place thanks to the Internet and commercial trade between borders. It is no longer just enough to be the best in the country but be the best in the world, because what you put out there is now consumed all around the globe.
Being a world-class musician requires investment of time, study and practice—there are no shortcuts to this. It is scientifically proven that if you need to be good at anything, you need to invest ten thousand hours in that craft, whatever the craft might be. Music is like a language: the more time you spend mastering it, the more you can express yourself to your audiences.