No support for artists?

I have been talking about this for quite some time now. There is absolutely no support infrastructure for budding artists and companies. If an artist wants to put up a show, the biggest challenge they face is to gather an audience. They can somehow manage to find a space to rehearse, other artists to collaborate with and look after other logistics. But what does one do when it comes to attracting audiences who would be interested in consuming their art? There is of course the most obvious issue – the social one. We in India, simply don’t have a culture where audiences are interested in paying for art (of any kind) Our mindset is still stuck at… arts mein kya rakha hai. Engineering karo. Mind you, there is a huge difference between arts and entertainment. Unfortunately in our country the two are always used interchangeably. We simply do not think that dance, theatre and/or any kind of performing arts is worthy of our money. We would rather pay to watch Bigg Boss on television.

It will take a lot of time for this kind of mentality to change. It requires a revolution. Some people are constantly making efforts to change it, and will continue to do so. However there are certain other issues too that contribute to the lack of development or betterment of our Industry – one of them being lack of support from the corporate sector. A platform like BookMyShow, that holds monopoly over ticketing, offers absolutely no support to small outfits who are trying to organize events independently. We recently organized our event, and decided to tie up with BMS for ticketing because of their huge market. Obviously, we agreed to their terms in regard to the commission. But it doesn’t end there. They also charge a “convenience fee” or “Internet handling” fee which is to be paid by the end user during the booking process. Basically, they earn revenue from the organizer as well as the customer. Now, as per the information released by RBI (thanks to an RTI filed by Vijay Gopal), this internet handling fees is, infact, not legal (falls in the grey areas) and is in violation of MDR regulations. This charge needs to be paid by the merchant to the bank, and not the user (Trust me, as a business we pay it too) but organizations like BookMyShow make the users pay it.

This aside, we also wanted to do some extra marketing in collaboration with them – for which they said their minimum package was for Rs. 25,000 – in which they would merely promote a facebook post and it would run until the budget exhausts. No featured posts. No mention in the newsletter. I respectfully declined because, quite frankly, we just didn’t have the money and running a promotional campaign on facebook is something we could have done ourselves too.

Basically, (a) their additional charges are a deterrent for audiences to come watch live shows, (b) organizers think a hundred times before buying their promotional packages because they’re so damn expensive and (c) organizers also have to pay them a share of the ticket sales revenue as commission. Oh, and if its a free event, you have to pay them a fixed amount per seat because they don’t host events for free on their website.

All in all, not a very good deal for smaller outfits. Profit to door ki baat hai, aise toh costs bhi cover nahi hongi. And absolutely NO guarantee that a minimum number of tickets will definitely be sold. You could do all this and still be performing in an empty auditorium.

Other big corporate houses do have CSR, but they only offer their schemes to NGOs or companies, not to individuals. Its very difficult then, as an individual, to get any kind of support from these organizations for any venture. So many artists in our country are suffering everyday, working for a measly amount of Rs. 1200 for a 12-hour shoot. They end up scrounging for work in places they don’t want to – wedding choreographies, corporate events, school events, ad shoots etc. Some of these dancers are extremely well-trained and have invested years in their training. Yet, they end up struggling for a very long time.

What we need is a massive overhaul in the overall social outlook and corporate social responsibility. We need more support from the government and society as a whole to flourish. Performing arts is in India’s fabric, let’s not let it die.

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