Vydia’s Sr. Director of Royalties, Purvi Shah, sat down with fellow music industry professionals, James A. Mathew, Co-Founder of South Asian record label Outer Voice Records, STIKMATIK, Artist and Mentor from the UK, and Sandun Nissanka, CEO of Bonfire to speak on the future of South Asian Music. 


Q:  South Asian music is created and consumed globally, not just in that specific region. How do you navigate this segmentation, yet global perspective?


James – Our connections to playlisters, live venues, and press outlets are stronger closer to our home. So we’ve looked to expand our reach to join forces with people who have their footing in other areas so we can support each other and get visibility for each others’ artists. So it is definitely segmented and we found that collaborations can bridge that gap. 


Stikmatik – Being from the UK, I have found that the industry works differently, especially the DSPs in Europe – they don’t really understand the market as much. It is totally different in Toronto, in New York, and where everyone is from, so we have found that working with the DSPs and informing them on the changes and how we are able to reach fans outside of the UK has been important. 


Sandun –  When we talk about South Asian Music, the first country that comes up is India. But we want to focus away from India – although it has a huge music scene, it overshadows the rest of the countries. At Bonfire, we want to get Sri Lankan creators to collaborate with Bangladesh artists and Pakistani artists so we can get the numbers up. We work closely with Spotify but we want to work with other DSPs as well and show them those numbers. 


Purvi – That’s a great point you made that India overshadows these other regions. In my childhood, individual creators were not what we were listening to – it was Bollywood music and soundtracks for films. Which is why India was at the forefront. Now individual creators can come from anywhere.


Q: The South Asian Music market is continuing to grow rapidly – where do you see the market in 5 or even 10 years? 


Sandun – Since music is more digitalized now, we are kind of struggling to find ways to monetize. So I think in 5 to 10 years there will be more infrastructure and companies similar to us that get more people involved with music and show them the way to market music. 


STIKMATIK  – Like Sandun said in terms of digitalization, a lot of music is digitally made, so a lot of collaborations can be done.  So in 5 to 10 years, we will have a perfect blend of South Asian music working in the Western space. It is great that we are able to get collaborators together – A bit like how we are seeing Latin music and African music. 


James – From an American lens, I think what we are seeing is the development of a scene for South Asian American artists. I think about a festival that happened this past summer in Brooklyn, “Masala Mixtape”, and other events that are catered to this growing scene and audience. That is where we are headed as a company – we are getting into smaller and larger scale events to cultivate this audience. We also see it in TV and film – a few weeks ago, 3 of the top 10 on Netflix were South Asian storytelling films. So in 5 to 10 years, it would be cool to see the music follow that path. 



Q: What changes would you like to see within the music industry to better highlight and support South Asian artists?


James – Pushing a lot of these brands and music companies, specifically DSPs, to feature these artists and find more visibility opportunities. There is a general lack of awareness at large, not just music, but the identity and the cultural narrative. I think we are one of the fastest growing demographics right now, and I think there is a natural awareness that will build. But intentionally, I think it is a more South Asian-oriented playlists for visibility, covers on the editorial playlists, and getting press beyond our outlets to check in on what we are doing. It’s definitely a process and a long fight for attention, but we will continue to push in on some of those areas.


STIKMATIK – I think for me, it is the infrastructure of the industry. We are catering for the next generation of South Asian creators and our culture is rooted in everything around us, from creativity to fashion and food, and it is great to see festivals popping up that are South Asian- focused. That is a great way for us to keep showcasing the growth of our talent. But it is also going to be great to introduce the world to be more open and so I think the infrastructure has to change as well.  


Sandun – I feel like we need to start building infrastructures like distribution and artist management. Especially for me, working on the distribution side, these artists have to know things like how to schedule a song. So that’s why we are trying to bring education to artists and we are starting to build these infrastructures so we can move forward and onto the next level.


Purvi – I love that answer because Bonfire and Outer Voice both come from the label side where you can give that support to artists. Collaborating is what’s going to make artists achieve their fullest potential. There is the education side – understanding the business and what needs to be done – and getting that matched with the creative talent, and having the tools to do so. 


Full interview here.