By Hardik Vaidya

Yeh Corona! – For Artists from Events & Experiential Industry Leaders

Our planet is in the midst of a true Black Swan moment. Lebanese-American essayist Nassim Nicolas Taleb explains the Black Swan Theory as follows “What we call here a Black Swan (and capitalize it) is an event with the following three attributes.

First, it is an outlier, as it lies outside the realm of regular expectations, because nothing in the past can convincingly point to its possibility. Second, it carries an extreme impact. Third, in spite of its outlier status, human nature makes us concoct explanations for its occurrence after the fact, making it explainable and predictable. I stop and summarize the triplet: rarity, extreme impact, and retrospective (though not prospective) predictability.”

Covid-19 is one such event. It has wreaked havoc in the global events and experiential space. An estimated $1 trillion sector is at massive risk. Closer home, as per the reports by India’s Event and Entertainment Management Association (EEMA), the industry is impacted to the tune of INR 3000 Cr and 10 million jobs are at risk.

One of the casualties of this space, are live and experiential artists – anchors, singers, stand-up comedians, musicians, DJs, and more. As a live events anchor myself, I helplessly saw my shows getting postponed and cancelled one after the other. Inquiries stopped coming in and it just spiraled into an acute situation.

This sector, is all about face to face; and that is exactly the one thing we can’t do at the moment.

If you are a full-time artist in the industry, this article is for you.

Hear multiple perspectives from industry veterans and millennial leaders on how to navigate this unprecedented period.

Reema Sanghvi – Founder, Maximus Events & PINKATHON:

“For artists, this is such a huge opportunity, a golden time to explore who they are. You artists, are influencers in your own right. We are buyers of talent, and we currently have the time to look at our phones. Now is the time to be visible, reinvent yourself and create interesting content for everybody. As people have relatively more free time on their hands, they are consuming a lot of material. Digital media is definitely the way to go! TikTok, Youtube, use whatever platform you have at your disposal to create material. Such situations, teach us business continuity plans. At Maximus, we are using this time to innovate and are ready to go live with unique digital events. Use this downtime smartly. All the major event planners have gotten together to explore strategies and recommendations to sail through this extremely tough period. We have consulted the government and suggested various relief measures to support the industry.”

Aditya Mehra – Founder-Director, Seventy Seven Entertainment (7ty7):

“The only thing that you can do in these current times is purely online. If an artist can come up with creative ideas, that will be the best thing at the moment. While these times are definitely tough for the entire industry, I really believe this is also a golden time for us to rethink things in life. It is a great opportunity for all of us. I see this as a correction, although not the way we would’ve ever imagined. But, the only way we are going to survive this phase, is by staying together and thinking as one. We need to think of each other and take care. Our industry is always starving to spend time with families, and the current situation needs to be looked as a blessing in disguise.

As a business ourselves, we are trying to do SWOT analysis of our employees and reskill our talent. Lots of brainstorming is happening currently, so as to jump back instantly when the markets are ready. EEMA is clear that retaining our employee interests will be a priority. When markets normalize, I’m absolutely optimistic, we’ll be back with a boom.”

Nataraj Khanna – Director & CEO, QED Communications:

“The fact of the matter is, nobody has any idea of when will all this end. To me, it all looks a little speculative, as we do not have definitive answers for India, at the moment. This phase is actually a reimagining of business; a chance to question what we have defined events as a business, for so long. But, some things will remains constant.  People need entertainment; people ‘need’ communication. Can we re-imagine, bringing that ‘need’ to people sitting at home?

For instance, we do a virtual conference for a client. The emcee will don the role of a newscaster; all the marketing heads & CEOs will be tuned into the ‘event’ from their terminals at home. Then there is an entertainment act specifically designed for the online attendees. The consumption not be physical, but virtual. Now all this, seems far-fetched. This is not happening in the next two months. But, this will require an entire mindset change. Consumption drives consumption.

The opportunities that are going to be explored in the future, need and have to be virtual in nature. For instance, if you are a musician, makeup artist or an emcee, can you provide your services digitally? When I have time now, and I’ve always wanted to learn the Guitar, why won’t or shouldn’t I enroll online for such a class that provides me a good experience?

We’ve always looked at meetings as in-person. Whether agency meeting with client, or agency meeting with artist, we’ve always looked at physical spaces. For artists, this equally means how they are reimagining their professions and connecting with people. My sense is Q3 & Q4, is when the markets will normalize.

It is a good time to be discovered, but needs to be done in an interesting way. If you share your showreel and stuff, people won’t be responding to those kind of emails. If there is something unique, something interesting, for instance, Tik Tok, if there is something suddenly very funny or a diverse talent, we’ll talk and share it within our office network to keep an eye out for collaborations in the future.

Look at All India Bakchod (AIB), when they formed and got together, people were devouring their content. Everybody wanted to check everything that came from them. A big thing going forward will be a ‘Collective’; banding together. I don’t think standalone talent will be able to manage such situations. If people come together as a collective, and build on each other’s strengths, there will be consumers of content. Whether it will monetize, will be seen over time, but becoming visible will be a very good possibility.”

Abhishek Mazumdar – CEO & Founder, The Think Tank Entertainment (TTTE):

“I honestly think, during such times, we have got to explore whether there are other revenue opportunities for each other. I for instance, run an advertising agency as well. Even though, I may not have the high revenue capacity of what events can give me currently, advertising is still rowing my boat. Building a new skillset will be helpful.”

I urge you to share this article with your artist friends and colleagues. I’ll leave you with Freddie Mercury’s lyrics from the song – The Show Must Go On

“My soul is painted like the wings of butterflies
Fairy tales of yesterday, grow but never die
I can fly, my friends

The show must go on
The show must go on”

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