Why Indian Classical Musicians Don’t Take Up Music As Their Only Profession

Posted on July 3, 2013 in Culture-Vulture

By Lata Jha:

Yes, they are committed to their art more than anything else. A musician lives for the magic and power of the melody. It is, to not exaggerate, the oxygen to his soul. But life needs to be lived with its harsh realities. And as the dictum would have it, a musician cannot survive on either the love for his music or fresh air and sunshine.

By the third year of his engineering course at the West Bengal University of Technology, Debanjan Bhattacharya had won the regional music competition organised by the Dover Lane Music Conference in Kolkata, had topped the national competition organised by All India Radio and had become an empanelled artiste with the Indian Council for Cultural Relations. Yet, at the end of his course, he did not find the confidence to take up music as his sole vocation; the practical prospects were too daunting.

classical music

Debanjan puts it simply. He believes that it is incredibly arduous to make a living as a classical musician in India. And that is perhaps the sole reason that compels young talent to consider alternate career options and not take up music as their only profession.

As it has always been, the greatest sources of income for classical musicians continue to be live performances. In such a scenario, it is saddening that one of the most reputed festival organisers in Kolkata is known to regularly ask young aspirants to collect advertisements worth at least Rs. 70,000 in exchange for a spot in the line-up. The same organisation holds smaller recitals exclusively for upcoming artistes and the only remuneration it offers is the taxi fare; a demand of Rs. 5,000 for a recital by even the brightest of young musicians is often considered audacious, whereas a regular DJ probably earns three times that amount. Most organisers capitalise on the fact that these young artistes are hungry for any opportunity and would take up whatever comes their way.

Organisers have their own side to the story. They claim they are helpless as sponsorship is not easy to come by. They instead try to give young artistes a platform to perform so that they can reach a stage where their names will attract sponsors. Corporate houses are now mostly interested in sponsoring fusion concerts that draw larger crowds. And even when they agree to sponsor classical concerts, it is only when one of the four or five really big names is performing.

Given such heartbreaking statistics, it is not surprising that most young music talent in the country finds it difficult to pursue its dreams. Playback singing is not everybody’s cup of tea, and classical music finds few takers. Should then this vast incredible talent make peace with going unrecognized?

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