“With blogs and social media, each individual has the power to get his voice heard,” says Hamad Dar, who launched music site koolmuzone.pk in 2004. The Pakistani music industry was slowly deteriorating in the late 1990s and early 2000s, until an unlikely set of music bloggers like Dar — who was just 14 at that time — came to the rescue and revolutionised the way local music was being promoted.
Dar and his team set up the site without any help. But once the website proved its credibility, new as well as seasoned musicians approached them to upload their music. Koolmuzone’s first big scoop was revealing “Coke Studio” season 2’s line-up before the official press conference. After being online for eight years now, the website gets around 350,000 to 400,000 hits per month.
“Social media is like word-of-mouth on steroids. This is the best form of media yet,” Dar says. “Musicians don’t even need to network in the fraternity now. All they need to do is come up with a product and upload it on a public forum and wait for the response.” Dar explains that social media gives budding musicians higher chances of going “viral” and bagging concerts and album contracts without spending much on self-promotion. He highlights the like of the Cheapmunks, Beygairat Brigade and latest internet sensation, comedian Ali Gul Pir, who got a deluge of offers after their work received raving response on Facebook, YouTube and Twitter.
Creator of pakent.net, 18-year-old Haider Jamil has also made a splash. Jamil, whose aim is to provide underground artists maximum exposure, says there are two groups in the industry: artists who support blogs and online media and those who don’t. “Musicians such as Atif Aslam don’t like blogs, whereas Ali Zafar goes out of his way to promote music on blogs,” says Jamil. “SYMT’s Haroon Shahid gave an interview to our blog, which shows the prominence of music related blogs.” Pakent has an average of 200,000 to 300,000 hits per month.
Many music portals have to deal with profitability and copyright issues. Jamil explains that websites are dependent on revenues that come in through advertisements, which are, despite high site traffic, extremely low. This affects the cash flow and eventually the morale of the site creator.
He adds that record companies such as Fire Records have started accusing blogs of piracy. According to Jamil, he got his hands on the unreleased soundtrack of Bol but due to the fear of copyright violation he did not release it. He adds that in order to avoid copyright problem, the administration waits till the artists send in the content themselves.
Do these forums help?
“You don’t need a middle man,” comedian Ali Gul Pir tells The Express Tribune. “All you need is a YouTube channel and a camera, and you have a music video.” Pir explains that for his song, he did not publicise it on a music portal but let Facebook virality do its magic. “Thanks to Facebook shares, I have been approached by news channels who want to buy my song,” says Pir, adding that he is not accepting any offers at the moment.
Dar disagrees. “I have been handling marketing for many bands, and virality is a natural process if the product is good, but what the blogs provide is an initial push giving the video or song a couple of thousand views that can help it develop momentum,” he says.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 26th, 2012.