HYDERABAD: Times have changed. Gone are the days when music in Pakistan can reach its peak, such as that of 2002, without being unique. Promoting music today has to be reconfigured for an era where the audience has mobile phones which have shrunk their attention spans and they now do not view content beyond a short video.
Patari's Khalid Bajwa and Ahmer Naqvi shared lessons in a session on 'Marketing Music in a Digital Era' on the second day of the Lahooti Melo in Hyderabad.
Patari, a website and application for Pakistan music, was launched in 2015 and has managed to stir the people of Pakistan's interest in authentic sounds from musicians working on promoting music of different cultures of the country.
Talking about popular artists SomeWhatSuper and Abid Brohi, who were launched by Patari, Bajwa explained how when they started work on Patari in 2015, everyone told them music in Pakistan wasn't working anymore and that people aren't listening or responding to it.
That was the challenge Patari set out to solve.
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"The first big thing we did at that time was Noori's album. Noori [came out with] their album after 10 years. And when we met them, we realised how big the problem was because at the time, even a band that big did not know how to go about their digital marketing," shared Bajwa.
We pushed Noori to go digital, he recalled, saying that they thought a voice could be created for music through the press. If you can get the press excited, maybe the people would pay attention, they thought.
But that was only partly true. They soon realised that newspaper readership or circulation was no longer as widespread as it once was.
"The impact of an article would quickly fade out," Bajwa said. "Not only did we realise that people weren't listening to music, but it wasn't being made either. So we made a platform under the name of Aslis.
The break out song of the album, 'Do Hi Raastay Hain' by Mehdi Maloof, was a song people connected to," he continued. "It wasn't what you'd get to hear in Coke Studio. That's the point where Patari understood content is the game changer," Bajwa said, adding that they knew they needed to create content that had shock value.
"For most people, Pakistani music is what Coke Studio or Cornetto Pop Rock tells them it is. But it's more than that," he said. "I think one of the biggest things we thought of was that you're not just promoting a song, you're promoting a story," Naqvi pointed out, playing Brohi's claim to fame — Sibbi Song — for the audience.
He believed that a better story had not been heard in Pakistani music for the past five or six years. And he was right. As the room full of people swayed, clapped and lipsynced along with the Sibbi Song, Bajwa exclaimed that the song has become an anthem.
"You're in an era where you put out great music and it doesn't work out, but a song like Taher Shah's 'Eye to Eye' works instantly. So how do you solve that?" he asked.
"Talk doesn't go beyond the country's three main cities in Pakistani media. When you listen to music, it's coming from a select elite of society. Where is the representation for the rest of the country?" questioned Naqvi.
"If you're able to take out a story from all the noise of the internet that people are viewing all day, that's okay. And there is no shortage of stories among Pakistanis," he said.
"I used to have a workshop on creative copies and what the text would be. I wrote a copy that focused on the blood in Lyari and I remember Naqvi said, no let's not talk about that. People know about that, he had said, encouraging me to change the narrative," Bajwa said sharing the story behind a Balochi rap song, 'Players of Lyari', featuring Lyari Underground.
Lyari is an area that produced boxers, footballers and great music. That became the narrative.
"It was amazing to see the media pick up that positive narrative about Lyari after this song. This is the power of telling a story. You can change a decades-old understanding of an entire area," Naqvi said.
Giving another tip, he said you have to do something new every time.
"Using tried and tested techniques of marketing is a mistake and it's unfortunately the trend in Pakistan," he said.
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The Patari mindset was create a website and people will listen to music. But the equation has changed. It is critical to include the youth of Pakistan and people of other cities and cultures in music, Naqvi stressed.
"We have 70 languages [in Pakistan]. There's so much diversity and history. How can it be that our music is stuck between 5% of this group? You have to break out and it will," he said, convinced of the progress Pakistani music would make.
"When any international giant comes into a market, it is necessary for that market to have a certain level of maturity and if you turn on the radio in Pakistan, it's all illegal because they don't pay royalties," Naqvi said.
We have a long way to go before the industry matures, he concluded.
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