Everyone in the music industry is well aware of Tej Brar and his particular brand of brilliance. Most popular for having a hand in making Nucleya the superstar that he is today, Tej has been making waves in the industry, especially with his newly launched company Third Culture. We caught up with him to talk extensively about all things career and industry!
GVO: Being an integral part of OML, you created quite a buzz when you left. What was the reason for parting ways?
Tej: By the time I left I had been there for 4 years, OML was going through some internal changes on how they wanted to approach music management. Given the timing it felt like it was the appropriate moment to leave and explore what other opportunities were out there. I travelled for about three months over the summer and explored work opportunities in the US, Australia, and New Zealand but ultimately decided I wanted to come back to India and work here. That experience really changed the way I looked at our industry here. The feedback I got from literally every person I spoke to was that the entertainment industry in India as a whole (not just music) is on the cusp of massive growth. Every large scale entertainment company in the world is looking at India right now and trying to figure out how to get in. India, particularly working in entertainment, is precisely the right place to be right now and I feel really excited about the prospects of where we are going in the coming years.
GVO: Any international tie-ups in the works?
Tej: Yes, we are currently looking at this on two levels. The first is international artists both Nucleya and BLOT can collaborate with as well as labels to release on. Secondly, we are in talks with some international properties in the hip-hop space to see if it makes sense for us to partner with them and introduce them to the Indian market.
GVO: How is your relationship with OML now?
Tej: It’s really great. Vijay has been an incredible mentor to me over the years and I learnt an incredible amount during the years I spent at OML. I’m still really close to a bunch of my old colleagues at OML and we speak almost daily. OML will continue to represent Nucleya for brand and content deals while I will be responsible for all bookings and management. This solution allows Nucleya to have the best of both worlds, where he has OML and Third Culture on his team and we are all playing to our strengths.
GVO: Tell us more about Third Culture. How is it going to be different from the already established companies?
Tej: The idea behind Third Culture is that we really want to be the go to management company for independent artists who are at the top of their game. There is a false belief among artists in India that there is this glass ceiling that you cannot push past. What I mean by that is that a lot of really massively successful independent artists in India believe that they can only charge x amount for a show or to create a track and that if they push beyond that then they become unaffordable. Or that they have to keep touring and playing the same 10-15 venues they have been playing for the last 5+ years on repeat. Or for example that there are no opportunities abroad for them and that their music won’t be viable abroad. All of those are misconceptions. We aspire to be the company that really shows what proper management can do to an artists career and how that differs from just being a booking agency. Further, I feel the bookings and artist management space in India is extremely cluttered and over-saturated right now so we don’t want to get into that rat race. We know what artists we want to work with and how we are going to work with them and those artists can demand a premium in the market.
GVO: What artists are you representing under your new management?
Tej: We currently have Nucleya and BLOT on board. Like I mentioned above, we are not looking at having a very wide roster of artists but rather managing a few of the apex artists in a number of different sounds. We will be expanding our artist roster very carefully and meticulously over the coming years. We are in no rush whatsoever. Proper management means having the clarity of vision for what each artist needs and taking the time, energy, and resources to do whatever you can to help execute their vision. It’s going to take a massive amount of work for each artist and we are happy to do that, rather than going out there and just signing every act we can and charging 15% commission on bookings.
GVO: According to you, who are some of the most promising acts in the Indian indie scene right now?
Tej: I think Sohrab Nicholson is the single most talented indie songwriter and singer in India right now. His talent is just unbelievable and oozes out of him from the second you meet him. Sid Vashi is another incredible talent who I believe has huge crossover potential to connect the Indian and international markets. Divine is someone who I have championed from day one and will continue to do so, just because I really believe in his talent and skill as an MC. Bands wise, Skrat are at the very top of their game. They are crushing it right now and Bison sounds right up there with any international hard rock release.
GVO: What genres do you think are picking up in the Indian market?
Tej: Hip-hop is going to be the biggest genre in India in the next 5 to 10 years. Right now we have not even begun to scratch the surface. When hip-hop explodes in India it is going to happen in a way that no other genre has till date. This is because it can be adapted to so many different regional languages. There is going to be a hip-hop scene in every pocket of India with MC’s rapping in their regional languages. Also, the culture of hip-hop is hugely aspirational and people want to have that lifestyle. In order to achieve it, they will be willing to put in the work so there will be a massive amount of content being released and shows being put on. It’s going to be hugely competitive which is great because there will be no place for mediocrity.
GVO: We know about the Nucleya SUBCinema shows coming up. Any other exciting properties on the horizon?
Tej: We’re building something very exciting with BLOT that I think we will be a breath of fresh air. We’re trying to take the music out of the conventional clubs as much as possible and introduce it to people in unconventional places where they can really submerge themselves into the music. Also, Third Culture has a bunch of our own IP’s we are working on that will cross over a few different genres of music as well as lifestyle stuff and some content ideas for the industry as well.
GVO: Any plans of launching a new festival brand?
Tej: You never know 🙂
GVO: Are you planning any forays into the comedy scene?
Tej: Absolutely not, there are people who are much more qualified and established than me to push the comedy scene forward in India. That’s not really my area of interest either, so will steer clear. A lot of the newer companies and promoters moving into comedy see it as an easy way to make a quick buck and that’s not really what Third Culture is all about. We’re in it for the music.
GVO: It’s safe to say you’re the most well-known artist manager in the country. How are you capitalizing on that?
Tej: I don’t know about that. There are a bunch of incredible artist managers that have come before me and I don’t think my career is even a scrape on theirs to be honest. The work that Subir Malik, Vijay Nair, Dhruv Jagasia, and Tarsame Mittal amongst others have done is the reason why I’m even able to do what I do today. I think launching Third Culture is the best thing I could do to capitalize on whatever position I currently have in the industry. I’m also going to be launching a 10-part video series where we talk to different industry folks and get them to share their expertise on various topics. I think that’s going to be hugely important to inspire kids who want to pursue jobs in the entertainment industry to see that there are actually viable ways to earn a living.
GVO: What would you change about the Indian music industry, if anything?
Tej: That is an extremely loaded question. There are probably 100 different ways to answer it, but I will stick to just two that I feel are extremely practical and can be implemented.
First – we need radio support. FM radio is still a massive platform in India with tremendous reach. Once independent artists can get on FM radio that will increase their audience exponentially. Digital platforms are great, but that’s where you are pulling the audience to you and building a following. With FM radio you have the opportunity to take the content to where a massive following already exists. Of course, that comes with it’s own issues like revenue streams for the stations etc, but I feel with a willingness from the stations side and some brand support this could be implemented.
Secondly – it’s the culture of buying tickets. I think Insider.in has done an incredible job of introducing the culture of buying tickets and valuing entertainment in India, but this is just the tip of the iceberg. We need every venue and every promoter to start championing this culture of ticket buying. Without this becoming the norm, we are going to be stuck with the independent industry depending massively on brand sponsorship to even exist and most certainly to put up large scale shows. Once this attitude changes and people show an inherent willingness to buy a ticket and go to a show (just like they would for a movie) it is going to completely change the live music industry within India. Large scale promoters will be able to bring down bigger international acts and really have some fighting chance to break even, or god forbid (sarcasm) making a profit, while club promoters can be much more experimental with their programming.
GVO: You’ve dabbled in DJing yourself. Are we going to see more of T-Bone Stakez?
Tej: I would honestly love to, but I really don’t think I’m going to have the time. My artists come first and I need to make sure they are absolutely sorted, before I explore any kind of hobby (which DJing is for me). To be honest, in the past I’ve also only really played when my friends book me for shows. It’s a fun thing that I don’t take too seriously. There are way more talented DJ’s out there who deserve a shot. I just play for my friends and for jokes.
GVO: What do you like best about being a part of the Indian Music Industry?
Tej: If you work in entertainment, it’s the most exciting place to be in the world. The entire country is going through a massive social, cultural and technological revolution and it’s really exciting to be a part of that. There is more potential for growth here in India than anywhere else in the world. The entire country is a blank page to write whatever future you want if you work hard enough.
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