Ankit Tiwari may be a familiar name as a Bollywood composer and singer, known for tracks like Sunn Raha Hai in Aashiqui 2, Galliyan in Ek Villain, or more recently for composing Piya More in Baadshaho, but the composer-singer has also been releasing singles recently. His collaboration with DJ Zaeden, Tere Jaane Se, released on Zee Music last week. Ankit says, “Doing a single was always on my to-do list.” Before him, Shaan, who was a big name for releasing private albums and singles in the ’90s, released Surilee recently. Just like them, a number of Bollywood composers as well as singers have been going the singles way recently. We ask a few of them what makes them do both.
More than anything, artistes hanker for creative satisfaction, which releasing singles gives them. For a playback singer, it’s the director’s vision that he caters to, whereas in singles, it’s all their canvas. Like Indo-Canadian hip-hop artiste and Besharam (from the film Besharam) crooner Ishq Bector says, “As a singer, I only add flavour to someone’s dream. With singles, I get the freedom to express whatever I want.” For another independent artiste Guru Randhawa, whose single Suit Suit was picked up for Hindi Medium, “Any true artiste will enjoy making independent singles as you can give a part of you to the music. In Bollywood films, it is usually as per the movie’s situation.” Shaan said to DNA in an interview recently, “I want to explore the composer in me and create songs that I compose myself.”
YOUR OWN IDENTITY
Singles are a great way to create one’s own identity for most singers and composers. Like Ishq says, “You’re making your own statement. In playback singing, the song is picturised on someone else. With singles, we get to be the stars of some songs.” For Amaal Mallik, who has released a number of singles like Zindagi Aa Raha Hoon Main, Main Rahoon Ya Na Rahoon, Tum Ho Toh Lagta Hai, etc., when the audiences sing-along to his singles, it’s more gratifying than any monetary gain. “Releasing your song on a platform like YouTube or social media is a great way to express yourself and show people the real you,” says Break-Up Song singer Jonita Gandhi. Ankit says, “I got recognition because of film music, but people start recognising me as an artiste more because of singles.”
Singles have so far been ignored by producers because they are not as financially viable as film music. Like Shaan said, “I can’t see much favour coming from the music companies, film producers and music directors.” Ankit points out, “Films have bigger budgets unlike singles, so producers benefit more from them.” But with singles, musicians are not at the mercy of the producers or a label. Ankit says, “To release a single, a musician no longer needs to rely on a big label or production house, which are usually inaccessible.” Amaal agrees, “If you pitch a song to a production house or a label, it may not get picked up, but I have the option of releasing it as a single on my own later.”
BACK WITH A BANG
While everyone will remember the ’90s when the likes of Shaan and KK released singles, they faded out soon, with barely any private songs coming out from playback singers. However, the tide is turning one more time. Amaal reminisces, “When I was getting into films as a composer with Jai Ho, non-film music was practically dead because everything was heavily Bollywood. I really thought I should move out of the industry.” He credits Ayushmann Khurrana for being one of the artistes to restart the trend. Ankit says that private singles stopped in the interim because the mediums to release the songs were the same — television and radio.
BACK WITH A BANG
The internet is the new-age television. The doors that satellite TV opened for artistes in the ’90s, the internet is doing the same now. Ankit says, “Social network has more users, so artistes’ creativity reaches a wider audience. After all, that’s what an artiste wants — for his art to reach the audience.” Amaal adds, “It’s only now that we have digital platforms and apps where music that doesn’t have a film tag is consumed and promoted.” Arjunna Harjaie, who composed a couple of songs for Lucknow Central, says, “Because of commercial pressures, as a musician in Bollywood, you probably don’t get enough opportunities to express your musicality. You need outlets such as singles and other platforms to show people another flavour of your musical talent.”
There’s been a long-standing issue of royalty sharing between artistes and record labels because of the lack of transparency where artistes often feel shortchanged. But by putting music out on private channels on the internet, that can be avoided. “With labels, we don’t know where our royalties are going, but when you put it out on your private channel, like verified YouTube channel, there is revenue sharing when the song becomes big. You can’t imagine the possibilities with ads and so many artistes who want to collaborate with you. In the long run, it proves to be beneficial.”
WILL DO BOTH
Ankit has released two singles in the last one year, Badtameez and Tum Har Dafa Ho. After Tere Jaane Se, he is working on more singles, one of them will release in December. Ishq says that it’s a very exciting time for artistes because the world is becoming smaller. Ankit believes in working on singles with as much dedication as on film songs. “I know a lot of musicians who use their not-so-great songs for singles or songs that won’t fit into films. I don’t like that demarcation,” he says. And that’s why he has the same team of singers, technicians and lyricists for singles as well as Bollywood music. Guru says, “I have not made any song specifically for Bollywood.
All my singles have been picked for Hindi movies. Bollywood is a big platform but I love independent music, because of which I got an opportunity to be here. That is more respectful for me.” Indie artiste Jasleen Royal, whose songs What’s up and Din Shagna Da featured in Anushka Sharma’s Phillauri, says, “There is so much music out there. I somehow don’t see music as film or non-film. I love to create. So, I am going to be doing a bit of both.”