“We are all set to foray into the D2C segment with Zaeden’s line of perfumes in Q1 of this year”: Represent’s Aayushman Sinha

Sinha talks about the success of Represent in 2022, his plans for 2023, the industry and more.

Mumbai: Represent founder Aayushman Sinha had a humble beginning as a marketing and ticketing agent for music concerts in the country while in high school, which opened up a new demographic for live entertainment in Mumbai. His journey began as a marketer and artist manager at the age of 18 whilst still in college and has grown to build four successful start-ups in varied fields – Represent, BlackCab, Radar and Patronus.

Putting things in perspective, the Indian music, entertainment, and talent management industry is a large and rapidly growing industry. The Indian music industry alone grew by 24 per cent in 2021 and is expected to reach Rs 28 billion by 2024. The Indian media and entertainment (M&E) sector also grew by 16.4 per cent in 2021 reaching Rs 1.61 trillion according to a report by FICCI. The industry is expected to continue growing at a fast pace, crossing Rs 3 trillion by 2024.

As a 27-year-old entrepreneur from Mumbai, Sinha is actively involved in the media & entertainment (M&E) landscape. Set up in 2019 by Sinha, Represent, is a media and entertainment company which specialises in providing 360-degree management services to all its artists which range from DSP and store marketing, TV and radio servicing, PR, digital marketing, video production and creative direction as an in-house function to support independent artists in pushing out their art without having to worry about these moving parts.

Sinha flagged off his first start-up while in college and had to wrap it up as his management business grew tremendously and the limited hours and workforce didn’t support the situation. Many years later, he joined his three best friends from college to grow their start-up BlackCab, an integrated marketing agency, where he is currently a partner. BlackCab now handles mandates for the biggest media, entertainment and D2C brands and has over 60 full-time marketers.

To support the growing demand for augmented reality (AR) solutions in marketing and content, Sinha, together with two partners set up - Radar, one of India’s first AR content solutions agencies. His fourth venture, Patronus, is an early-stage venture firm that partners with and invests in high-growth potential businesses in their early stages (pre-Seed, seed and pre-series A).

From co-creating IP’s with Instagram to helping launch Triller in India, Represent has made its mark on the Indian M&E map. The company also consults one of the world’s biggest consumer brands - Coca-Cola, with an end-to-end mandate to build music into Coke’s DNA and scale this pan India. spoke to Sinha about him basking in the success of Represent for the past year, his plans for 2023 and his opinion with regard to the M&E industry at large.

On the differentiating factor, Sinha reveals that the company set itself a class apart from its contemporaries by expanding from artist management to label services, brand consultation, creator management, and angel investing through its venture arm. Represent has already completed three investments in pop-culture-relevant businesses and is all set to launch its first D2C consumer brand in the segment of perfumes with Zaeden in Q1 of this year.

When asked about his vision and way forward for Represent, he is quick to say, “To define and redefine pop-culture, time and again, while making a positive difference in the world.”

Edited excerpts:

On the 1 billion+ streams on Spotify from a roster of independent artists in 2022, and the reason for such a success

Our entire artist roster clocked a combined total of 1 billion+ streams on Spotify in 2022; this is owing to the artists enjoying a cult following for their music on streaming platforms as well as a growing acceptance for independent and non-film music in the Indian music circuit. As independent music has pulled in more listeners, the space as a whole has been growing and contributing largely to the Indian music business and will only continue to become bigger in the coming years.

On the shape that the Indian music and entertainment industry is taking, and the evolution of independent music

The Indian independent music and entertainment space has evolved and adapted in its own way since the pandemic struck us, with a wide variety of genres and styles represented. The independent music scene has also seen significant growth with independent music labels, artist management companies and venues fostering local talent. The increase in digital platforms has also allowed independent artists to reach a wider audience and gain recognition.

Overall, the music and entertainment industry in India is also becoming increasingly class-defying, with a growing number of global collaborations and partnerships, which is helping to increase the visibility of Indian music and entertainment around the world. The share of independent music in the entire music industry has also witnessed a steep rise compared to previous years as listeners are exploring more obscure artists, leading to the genre becoming fairly dominant compared to other music categories.  

On your roster scaling up by 100 per cent in less than a year in 2022

2022 has been a great year for us in terms of the new artists that our company signed. As we went independent in April last year, we had the flexibility and capacity to grow as a company and onboard more artists on the roster; as our company grew in size, it enabled us to approach and onboard newer talents as well as collaborate with more partners for our artists.

Hence, we signed artists such as Hanita Bhambri, one of the leading female independent artists in the industry; Ananya Birla, a compelling voice in the Indian pop music circuit; Raja Kumari, a globally recognised hip-hop artist;  MC Stan, one of the most prominent wavemakers in the Indian hip-hop scene; Raman Negi, an exceptional talent in the Indie-rock music space; Jai Dhir, a young and upcoming Punjabi-Pop talent; Madoc, a class apart DJ and producer and finally OAFF, the indie artist who shot to fame with his music in the movie ‘Gehraiyaan’.

Saying that the team and artists are pumped to build the pop-culture will be a mere understatement at this point.

On the 500 shows that you have done, on India as a consumption market when it comes to shows and the kind of shows that really work in India

Our live events vertical was buzzing in 2022 with 500+ shows conducted for our artists across the roster. This included shows in both tier I and tier II cities all over India as well as international shows in London, Nepal, US and Dubai. To elaborate on some highlights for live shows in 2022 – DJ Chetas planned his US tour, Anuv Jain performed at his biggest show in Delhi with 20,000+ tickets sold and performed at his first international show in Nepal, Zaeden concluded his ‘Genesis’ and ‘A to Zae’ tour with multiple sold out venues as well as performed in Dubai and London, Yashraj and Raman Negi made their debut appearance with their solo acts at NH7 Weekender and finally, our artists got the opportunity to open for one of the biggest international acts that took place last year at Zomato’s Feeding India concert inviting Post Malone.

The targeting for these shows is primarily in the age group of 18-30 including college students, festival attendees, club hoppers, and of course, music aficionados. We have experienced a great response from shows organised in cities such as Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, Kolkata, and Ahmedabad among others with a huge footfall especially after the live events space opened up wholly in the last year. In terms of the kind of shows that really have been working in India, music festivals have been popping out with varied artists performing at a single venue in addition to getting a bunch of queries for college shows.

On working successfully with brands such as H&M and Coke

In 2022, we worked with a host of brands for our artists across categories such as apparel, cars, perfumes, technology and beverage brands. We collaborated with some of the biggest brands such as H&M and Coke for our artists Armaan Malik, Zaeden and Anuv Jain. H&M launched their Linen collection in India by bringing Armaan Malik on board as the face of the launch. They also launched their festive campaign ‘Brighter Than Ever’ with Zaeden featuring in the ad campaign alongside other stars such as Jim Sarbh, Manushi Chillar, Shantanu Maheshwari, Chum Darang and Isha Talwar.

Coca-Cola India collaborated with Armaan Malik for their Uplift campaign for which they onboarded him as their brand ambassador along with South superstar Allu Arjun. Represent worked with Coca-Cola India for this campaign end-to-end as a consultant giving rise to their anthem #MemuAagamu, which fuses together Hindi, Korean, and English lyrics, with a Telugu hook. Coke also collaborated with Anuv Jain for their global brand platform - Real Magic. We were fortunate to create a difference with brands such as Bumble, Meta, Budweiser, and other international brands as well.

On the four ventures coping with the pandemic

The pandemic struck us in the middle of nowhere in 2020 and like other businesses, we also eventually adapted to it. As all three ventures (BlackCab, Radar and Patronus) were in their initial stages of growth and development, we did face a bit of a bump, especially since the media and entertainment industry had gone into a slowdown. However, we didn’t stop working.

A team consisting of music enthusiasts, marketers, and live music experts, Represent was amongst the first to embrace the ‘new normal’ and develop new business verticals when covid hit the entertainment industry. With over 45 song releases across the roster during the lockdown, the artists hit the #1 spot on multiple music charts in different languages. Armaan Malik created history as he landed on the Spotify Times Square billboard in NYC and held the #1 spot on the inaugural US & Global Billboard Triller charts for three weeks. Lost Stories became the first Indians to be a part of YouTube’s premier artist development program, Foundry.

Represent also built record label-esque services for its artists’ independent releases to secure top slots on the most popular playlists on streaming platforms, and made their presence felt on various independent charts like the internationally acclaimed Genius chart. Represent along with Instagram India conceptualised as well as curated ‘Live In Your Living Room,’ one of the first online musical concerts featuring Armaan Malik, DJ Chetas, Lost Stories, and 12 more crème de la crème musical talents.

Represent entered a new vertical of tech consulting by partnering with Triller, a social video application that recently launched its India operations and helped in building its local presence by creating a strong creator network boasting the likes of  Bhuvan Bam, Awez Darbar, DIVINE, and Badshah along with global heavyweights such as Dimitri Vegas and Like Mike, KSHMR, and more. The collaboration, in turn, allowed Triller to gain over 40 million local users in less than a month. Currently, Armaan Malik is the most followed Indian creator/artist on Triller. The agency also played an instrumental role in facilitating one of the biggest tie-ups of the year between JioSaavn and Triller.

Represent also co-produced DJ Chetas’ television show called ‘Lockdown House Party’ with MTV Beats in 2020. This partnership enabled him and his meticulously constructed sets to reach out to 50 million households.  When live entertainment hit rock bottom, brand collaborations became a key source of income for artists and we helped our artists ink deals with the likes of Puma, Bumble, Amazon, Swiggy, JBL, and Absolut during the lockdown.

On launching RE:Play, and its success story

RE:Play is our newly launched bookings and agenting division headed by my friend and business partner, Nitin Kandhari, that caters to everything related to live entertainment and events for our artists across the roster as well as other independent artists like KING, Darshan Raval, Lucky Ali, Dream Note among others. In the past 6 months, RE:Play has successfully executed more than 150 shows which includes a tour with Jay Sean, Anuv Jain's Delhi show that witnessed 21,000+ people turning up, ‘A to Zae’ tour with Zaeden along with his sold out London show and over 50+ college shows.  

On issues concerning the music, entertainment and talent management industry; and Represent as seekers of the appropriate solutions for these issues/concerns

One of the major issues that the artists in the music industry particularly face is the ownership of their work - as a solution-seeker, we at Represent focus on providing a platform to support independent artists, empowering them to take control of their careers, and connecting them with fans and other industry players. We do this by focusing on fostering a transparent relationship between artists and all industry stakeholders from fans to streaming platforms as well as everything in between.

On your plans for Represent and your other businesses going forward in 2023-2024

We have big plans for Represent this year as it marks the beginning of the company’s second year of operating as a full-blown independent media and entertainment company. We have a lot coming up in terms of the launch of our first D2C brand, the launch of our creator management division, new music releases from our artists and other exciting collaborations. We plan on onboarding a few more artists to our roster this year and working in tandem with them to grow collectively and challenge our possibilities. In terms of brands, we are eyeing to collaborate with a few international brands for our artists along with working together with a bunch of popular Indian brands.

On the trends catching up in the music and entertainment industry

There were several trends that popped up in 2022 – social media was conquering the space with every other creator hopping on to reel trends that were coming up at the time. Music artists also started promoting their music using reels more uniquely and started paying more attention to using social media tools to reach the right audience. Further, we also saw the rise of independent music with more sync deals taking place as a result of a growing listenership for music by independent artists.

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