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BRASS BANDS – the original DJs of India

Updated: Mar 8, 2020

India’s cultural sector and creative industry and it’s allied sectors/ industries, combined, constitute the second largest employer/ livelihood source for Indians, after agriculture.

Music when transmitted to its formal partner industries like radio, live events, films, television and audio OTT, it is estimated to represent revenues of INR 8,660 crore and full-time-equivalent (FTE) employment of 38,600 - is one of the most impactful creative sectors in India with a more amplified effect than most industries (Deloitte report on Indian Music Industry).

Different from the above partner industries, one informal sector that experiences a hitch but derives notable number of livelihood from music in India is Brass Bands.

In the large sector of informal users and partner industries like malls, restaurants, retail outlets etc., that gain value from music, Brass Bands are one of the unrecognised but form a very prevalent sector in India. Approximately, 25,000 people (usually from low-income strata) who play in such bands (musicians and migrant workers from different parts of the country) continue to play and recognise this stream as a major source of their income.

Brass bands play at traditional Indian weddings as animated processions involving music, especially, iconic Bollywood songs and dance during the celebrations.

Performances limited primarily to the wedding season in India, a small size of 15-20 member band earns about INR 15,000−20,000 per event, and retain roughly INR 2,000−3,000 per event. Costs usually account for 80−90% of the overall performance fees for an event. A large sized band of over 60 members earns up to INR 60,000.

Brass bands that generate far more employment, predominantly for low-income population of the country, vs full-time-equivalent (FTE) of 1,460 generated by the recorded music industry, has witnessed a steady decline in demand over the past few years resulting from changing tastes of Indian families at weddings - from traditional to contemporary; choosing DJs playing electronic music over live music; and new government policies (such as prohibition of amplified and loud music beyond 10/11 PM).

While recorded music industry in India has an impact beyond the immediate industries, it is the informal users and sectors like Brass Bands that are still at the forefront of the economic impact through music.

Source: Recorded music industry in India by Deloitte

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