Producing pop music albums in India that are as popular as the big Bollywood soundtracks of the day is a rare ability, even now. When Shashi Gopal founded the independent music company Magnasound in 1989, he not only opened up an alternative dialogue for popular music in India but also, with his gift for spotting talent, created a method for applying that dialogue to so many artistes that it became his legacy.
If Shashi has to sell a song – that is, ask people to pay good money for it – he believes people should understand and love what they’re buying. Without that, what reason do they have to buy it? Knowing what popular music is, and what will appeal to whom, Shashi says, involves a constant conversation among the people who matter, he says; a conversation that refers constantly to society, to its issues and problems.
So what does ‘pop’ mean? When we say ‘pop’ we mean recordings that give one complete freedom to express oneself. It’s not scripted to a story, like a Bollywood soundtrack, but scripted to life and experience of the artist him or herself.
Shashi has absolutely no doubt in his mind that there was – and remains – a huge market for pop music in India, if there are committed and passionate facilitators who know how to navigate the spaces between artists, music and society.
For more than a decade, Magnasound made music that bridged Indian culture from north to south, and that helped to heal wounds across scarred borders. The Colonial Cousins reunited India and Pakistan in song; Daler Mehndi and Adnan Sami were loved by people of all economic stratas; artistes like Alisha Chinai and Nazia Hassan inspired and empowered a new generation of women to pursue careers as professional pop artists. These themes are no less relevant today than they were then.
After being in the music business for four decades and surviving four changes in formats – from vinyl records to cassettes, compact discs to digital – Shashi Gopal decided in 2003 that the time had come to take a sabbatical, to step back and gain some fresh perspective on the industry and the technological changes that were not just affecting music distribution, but actually creating an entirely new ecosystem for the music business.
Instead of running blinding into a new digital-age business model, Shashi has spent the last ten years watching, studying, understanding and analysing the new phenomena driving production, distribution and consumption of music around the world. With a wealth of new knowledge, new experience and new ideas under his belt, Shashi is ready to return to the industry and to start contributing again.
Shashi Gopal’s Hit Formula is a philosophy that can be summed up in 5 parts:
1. Nurture an artist and his/her repertoire, also known as A&R.
2. Be ruthless about decisions that add value or quality.
3. Market the product through all levels of society.
4. Be a person of the people.
5. Persevere as an entrepreneur through changing times and technology.