Universal Music’s Devraj Sanyal talks about cracking the festival , merchandise and entertainment formats.
DEVRAJ SANYAL knew what we wanted from dance music festivals way before we did (he co-founded Sunburn in Goa, the pioneer of live music), and now, he is calling the shots when it comes to music merchandising in the country. As MD for South Asia at Universal Music, Sanyal, 41, is not your typical ‘suit’. He is the lead singer of a band called Brahma, is plugged into the buying habits of tweens and never went to business school. But he can tell you why a camping music festival (in a `150 crore industry) makes great business sense. It is why, last year in December, he turned Universal Music property, Enchanted Valley Carnival into a music festival format that works for both the price conscious as well as luxury seekers. There were festival-goers who had driven down from Mumbai, building their own tents at the venue in Amby Valley, while others signed up for VIP camps at `6,000 or went the whole hog with `20,000 a day luxe tents. This year, Sanyal has plans to make EVC a cashless festival, a first in Asia, and a boon when you are standing in a long line at a packed music festival, to buy drinks! It is this thought process that can be seen with Sanyal’s contribution to music merchandising.
From Sunburn onwards
“Earlier, 80 per cent of the music teens listened to was Bollywood. Tweens today have turned that on its head, preferring independent and international music instead,” begins Sanyal, who is capitalising on this changing trend with live acts, his role on music reality show, The Stage, and merchandise. “Apparel like T-shirts and hoodies from Eminem, Rolling Stones and Bob Marley are still the best sellers,” he says, adding that digital accessories like laptop skins and mobile cases with Justin Bieber and Katy Perry or mugs and wall decals with Rolling Stones fly off the shelves online. But he is clear that he doesn’t want his business to be about trading. “My business is sexy because we do other things and we don’t trade,” he adds. Managing 34 artistes exclusively and 50 non-exclusively, Sanyal’s team is also busy with private events, be it weddings (about 300 a year) or corporate gigs (about 500 a year). “We may have requests where someone wants Shaan to sing Happy Birthday on their grandad’s big day or the winning kid on Indian Idol to perform and we make this happen.” While music today is a digital business, he reminds us that it is powered by talent. That’s why Sanyal has scouts in pubs across the country, including Chennai, sizing up new singers. Given his success with Priyanka Chopra’s initial move to music, and that of other celebrities, this is one corporate bigwig you might want on your side.
— Rosella Stephen