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Reality programming on Music channels – Is the audience ready?

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Reality programming on Music channels – Is the audience ready?

Reality based programming comes of age in India. After the imported Temptation Island on Star World and BBC’s home made Commando, Channel [V] jumps onto the reality programming to create its very own homegrown girl group. Pitched as the biggest glam reality show to hit Indian television, [V] Popstars takes on an arena that hitherto had been exclusively the terrain of music companies.

Devika Sharma, VP, Channel [V] is quick to stress that they're not looking at treading on any toes. "Music television is not by appointment viewing. This is programming that combines music with a regular soap format-about the making of popstars, their hopes, dreams, anxieties and the rigours that they go through to get there. What we look at this is as a programme that provides a platform to talent, as an innovation in programming. We are not looking at converting ourselves into a music company, but we're looking at providing a platform for talent."

Recently Clea PR announced the formation of a boy band, which it would package and market. Says Vinod Nair of Clea PR, "All that music companies have done is to package music albums and sell them. They have never worked on building up artistes from scratch." He plans to launch the band's first album in March and is looking at generating revenue through royalty, shows, licensing endorsements and television and movie appearances. "I blame the music companies for the sad situation Indipop is in. They do not want to invest any money in creating superstars, unlike the West where big record labels are always behind the launch of pop artistes."

Channel [V] though, is not looking at handholding the group they launch through their career. What Channel [V] is doing is taking their premise of providing good music a little further by offering the Indian audiences a handpicked, groomed and trained girl band.

Says Sharma, "We are a music channel. Therefore when we were looking at a new innovation in programming, we did have a certain objective in mind, that of something that takes music further.

The usual route could have been talent runs, but we wanted something that could translate into great programming." She continues, "We found this international programme that had worked, and which fit the bill as to what we were looking for. We thought of it as an innovation in music television."

The programme format for Coke [V] Popstars has been licensed from Sportsworld, a subsidiary of Zeal International. This show has seen the formation of Bardot (Australia), HearSay (UK), Sugar Jones (Canada). The series is also currently underway in the USA. The show, which was announced in December, has already begun auditioning for the five band members, and final auditions are scheduled in Mumbai on Feb 12th. They plan to announce their band by the end of February, and have their launch concert by May. Tight deadlines, and they're working backwards to achieve them. "A great voice of course, is given," says Sharma.

"We're looking not at individual voices, but rather at five very individualistic and different voices that blend well together. We want different personalities, which when placed together, present a vibrant and energetic image. Most important is the desire that these girls should have to be in the spotlight, they should want to be on stage, singing to an audience. They should be people who seek the limelight."

As has been reported earlier, this project will span six months and 14 episodes to be broadcast over Channel [V]. The plan is to take five talented, but anonymous girls with the looks, voice and attitude to make it as popstars. The series will chronicle the entire adventure from the auditions to the creation of the group, the album and the launch concert. Channel [V] has tied up with The Times Group and the Star Network for this project, the Times group will promote the contest through and Times Music will market the album.

The Star network will also simulcast the first episode across all channels. Says Peter Mukerjea, CEO, STAR India (Pvt.) Ltd.,"Media is one of the most powerful forces of modern times. It can unleash creativity and launch talent in a way never seen before. Television has changed the aspirations of people. Everyone wants the glory of fame and glamour. We will support talent and leverage media as the best platform to launch talent. Everyone wants to be a star & I think Channel [V] is the right platform for it."

About the revenues expected for the series, Sharma does not divulge too many details. "Programming for music television is not expensive. We take music videos and package them together into programming. This sort of programming though is a different ballgame altogether. The budgets for these are massive, I would say they're comparable to the budgets on any best selling soap on Star Plus." She adds, "We are looking at generating revenue through advertising on the programme and through sales of the music album when launched. The album will be distributed by Times Music and we're looking at a three way revenue split between us, Times Music and the company we've licensed the concept from."

Music industry watchers are sceptical though about how this project would work out. "While the initial hype might help the band coast along with the first album, it’s how they survive in the long run that really will be a judge of how the series has worked," says an industry spokesperson. He continues, "Internationally, bands, groups and popstars are professionally managed to such a degree of detail that even their partying is monitored by the management agency-there exists no such concept in India."

Singer Suneeta Rao also advocates a wait and watch approach. While people from within the music industry concur that there needs to be serious professionalism brought into the process of launching popstars and bands, they wonder if this band would survive when other girl groups before them in India have faded into oblivion. "Take Models and Caliche," says the spokesperson, "They were launched with a bang, promoted aggressively, but never really got anywhere."

The jury for [V] Popstars includes the likes of Shubha Mudgal, Sandeep Chowtha, Manish Malhotra and Sushma Reddy.

"There was a purpose behind selecting each of our jury members. Shubha Mudgal and Sandeep Chowtha understand music deep down to its intricacies. Shubha is a trained classical singer who has bridged the gap between classical and contemporary music, while Sandeep Chowtha has been part of a band, so he understands the human element of being part of a band, the joys and the sorrows." About Manish Malhotra and Sushma Reddy, she states, "A sense of individual style is an integral part of being a Popstar, therefore it is imperative that someone of Manish's calibre be among the jury to detect that 'extra something' in the contestants.

Sushma too is trained in music, plus as a model and a VJ she definitely contributes towards glamour and presentation." Says Manish Malhotra, "On a professional level I am going to be grooming and creatively styling hand picked talent and turn it into a band!!!

That's a wonderful and a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity." Sandeep Chowta, who rose to fame with his spectacular music for films like Mast and Pyar Tune Kya Kiya, is enthusiastic about the fact that it would be a platform for aspiring popstars. "This concept touches on the aspect, that it is not easy to become a [V] Popstar. And I am so very glad to be a part of this project that will finally provide a platform to so many struggling and talented young people in the country."

Says Shubha Mudgal on her role as a jury member, "Combing the nation to find hand picked talent and then grooming them to present them as [V] Popstars is a wonderful terms of not only a band of musicians but also in the way they present themselves that will stand out. This idea will definitely direct the tastes of the country."

Channel [V] has ambitious plans for the programme. According to Sharma, "There will be a new band every year. We will take the potentials, groom them, give them a launch and ensure their future before moving on to the next band."

Are music companies quaking in their shoes?


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