How We Programme The Bacardi NH7 Weekender Festival
The Bacardi NH7 Weekender is widely regarded as the most popular multi-genre music festival in the country and every year, the line-up across cities is hotly anticipated, debated and discussed. How exactly does the team at Only Much Louder (OML), which organises the festival, decide which artists to book? What is the ratio of established to upcoming artists? And why has there been a decrease in the number of metal bands every year? We asked Anuj Gupta, the head of programming at OML, to give us answers to these questions.
THE STARTING POINT
“We’re always working on the next year’s line-up. Outside of our own ideas, we look towards social media, college student groups and recommendations from musicians to work on a long-list of acts that we consider for the festival. Over 200 new Indian artists write to us each year at firstname.lastname@example.org and each of them gets heard by our programming team.
We’re fortunate to have some great ears at OML who are always on the ground attending local gigs. We also try and attend three to four international showcase festivals like The Great Escape in the UK and Eurosonic in the Netherlands each year. (Founder and CEO) Vijay (Nair) has a veto on the line-up, but most decisions are made collectively by our programming team. Every once in a while I will try and slide in a band that I love that Vijay may not!”
FIXING THE FESTIVAL DATES
“For most international festivals, the dates are locked in more than a year or two prior to the actual events. For us, we’re only able to confirm our festival dates in the early part of each year once examination dates for each region are announced. College students are a major part of our audience and thus it’s a key factor to consider while planning our festival dates. Furthermore, we plan our festival keeping in mind dates such as Diwali, Durga Puja and Thanksgiving.
International artists, on the other hand, work on their routing and planning tours from 24 to 36 months in advance, which does prove to be a challenge. For instance, an artist playing a DJ set versus a live set is a function of their band and crew availability, and also dependent on what format they are currently touring with internationally/in the region. We have never reduced production values for an act due to budget limitations. Fans sometimes complain about their favourite bands not playing in their hometown and only another city edition. As much as we’d love to have every artist play in every city, logistically it just isn’t possible to have an international act stay back in India for a period of two months to cover all our festivals.”
THE IMPORTANCE OF NEW ACTS
“Our personal favourite part of the job is discovering new talent. It’s also what we’re most proud of achieving as a festival. Each one of the Indian and international acts that we programme at the festival excites us personally. Since 2010, over the 18 editions of the festival (including 2015), we have programmed 422 different artists, of which 123 are international acts and 299 are Indian. Of the 299 different Indian artists, over 80 per cent have been fresher or younger acts like Nischay Parekh, Madboy/Mink, Prateek Kuhad, Skrat, Shantanu Pandit, The Koniac Net, Black Letters, Sid Vashi and Borkung Hrangkhawl.
Some other interesting statistics for the festivals taking place this year alone:
• Of the 200 total slots that have been announced till date, there are a total of 126 different artists performing over five festivals.
• 59 of 126 have never performed at a single edition of Bacardi NH7 Weekender in the past five years i.e. 47 per cent fresh talent.
• 84 per cent of the artists performing at the festival in Bangalore are playing that city edition of Bacardi NH7 Weekender for the very first time. The same statistic is 73 per cent for Pune, 70 for Delhi and 65 per cent in Kolkata. So if you’re a fan of music who primarily attends just the Bacardi NH7 Weekender to discover new music every year, there’s a high chance you’ll be able to create a personal schedule where you watch not a single act you’ve seen before.”
THE INTRODUCTION OF BOLLYWOOD AND REDUCTION OF METAL
“The Hindi film composers we have featured at our festivals, namely A. R. Rahman, Amit Trivedi and Clinton Cerejo, have written some of the most memorable pieces of music for movies in recent times. Their live shows are on par with the best in the world and we’re proud to have them play at Bacardi NH7 Weekender. By programming these acts at multi-stage, multi-genre festivals, we are also introducing their fan base to what we think is the best of Indian indie.
Unfortunately, we have noticed a decline in attendance at metal gigs in the country. Metal fans are often the most vocal on social media. However when it comes to buying a ticket for shows, the numbers just haven’t been adding up. When it comes to negative reactions to the line-up, we find that people will often latch on to one thing that disappoints them and not look beyond it. We’re very open to taking feedback from fans and try and incorporate everything that we agree with.”
The Bacardi NH7 Weekender will take place in Shillong on Friday, October 23 and Saturday, October 24; in Kolkata on Saturday, October 31 and Sunday, November 1; in Delhi on Saturday, November 28 and Sunday, November 29; in Pune from Friday, December 4 to Sunday, December 6 and in Bangalore on Saturday, December 5 and Sunday, December 6. See here for the line-up.