AV Expo

Articles September - October 2023


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Articles September - October 2023

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Articles September - October 2023

Unwinding The Changing Dynamics of Sennheiser with Naveen Sridhara New!

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Articles July-August 2023

PALM Expo 2023 Achieves Recognition from Global Brands New!

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Articles July-August 2023

Pro AV Mass Market Momentum Emphasizes AV-ICN Expo Success New!

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Conversations with SudeepAudio

Aditya Mehta with his father Nikhil Mehta upholds the legacy of Sudeep Audio with ConverSAtions

Sudeep Audio, one of India’s first pro audio web store selling studio software and equipment online commenced its YouTube Channel, ConverSAtions, in 2011 to share the journey of Indian Sound Engineers and Music industry professionals. As the channel completes a decade long journey in the Industry, PT got in touch with the man behind this venture - Aditya Mehta, to explore the vision and passion behind ConverSAtions.

Please tell us about your journey in this industry. What inspired you to start your own YouTube channel and what was your aim and vision?

In 1999, I started Sudeep Audio.com which is India’s first Pro Audio website. In September 2003, it became a full-fledged E-commerce store, making the website India’s first Pro Audio web store, selling software and studio equipment online. In 2007, music composers Salim–Sulaiman Merchant and I started another company called Philtre Labs. Bollywood Grooves and then Bollywood Elements software libraries were created, for music production for people from across the globe. These e-commerce activities in pro audio and studio equipment made me realize over a while, that there are very few people who buy original software. I felt that it is important to recognize and thank the few that did, by bringing fore their stories and journey in the Indian music industry. I had already decided, that I wanted to tell the industry about my father, Nikhil Mehta’s journey who along with his nephew, Sunil, set up Sudeep Studio in 1977 at Andehri, Mumbai. I decided that I will also highlight the journey of engineers and music industry professionals who were buying authentic software and music creation tools. I hoped that this would discourage the use of pirated software. Software piracy is rampant in India, because of which these music creators then crib that nobody is buying their songs.

In 2011, YouTube was in its nascent stage and was used only to promote film songs and music videos. I thought of using this platform to showcase interviews of professionals talking about their journey in the industry and the products they use. I also wanted it to become an educational forum wherein the best in the industry could provide tips and knowledge, on how to use a product, for instance, or even how to become a musician or a sound engineer in India. Many students and parents have no idea how to get into this field of music and sound. It was my idea to provide information through this channel. So our YouTube channel was started with a dual purpose – to encourage people to buy original software and as a knowledge platform.

So would you say that your channel simultaneously adds more value to your Brand and the services you provide?

I would say it is a by-product; the intention was never to boost our brand, and the channel is named converSAtions with the URL – youtube.com/SudeepAudio - since I couldn’t get a URL for converSAtions (generic names were not allowed by YouTube then). The purpose of the channel is to highlight talented people in the music industry. We have consciously kept singers away, as they are rewarded with fame and get their fair share of public exposure. The idea was to credit people like sound engineers and music producers, to make people aware of the process, of how music is created and the vital role an engineer plays in it. I wanted to educate people about the music community and make them understand the basic difference between a music arranger and a music composer. We started from Mumbai since that’s where our base is. When you watch these videos that highlight these artists, you realize that most don’t come from Music Families. The focus of the channel is to educate people, students & parents about this industry through videos that showcase how these artists had started their musical journey and grew by learning on the job.

YouTube has now become a huge platform with millions of people having access to it, but things were different 10years ago? What were the difficulties you faced, when you initially started ConversSAtions?

Sudeep Audio had a small team of people that managed the online store. I invested in a Sony HD Handycam, and 720p was the highest resolution on YouTube back then.  A wise piece of advice that I carried with me was to always go for the highest available resolution in your audio and video setups. I started shooting with people I knew, our customers and well-wishers. I began by interviewing people by going to their home since their studios were also there.

Shantanu Hudlikar shares his views on the recording business in the Music Industry; Sound Engineers Ep-1

Our criteria for selecting artists were that they should have original software and credible experience in the industry. Since we did not have a video editor, I did basic editing and transitions for the videos, with the help of the iMovie application, which was available on a Macintosh system. These were initial struggles back in the day. I used to prepare a basic Interview Questionnaire that was free-flowing and avoided technical details.  My biggest challenge was to convince people to come on camera, as most of them were camera shy. I ensured that they felt comfortable by shooting the videos at their convenience in their home or studio. I did not intimidate them by bringing along a team of people to set up lights and do makeup or put fancy equipment and made them look as candid as possible.

Another problem that I faced was the quality of audio and video. There were background noise disruptions since I did not record using lapel mics initially. The lighting in our video was always natural. We often got by using the studio lights available in the room, and hence you see lighting in some videos is dim and dark – a typical studio environment. But over time, I also become more confident, and our content of the converSAtions improved, and so did the audio-visual quality of our videos. 

The internet speed was also an issue as it was poor back then. In 2011 uploading, a 30-50 minute video used to take up to six hours. Hence, I used to upload my video at night, with the risk of internet speed breaking and interrupting the uploading process.  Today, the duration time to upload a video of a similar duration has come down to 10-15 minutes, thankfully!

You have interviewed various talented artists, sound engineers, and help share their stories. Was it a challenge initially to get industry personnel to feature on your channel?

We are India’s only online store that sells original music software plugins. Thus, we already had clients with us to begin. After a few videos, the news of this initiative spread by word of mouth. I started getting numbers from people, and it helped me get in touch with more people who had been in the industry for a long time.

Would you say that your channel is an educational channel?

Yes, it is. The channel features exclusive stories and tutorials from the professionals of the pro audio industry that share tips for recording and producing, how to use Music software and set up a home recording studio, etc. It doesn’t academically train like online courses but highlights the learning and experiences of people who have made it in the industry.

ConverSAtions unveil behind the scenes and stories of music producers who have worked with or are still working in the industry with various composers like A.R. Rahman, for instance. It shows the ground reality and challenges that one has to go through to have a successful music career.

With such credible people on your channel you must have received feedback from your viewers. How often do you get requests from viewers about what they would like to watch or who they would like to hear?

Initially, people complained about the poor audio quality. People often requested me to interview singers like Arijit Singh. Bringing stars on board would have helped bring more views and numbers, but we never focused on that. Since I have a recording studio background and I have been selling equipment for almost two decades, I knew how to structure the interviews. As we grew, people started recommending various sound engineers. Viewers requested that the videos be in Hindi language rather than English. So we have tried to cover as much as we can in Hindi for the last 2-3 years. The sound engineers from the South don’t speak Hindi well and prefer English while speaking. When we feature tutorials that cover technical aspects or explain the software, English becomes the go-to Language.

Of your 48K viewers would you say most are casual viewers or are they dedicated Fans and do you have any aces up your sleeve to turn Casual Viewers Into Dedicated Fans

The number of subscribers is quite misleading. For instance, when you see the analytics of a video with 100 views and the subscribers are only 45, the remaining 55 views are from non-subscribers most of the time. The primary learning and growth come from the stories of people and not from the statistical analysis. Many viewers who like the video belong to the music industry. But, due to the tough competition prefer staying anonymous. But what many don’t know is that YouTube doesn’t give you access to reveal the profile of the person who has liked a video. The data of profiles that bring the engagement on the video is not openly shared, like Facebook or Instagram.

As we speak of dedicated followers, I have people reaching out to me on Instagram via messages, and they tell me how they have been watching my videos for over eight years. Numbers are significant when you are looking for people to sponsor your videos or monetizing your video. Since our channel is community-driven, the number of subscribers and views has never been our priority. We, however, are about to cross 7 million views.

If any of my videos have inspired people or helped them in any way, I would say that my objective is fulfilled. We are not into measuring the loyalty of our subscribers by giving them hampers or discount coupons because that changes the whole philosophy of our channel.

You cover compassionate stories of many talented people who have had their own struggles in the Industry, which one has been your favorite?

I’ve learned a lot from every interview, there are different aspects to every story but there has been a little learning from every video. You might come across certain common factors on what inspired people to get in to music or how they were connected with music. I don’t think I will be able to pick favorites.

The idea was to credit people like sound engineers and make people aware of the process of how music is created and the vital role a sound engineer plays in it. I wanted to educate people about the music community and make people understand the basic difference between a music arranger and music composer.

 Creating a successful YouTube channel would you say is the easiest or the hardest thing ever? Because given the fact that YouTube’s algorithm keeps changing, and monetizing your videos is a very big challenge. So can you share your insight on how to manage a YouTube channel?

First of all, don’t create a YouTube channel just for the heck of it. Anybody with a Gmail ID gets a free YouTube channel as it is. On any social media, not just YouTube, ensure that you have an established purpose and reason to begin. One should always value the profession that they are showing and not let your inexperience degrade the profession, just to become a YouTuber.

One should question themselves whether they can offer the viewers regular and good quality content. If yes, then structure your contents and videos so that viewers can see consistency. The duration of the video, whether it should be short or long, will come only with experience and depends on the type of content you are putting across. Right now YouTube has a clutter of videos that showcase the same thing. There should be something unique about your YouTube channel, which will slowly build the branding of your channel. Ensure that you’re using the right equipment because people are quality conscious. In case your videos feature a zoom call, ensure that the editing is good because zoom calls start looking impersonal after some time.

Your channel covers various informative topics such as arranging rhythm, mixing backgrounds, digital learning etc.  What other important aspects or topics related to the pro audio industry, do you wish to cover in the future?

In the past 11 seasons, people have heard me ask questions but, as we start season 12, the viewers will not hear my voice. I plan on getting musicians and sound engineers to interview each other and have roundtable sessions. For this season, you will see musicians make their own videos. So we can have an intricate interview where we include the technical aspect that goes into music production.  We want to discuss the challenges one face when doing live shows and how to overcome or avoid various technical glitches. Secondly, we will be starting with tutoREal, similar to our converSAtion spelling format. We want to cover the seven swaras (SA, RE, GA, MA…etc.)

India is rich and diverse, given the history of music, every part of the country has its own language and tune that they connect with, are you looking forward to explore the traditional and folklore musicians or who are still connected to their traditional music cores?

I have been looking forward to covering folk musicians and unveil their musical journey. India’s diversity is complex and, I want to understand how folk musicians are trying to preserve their culture and what has inspired them so far. Sadly everybody is focused on Bollywood, and you can’t blame them because that is where the money is. Back in 1999, when I started with Sudeep Audio, I desired to cover Indian Classical as it was my love and passion. People have always been intrigued by Bollywood so, I started looking into films because it was a matter of sustainability.

Folk musicians also need attention, but I feel the whole music community should come together and promote them, especially the well to do Musicians. On the Channel, we will get in touch with folk musicians and artists from other parts of India and share their story.

Ashish Saksena demonstrates the live setup of stage monitor and sound engineer’s setup for a concert; Useful Tips EP-41

YouTube premium launched in 2019, so are you trying to or have thought in future to explore the premium world of this digital platform?

Our YouTube channel is eligible to access the premium program. Yes, there will be a paid section, but we would be sharing the revenues earned with the artists. It is a work-in-progress, the premium channel, which would feature everything in-depth, and it would cover all the technical aspects of sound recording and music production. YouTube India’s JOIN feature for a channel subscription ranges from Rs. 59, to even 899 per month. One can access it by clicking the join premium button seen near the Subscribe button. Our channel’s primary aim is to educate people by using YouTube as a platform and help young students of music and sound get inspired. We don’t look forward to joining the YouTuber business at all.

Music has been an intricate part of our Indian Cinema since the beginning of time, rarely do we see people being appreciated for their talented, but lately, we have seen people getting rewarded for their hard works in award shows. Do you think this has attracted young minds and sparked more interest in having a music career?

No. The film award shows only highlight the singers. Music producers and sound engineers get mentioned only in the technical awards category. On television, you barely catch a glimpse of these artists; they are always under-appreciated. I would say it’s a disservice to an extent. We need award shows like IRAA but, we need big channels to support IRAA. We are all so used to entertainment that crediting sound engineers and their technical work doesn’t fit the category of show biz.

Award shows cannot be an inspiration to become a sound engineer. It cannot be a reason why youngsters enter this profession.  Passion for music starts when you’re introduced to music correctly at a young age. Inspiration comes from learning an instrument or visiting a studio and understanding the process of music creation. School and college students nowadays have a lot of learning exposure, with free applications that include music-making software that helps you create music, for example, GarageBand on iOS. Our channel, converSAtions, is the pioneering channel in India that focuses on sound engineers and music producers.

In 2019, music streaming Platform like Spotify, YouTube Music were launched in India. Do these music streaming platforms give more exposure to the music Industry?

Applications like Spotify didn’t come to India early because there was an issue with royalties and connected reasons. These music streaming platforms give access to music listeners to a wide range of artists and genres. One can now listen to music by any artist or genre from anywhere around the world, thus music consumption has risen manifold.  At the end of the day, unfortunately, it is only the singers that get appreciated.

Do you have a Podcast of your channel?

Our converSAtions channel audio podcast is available on Apple Podcasts, Amazon Music, Spotify and other podcast platforms. You can easily find it by searching for sound engineers or music producers from India. I have recently started a new podcast called ‘Career ki Baatein’, where we cover topics for students (aged 10-16) on how to have a career in design, architecture, journalism, law, etc. It will even discuss offbeat professions like becoming a magician. The first episode of the podcast talks about how to have a career in music. Since I have been in the industry for a while, it was better to start there. I’m bringing in experienced professionals who share their practical experiences and talk about the skill set. These are essential for a long-lasting career by identifying traits in your child at an early age. These podcasts guide youngsters on how to choose a career in their respective field of interest and not forced upon them by societal pressures.

Could you talk us through how should one record their podcast? 

A successful podcast depends on the content you are putting across. To record a podcast you need, audio recording software, good quality mic stand, high-quality headphones and a soundproof (or at least a quiet) room. The important factors that contribute towards a fruitful Podcast are your level of consistency, style of presentation and quality of content. Self-conviction is essential to start a YouTube channel or a podcast. Beware of the myth that the popularity of your channel will make you rich.

The Industry has moved towards digitalization and we also have a new era of Audiobooks and Podcast. Do you think this new digital means of communication is helping People get the right exposure?

The introduction of the podcast has opened up new doors for people to access a variety of content. The production of podcasts has gone up, but the number of listeners is still very low in India. We are still unaware of the existence of podcasts, unfortunately. It’s been big in the US for years, but in India, after Google, we find that YouTube is the second most used search engine. The concept of Audiobooks is still foreign to many as we speak. Audiobooks and Podcasts gave a sense of hope to recording studios owners that there would be more footfall and business by renting the studio. Advance Technology has helped people create a podcast from the comfort of their bedrooms. Creating a Podcast at home is cost-effective, and many are doing decently well. For audiobooks, studios, and or voice over, artists have deals signed up with various publications to produce an Audiobook of their bestselling authors/titles. So yes, the market space has opened up for more avenues, but then again, the consumption of this content is less at the moment. These new audio platforms work as per a business model, and one cannot risk having expenses more than their revenue. The opportunity to break even is still in the developing stage, but the market looks promising.

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