(L to R): JimBeanz, Ananya Birla and Devraj Sanyal

There is Enough...that will Plummet this Girl into the Big Time: Devraj Sanyal on Ananya Birla

Entertainment | November 23, 2016 | Interview

Universal Music Group Devraj Sanyal Ananya Birla Livin' the Life

Ananya Birla’s debut single ‘Livin’ the Life’ was released on November 15 and is available worldwide exclusively on Universal Music Group. Since then the response has been phenomenal with over 4 million views on YouTube alone. Recorded at Sunset Sound Studio, Pennsylvania, the video was shot in California and is directed by Rock Jacobs.

In this interview, Devraj Sanyal, Managing Director and CEO, Universal Music Group & EMI Music, South Asia talks about his decision to sign Ananya Birla with his label, and how their marketing efforts are directed at positioning her as an international success.

Talk about your decision to produce Ananya Birla’s debut single, and what the whole experience was like.

We are very careful when we invest in and sign artists. And the reason why we choose artists sometimes is not just talent, but also proven drive and potential, the size of what they can do, the scope of where the music can go, and the desire to do it and the artistic vision. Ananya is one of those — professional, young and focussed beyond her years. It doesn’t matter to us if she’s an industrialist’s daughter. She could be anyone for all I care, as long as there is talent and potential.

When she came to us, we heard the demos. We didn’t like all of them, but we liked some of them. She developed these further to the point where we said we should move on to production. So this is a fully mounted project, which is being produced by the legendary JimBeanz. Rock Jacobs, who did the video is one the biggest directors in the world.

Ananya is one of the most hard-working people I’ve ever met. She may run businesses and all of that, but her focus is legendary. Once she wants to do something, she will do it. I’ve met a lot of artists who are very ‘Oh my God, I’m talented, and so the world will lay at my feet’. I get a lot of that from a lot of artists. Ananya, probably because she comes from a privileged background, is quite the opposite. There are no airs. She comes to work, and that’s it. I love that about her — she’s willing to work day and night.

And today, it’s no longer about who you are and what you do, it’s basically about your sound and whether that fits in in what’s already happening and what’s going to happen. We don’t find artists depending on current sound, but where we think the sound is moving towards. We think about what will happen 12 months down the line.

This is not going to be just one single. There is a second and a third single, all being done as we speak. The direction, generally is quite international-hitting, she’s got a good voice, a great attitude and is a great learner. That counts quite a bit, and that’s really why we signed her.

What are the plans for the future? When will the next few songs be released?

There will be a second single released early next year and a third single sometime in the middle of next year. They are being developed right now.

From Universal’s perspective (when it comes to all artists we’re working with), we are up-leveling the quality of writing and the quality of production. If I had the best producers and writers in India, I would have worked with them (there are some that we do work with). But to compete on that global level, you need global people. So I am not ashamed to say that I am going outside...why else would I be working with Jim? Right now if you want to mount it in the global world — let’s face it  the ultimate market today is where you sit on Spotify charts and Apple charts — you need to push it really hard, but that’s all you can do.

Will she become a regular feature at events and festivals soon?

Yes, she’ll be performing all over. She performed at Global Citizen on Sunday. She’s playing just her one song now, but soon there’ll be more. We’re really going out of our way, there’s a lot of stuff going on with her that you will soon see. There is enough for more action that will plummet this girl into the big time and we’ll see whether it works. The biggest test for if anything works or not is the public. We’re smart enough to understand how much of the public are going to dismiss the song because her father is rich, and how many will critique the song and the song-writing. We’ve seen this with her, we’ve seen it with other major artists as well. We’ve worked with around 90 to 100 independent artists, and to us the music is getting out; in the next 12 to 24 months something will get out from this country, and I’m determined to be that fellow and that label. And we’re way ahead of the curve in terms of pushing stuff out.

The song is already available on all global networks everywhere. It’s on Spotify, Vevo, Pandora, on every single platform in the world, backed by great positioning and great marketing. So the label is pushing it really, really hard. We can change things and the way it’s accepted by doing it better & bigger than we have before because we feel the market is ready for it now

And an artist is never established overnight. One song is just a drop in the ocean. By the time anything great comes out of it, before three singles come out you can never say what will happen. Maybe nothing will happen, maybe everything will happen. But it’s the first time we are at this juncture in time where mainstream English music from here is beginning to get accepted here & globally

Comment on the market for the music she’s making.

If you listen to the top 20 in Spotify and the top 20 in Apple Music, these are the 2 basic global industry benchmarks providing an absolute crossover in where the best talent in the world lies. We are producing music that we believe belongs in that genre, sound-wise, quality-wise, song-writing-wise, and that is what we’re trying to push our music towards. We’re trying to generate music that’s aligned with what the world is listening to, and not what India is listening, as that can only be Bollywood music - every single radio station will play these hit songs 1000 times. There’s no chance for anything independent here yet. Maybe it will change over a period of time but the way to do this smartly is to hedge your bets & do this parallely, do your best & leave the rest to god.

Devraj Sanyal, Managing Director and CEO, Universal Music Group & EMI Music, South Asia talks about how their marketing efforts are directed at positioning Ananya Birla as an international success.

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