Covid Effect: Artistes don the teaching hat

Kolkata | Mumbai: Performance artistes hemmed in by the social distancing norms that severely crimped public festivals and live performances, are now going online to teach others. Comedians, entertainers and musicians with more time on their hands are now teaching their craft online to a paying audience and supplement incomes that are still down by an average of 50-60%, despite the economy opening up. Comedian and writer Radhika Vaz will start her own improvisational comedy classes in February via Improvolution, a leading comedy school in New York. Zaman Khan, who founded Hindi band Astitva with brother Salman Khan Niazi, has started online Zoom classes offering vocal and composing lessons.
“The pandemic taught us that artistes can’t depend only on live shows,” said Khan. Vaz decided to stay away from live shows for now, but gets writing work which has helped supplement her income despite the plunge it has taken compared to pre-Covid times. “With all the extra time I have not performing, I want to go back to teaching,” she says. Raghu Dixit of Raghu Dixit Project, a Bengaluru-based contemporary folk rock band, said most of his bandmates were offering online classes over Zoom and he is in talks with an online education app to talk about his journey, which can be converted into lessons for Indie musicians.

Music producer-DJ duo Lost Stories started taking online classes for their music production professional course last year and will soon launch an edtech platform devoted to music. “We had always been interested in doing courses online, but when the lockdown happened, we could finally figure it all out because we had the time,” said Prayag Mehta, one of the team of two. Rishab Joshi is the other. Online classes have helped them stay afloat during the pandemic and it’s going to be a big focus area going forward, Mehta said. Since they currently don’t have any overheads, they can offer this at an affordable price point to a lot more people, than for physical classes, which they did earlier.

“It’s tough times, especially for Indie musicians,” says Dixit. The live scene is practically non-existent, organisers are coming with ‘Covid-pricing’ and the number of concerts has dwindled. Under such circumstances, teaching, while not being a big revenue-earner, definitely helps, say performers. For learners and other aspiring performers, it provides an opportunity to learn from well-known artistes.

This is definitely an additional revenue stream for artistes said Raica Mathews, senior VP, creator management at artist and event management company Only Much Louder (OML). They are working with artistes to curate courses and build it up through platforms like FrontRow, Insider and UpGrad. For instance, comedian Biswa Kalyan Rath has done a course on FrontRow about comedy. “Some artists have been able to capitalise on the live streams and organised ticketed virtual gigs. Well-equipped artists have been able to provide online classes to generate some revenue,” said Sidhantha Jain, an artist manager.