Most promoters feel that bars and restaurants would be encouraged to host more shows if promoters and artists moved from the prevalent practice of charging a flat fee—most acts get between Rs30,000 to Rs50,000 per gig—and opted for a split of or all the entry fees, which is the accepted model in Europe and the US. “Pushing for a flat fee secures [a band] something but it also does not allow them to show that they’re worth more,” said Udupa. “I think people should start by trying to go in 50-50. What’s the point of getting into the business of promotion if your artist earns the same and you earn the same percentage [cut as] six years [ago]?”

Naveen Deshpande, the founder of artist and event management company Mixtape, which is based out of Mumbai, concurs. “Most of the shows we’ve done in the past few months have been [for a] straight-up 100% gate fee,” he said. “This puts an equal onus on the act to bring in people, which in turn benefits their host and entices them to hold more such performances. [It’s] very important to [try and help] move sales whether it’s in the form of liquor [or] food.”

These days in Mumbai, the majority of gigs by bands are held at Above The Habitat, a venue in Khar that’s owned and run by the proprietors of Hotel Unicontinental, where it is located. Above The Habitat has won props for its support of the music scene by stepping in when antiSOCIAL shut. But the fact that it’s “a raw venue” that concert organisers pay a flat fee to rent, and set up with their own sound and light equipment, coupled with its lower capacity of around 250 people, makes it unsuitable for big-ticket Indian and international acts.

For those, most promoters are turning to Famous Studios in Mahalaxmi, where the rental costs are as high as Rs2 lakh to Rs3 lakh, and is therefore impractical to hire without a sponsor. “You’re also spending money on all production,” said Udupa. “You hope to make something from the bar so you pay for an alcohol licence, stocking, serving, [and] manpower.” The advantage that it offers though is flexibility. “There are a bunch of studios, so you can combine two to three rooms to make the capacity anything from 500 to 1,500,” he said.

The last resort, in one promoter’s words, is a mall such as High Street Phoenix in Lower Parel or Phoenix MarketCity in Kurla, which doesn’t quite have the same vibe as a pub gig. Auditoriums like the National Centre for the Performing Arts, which are only open to programming certain kinds of indie acts, such as singer-songwriters or jazz musicians, aren’t usually an alternative.

It’s ironic that Mumbai, considered the country’s live music hub where audiences are more willing to shell out entry fees than, say, in Delhi, does not boast even one legitimate large-capacity concert venue. Bengaluru, on the hand, is home to many, including Opus, BFlat, The Humming Tree, and Fandom at Gilly’s Redefined. For the TesseracT concert at Verbena, Bohemia Live had to build a stage and rent sound equipment, said Singha. In Bengaluru, “you just come with your instruments and play”.

Now, all hopes are pinned on antiSOCIAL 2.0. The second avatar will be a 400-500 capacity, warehouse-like space, “with a better sound system,” said Vivek Dudani, who heads programming for antiSOCIAL in West India. That sounds like music to our ears.

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