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From Vinyls to Virals: The Future of Pakistani Music

Jehan | Jul 18 2022
From Vinyls to Virals: The Future of Pakistani Music

How does a panel of four Pakistani music icons find itself at a tech and entrepreneurship conference, you ask?

Well, we at Katalyst Labs recognize the level of disruption occurring within the Pakistani music industry at a global level.

Technological innovations within the sphere of music allow for it to transcend borders – connecting with a global audience. They also allow, us, the listeners to experience music in an entirely new way.

Our star-studded Pakistani music panel, comprising of big names such as Zeb Bangash, Natasha Noorani, Abdullah Siddiqui, and Abdullah Kasumbi, moderated by Ghazi Taimoor, shed further light on our current cultural moment and the ways tech has revolutionized music consumption and production in Pakistan over the years.

Shifting Paradigms: Pakistani Music Consumption

Public speaker and music enthusiast, Ghazi Taimoor kicked off the conversation with a discussion on the shift in music consumption, specifically the introduction of new platforms that have created variation within the listening experience.

Where, What, and How? 

Natasha Noorani – singer, and Lahore Music Meet founder – tackled the question of the where’s, what’s, and how’s, of modern-day music consumption comprehensively.

Long gone are the days of browsing through shelves at Shahbaz CD Shop or paying a visit to Offbeat music store.

Abdullah Siddiqui shares his opinions with the crowd

Noorani highlighted how drastically the average Pakistani’s exposure to new music shifted once the ban on Youtube was lifted in 2016. Wherein, before this the listener’s primary form of exposure to new music was through CD shops, Youtube provided a platform for listeners to discover new artists for free.

Youtube created a space for artists to share their work in a way that was more widely accessible. Trending content now allows for key insights and data into what is being consumed by a mass audience.

With the proliferation of newer platforms, the listener’s relationship with music has changed. Newer technologies allow us to experience sound more intimately.

According to Noorani, audio streaming platforms such as Spotify’s entrance into the Pakistani market have now enabled listeners to curate music in a more personalized way. With the algorithm putting more artists on the radar and enabling them to reach the right audiences.

Enter Corporate Music Platforms 

Corporate music platforms like Coke Studio help put local talent on the map. Thus, playing a huge role in the paradigm shift by cultivating a new form of listenership.

However, the corporate model has also been criticized for monopolizing the Pakistani music industry by not allowing room for any independent record labels to come into existence.

Abdullah Siddiqui, artist, and producer, commented on his music production aim for the current season of Coke Studio:

“[Our goal was to] create an infrastructure for an industry post-Coke studio, because it’s not going to go on forever. After Coke Studio, there needs to be an audience that’s hungry for independent content so that you can foster an economy for that…if utilized in the right way and done intelligently, corporate music platforms can be used to help create an industry outside of it.”

Shifting Paradigms: Pakistani Music Production 

New waves in music consumption and production go hand in hand. We have come a long way from making music on tape!

As Siddiqui explained, there are a large number of tools now available for artists. Comprehensive electronic software such as digital audio workstations (DAWs) makes the production of music easier and more accessible – revolutionizing music production globally.

Technological innovation within music production influences people’s sonic sensibilities, allowing broader exposure to sounds spanning across eras and borders.

As an artist who credits her rise to fame to the internet, Zeb Bangash – a renowned global singer – commented on music production and dissemination in the digital age. Focusing on new waves of technological disruption within the industry:

“Genres keep taking from each other, nothing comes out of nothing, everything is linked to some other movement.”

Visual Storytelling and Weaving Digital Narratives

The way music is resonating with listeners is also changing, with social media helping in the cultivation of a wider fan base. Visuals further enable music to reach its full potential.

Technological advancement allows for the creation of a unique visual identity, with technology enabling the marriage of sound and visuals in a way that has never been seen before.

Abdullah Kasumbi – music producer and creative entrepreneur – spoke about self-expression through audiovisual means in great detail. Particularly about visual storytelling and how technology enables artists to weave highly compelling narratives with iconography and stylistic features that become unique to them alone.

Visual language within music has always existed in some form with cassette covers and album art that was around before music video production. These help the audience form a deeper parasocial relationship with the artist that goes beyond the music itself.

As Abdullah Siddiqui summed it up:

 “…it wasn’t just about music and all of that comes from having a very unique visual identity…all of that works in tandem with the music to create a narrative and it is that narrative that is ultimately going to connect”.

It is this authenticity, boldness, and rawness that connects with the audience at a deeper level.

How Can We Help?

As listeners, viewers, and fans coming from various walks of life but especially so from those with a background in technological innovation – how can we help?

What role can fans play to participate in the music economy and in what ways aside from listening, sharing, and subscribing can we benefit our artists?

Noorani tackled this question head-on with a plea for greater incorporation of NFTs and Web 3.0. to generate early revenue for artists and protect their work from piracy. Particularly targeting artists that are unable to get agency through corporate or other commercial platforms:

“Tech is taking art and making it profitable for someone who that would be stolen from, so much art has been stolen from South Asia, so much culture has been stolen from Pakistan that I think you would be doing a service”

What Does the Future Hold for Pakistani Music? 

From vinyls to viral hits, CDs to streaming, mixtapes to playlists – technological evolution in music knows no bounds.

To recap, the panel touched upon the variety of ways in which technological advancements have benefitted and revolutionized both music consumption and production, with new disruption within the music ecosystem changing the listener’s relationship with both the artists and the music being produced.

Abdullah Kasumbi further elaborated upon this interaction:

“With the advent of web 3.0. we’ll be able to create more channels where fans are more active with their interaction with the artists, we can make merch, Patreon accounts, maybe organize more events.”

It is an incredibly interesting and exciting cultural moment we find ourselves in, with technological waves within the music industry, holding plenty of promise for fans and artists alike!