The history of band music in Bangladesh dates back to 1952 when a choir group formed in Old Dhaka. Back then, some foreign bands from the Philippines regularly played in various clubs and hotels. These bands were known as House Bands. Since then, Bangladesh has seen bands and legends who have transcended international borders.
In 1972, independent Bangladesh saw the band Underground Peace Lovers. Their contemporary Azam Khan and Azam Khan's band Uchcharan, became legends around that time. While Azam Khan was awarded the title of The Pop Samrat (The Pop Emperor), Underground Peace Lovers got lost into obscurity. However, they came back in 2017 and released their only album.
Azam Khan released an EP (extended play) of his four songs under Dhaka Records in 1973. This EP was the first album produced in independent Bangladesh. The EP became an instant hit in the young and fledgling nation, a welcome distraction from the tragedies of two years prior. Now, this album can be found in Aashiq Music's rare archives.
The 1980's were the golden decade of Bangladeshi band music. In 1980, Souls received a significant response on television for the first time. Two years later, they released their first LP, Super Souls, which was the first band album in Bangladesh. The song Mon Shudhu Mon Chhunyeche still remains popular because of its class and musical elegance.
This era saw the emergence of Bangladeshi rock and roll legends like Nova, RockStrata, Prometheus, Winning, Different Touch, Miles, Warfaze, In Dhaka and Love Runs Blind (LRB). Live performances, TV shows, album releases filled the youth with a maddening love for band music at the time. This craze was prevalent until the 2000's.
With the rise of music streaming services in recent times, their widespread use among the youth might be the answer to issues of piracy. It can also bring back the hype surrounding band music that was once visible during its golden era
With the end of the cassette era at the turn of the millennium, record labels started releasing cassettes in the CD format. Industry legends re-released their cassettes, LPs, and EPs in the CD format.
This was supposed to change the scene even further and attract a larger audience for the band's music hype-train, but the dark hands of internet piracy culture and the lack of copyright law at that time created a void that still hampers the industry to this day.
This void caused by piracy sent bands into obscurity and forced many musicians out of the scene. This situation started to change in the early 2010's; bands came together for their rights, and copyright law enforcement started giving them the chance to halt the widespread use of music without the permission of the owning party.
Major telecom companies need to be credited as well. In the mid-2010's, large telecom companies used their platform to distribute the music before releasing them to YouTube where revenue is based on the numbers of subscriptions and views. With YouTube, the artists/bands receive only 30% of the revenue that they currently earn through these telecom service platforms.
This process helped to ensure a proper channel of music distribution and created a pathway for music streaming in Bangladesh. But this was not a solution. With the rise of music streaming services in recent times, their widespread use among the youth might be the answer to the issues of piracy. It can also bring back the hype for band music that was once visible during its golden era.
The number of people who buy physical copies of music CDs is declining with each passing day with the rise of streaming services. Introducing streaming websites such as Spotify, Deezer, Apple music revolutionized the industry. People from just about any corner of the world can listen and download music through these platforms by simply paying a subscription fee. The majority of people nowadays have access to the internet, which makes it easier for streaming services to target larger audiences. Spotify pays artists based on each stream. Although the amount is very little, streams amounting to millions of users can help rising bands earn a considerable amount.
Another positive of these platforms is that they provide exposure to new bands who otherwise would not have come into the limelight. Distributors or owners of the label have the responsibility to seek payment. They get paid and subsequently the bands and artists get paid. Piracy and violation of copyright acts can be prevented as artists now can put a stamp on their ownership of music and earn royalties. Record labels often use these digital distribution channels to sell music tracks and albums.
Music streaming services are now the most used medium of earning revenue through music. Unlike many countries, Bangladesh was late to adapt to the current trends, technologies, and factors governing the music industry. Bands now struggle because of a lack of support from the music industry infrastructure, which focuses on the other aspects more than the real raw passion that drives the industry. Spotify recently launched its service in Bangladesh and brought in a huge number of subscribers. This is not only good for the local community, but rather it is a positive for listeners around the globe, as Bangladeshi music will be able to reach a worldwide audience.
Slowly, with time, we are progressing with one little step at a time. We have our very own online streaming services such as Robi/Airtel Yonder Music, Banglalink Vibe, Gaan. If we can focus and make useful strategies, it will be better for us in the long run and provide opportunities for both established artists and new talents in this sector.
The authors are students at Jahangirnagar University.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinions and views of The Business Standard.