“Pay what you f**kin’ want”: Control Alt Delete music festival’s crowdfunding formula explained
There is a saturation point to everything. Directly involved with the music industry, Nikhil Udupa and Himanshu Vaswani, thought the independent music scene had got to such a place eight years back.
“Performers and listeners were whining about the lack of space and respect for alternative styles. We also felt that there was ‘no equal access’ to venues that denied an opportunity for youngsters from economically-challenged sections of society to get closer to music. Then there was the threat of sponsors deciding the course of what bands should sing about, and we figured that independent music cannot survive at the mercy of Bollywood or private investors,” says Nikhil.
The product of their frustration was Control Alt Delete (CAD) which is touted to be one of the first crowdfunded music projects in India. After 10 successful editions, the initiative has grown into a multi-day, outdoor festival which has impressively worked out a crowdfunding formula.
We speak to them as the 11th edition is set to be held at Mumbai-based Roaring Farm, Malad, to see how young music aficionados can venture into a DIY environment.
Every penny counts
‘Pay what you f**kin’ want,’ as seen on their posters, is what drew crowds to Control Alt Delete and brought life into ailing gig circuit.
“We started off with a donation box at the venue of our first show at B69 in Mumbai. The idea was that music should be more accessible to people and so audiences could walk in after contributing what they can,” says the 34-year-old, who used to be a part of Only Much Louder (OML), the media firm that hosts festivals like the popular NH7 Weekender.
Since the completion of their third edition, they have expanded their income options to include crowdfunding.
“This was in alignment with our aim to keep out the sponsors who would have personal interests like ‘no heavy music’ or ‘no political stuff’. So, we have no brand logos on any of our promotions but every contributor gets their name on a list on the grounds and online, and we display the accounts on our website,” he informs, continuing, “Crowdfunding also includes skills, so we invite people who are sound engineers or productions managers to join our non-profit, volunteer-run endeavour.”
Accessibility also meant new venues beyond pubs that come with many restrictions. “In course of time, we opened up new venues including an old Marathi theatre, a studio and a painting arena,” says Nikhil, who co-owns an event management firm called Four By Four Experiences.
Eventually, they also ventured out from their chief hub in Mumbai to other cities like Bengaluru and Pune. “When we decided to explore a festival format, we chose an old motocross track in North Mumbai.”
While many popular festivals took time to realise that it takes more than EDM to woo the millennial mind, CAD ’s all-embracing approach to alternative styles found wings upon expanding to an open-air setting.
Last year’s edition saw five stages featuring genres ranging from hip-hop and electronica to rock and heavy metal, with fans of various genres supporting all kinds of music.
One of the resounding questions within the independent music scene is, ‘did you guys manage to break-even?’ The organiser is ready to shed some light on the same for the sake of youngsters who would want to try a hand at organising—which he assures us is not rocket science.
“What we learned is that it takes two to three years for such formats to become sustainable. The contributions to our crowdfunding campaigns have increased over the years, but we have scaled up the event proportionately. Other than online contributions, we also do campaigns, try to raise money at the bar, via food stalls and also sell exclusive merchandise,” he informs, adding that they’re introducing camping facilities this time around.
Control Alt Delete 11 comprises of 45 acts across 5 diverse stages. Sidestand arena will feature names like The Derelicts and Daira, while Synths & Strings will have acts such as Plastic Parvati and Riatsu. While the previous year had one day of hip-hop, this year will see two days with names including Dopeadelicz, and Dharavi United on the Mumbai 95 stage. Electronic projects like Dreamhour and Spryk will be on at Electric Jungle and heavier sounds like Eccentric Pendulum and Dirge will take to Survive This platform.
For the first time, CAD will feature tent accommodation in association with Mumbai-basedCarvanTrips. Located on a lakeside plot, the tents will be within the fest grounds. Campers can bring their own two-people tents (`3,000 for two nights) or rent one out (`5,000 for two nights) and will have facilities including a 24/7 baggage counter, chill out zone and games, besides festival entry.
On March 9 - 10
At Roaring Farm, Mumbai