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Coke Studio Travels from India to Bharat


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Q] Coke Studio has staged a comeback in the country after many years, what made you decide this was the right time for it and that too as Coke Studio Bharat?
We have been dormant for eight years but couldn’t have possibly sat on the side waiting for another year to slide by, considering the musical talent that’s exploding across India. So, we launched Coke Studio Bangla last year, which was based in Bangladesh and the kind of learnings we got from there are phenomenal. It had artists, mainly from Bangladesh along with India. Music in South Asia is evolving fast, for e.g., digital platforms have completely changed, they’re unlocking a huge amount of incredible talent from the smaller towns too, where they may otherwise lack exposure.

Q] What would be the fundamental difference between Coke Studio India and Coke Studio Bharat?
See, once we had got an extremely favourable response in Bangladesh, we decided that the next step had to be India. Obviously, we wanted to do something new if we were to come back. When we started the discussions, I felt the new aspect could be that we go to the hinterlands of India, the tier II, tier III cities and see what kind of historical music can we discover there. And we were shocked to find hip-hop bands in smaller towns, their songs could be playing on radio channels of New York or any other place in the world, that was the kind of appeal they had. In the next 10-20 years, the cultural revolution in India will not come from Bandra, Bombay but from a confident Tier II, Tier III India. It’s already happening in sports, movies and food; and now a majority of India will get unlocked and rise through music too.

Q] This time you’re also using a very democratized medium -Digital as opposed to the TV channel MTV where Coke Studio was aired earlier, what was the thought behind that?
It was based on sheer facts, the largest market for YouTube music in the world is India and it is also the fastest growing one. The gap between the first and the second, which is Brazil is massive. So, when you work out the math in terms of reach and our target audience, there is no beating digital. The pace at which you can release music, scale it up and share it, I doubt there is any other media that can do it as well as Digital. The world was not like this when we had the first partnership with MTV, broadcast was important at that point. But times have changed.

Q] How many artistes will be part of this season of Coke Studio Bharat and will the focus be on covering more languages?
We have around 50 plus artistes who will create 10 tracks, this time. It won’t be possible to cover all languages in one season. Our first song is in Awadhi, then we have Gujarati, Hindi, Punjabi, Kashmiri etc. So, we will try to ensure that there is diversity, but as I said, the opportunity is just so big that we can’t cover everything in one season. We also just launched Coke Studio Tamil as an independent platform because we felt there is an opportunity for us to go deeper into these regional languages. I see a future and a lot of potential in having many regional platforms of Coke Studio. Let’s see how this evolves.

Q] You also took Coke Studio to a global level last year by reimagining Queen’s ‘A Kind of Magic’, why is there so much activity on the Coke Studio property all of a sudden?
It has always been there. Coke Studio as a franchise got launched in Brazil and then expanded to many countries. It has been extremely popular in Philippines for the last five-six years, every Filipino you meet wants to pick up a guitar and sing, live music is more important for them. Every country customizes Coke Studio to a form which is more relevant for them. So, it’s not that it’s coming back in a new way as such. It has been a very strong platform for us at Coca-Cola. Wherever we have been authentic, it has worked.

Q] Coca-Cola has traditionally had a strong association with music, like how you launched K’Naan’s ‘Wavin’ flag’ globally and the song became extremely popular during FIFA World Cup, 2010. How has music benefitted the brand?
If a brand has to survive for 137 years, it has to connect with culture which goes hand in hand with music. Music is the best platform to determine how culture is evolving. Therefore, if you go back to our archives a hundred years ago, we were one of the first brands to be activating music, in fact we have been associated with The Beatles and so many other bands. Music is an essential part of the DNA of Coca Cola in India and abroad, and it will continue to be so.

Q] What is the marketing mix and how are you going to promote this season across mediums?
It is going to be a digital first approach with focus on Instagram which has a huge number of influencers. Then there is the YouTube channel, which we shall complement with a lot of live events and concerts maybe in the second half of the year. This is year one so we shall see how it evolves but good, authentic music always works for itself.

Q] Though you launched Coke Studio in India many years ago, the bigger fan following was for the Pakistan version. Do you think this Coke Studio Bharat can become what India watches?
We love Coke Studio Pakistan because it has helped the platform. From our side, we are going to make our best attempt to ensure that the music is outstanding and authentic. I don’t want to get into the race for what will become bigger between the two. It doesn’t matter, as long as we can give you good music. Music, like Ankur Tewari, says is for the soul and body, but rooted in authenticity, hopefully that’ll work for us.

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