Raahil Chopra
Nov 10, 2021

Music is a timeless art and it would not make sense to change it for Reels or TikTok: Arjun Kanungo

Campaign India catches up with the singer, actor and entrepreneur to learn how the likes of Instagram Reels and TikTok are changing the music industry, his approach to social media, dream brands he would want to endorse, and the limitations of online gigs...

Arjun Kanungo
Arjun Kanungo
Last week Qyuki, a digital media start-up that partners artists to co-create content, announced an association with singer, actor, and entrepreneur Arjun Kanungo.
With details of the partnership still under wraps, in conversation with Campaign India, Kanungo reveals that along with new music, the duo will work together on brand partnerships as well.
We caught up with Kanungo to learn more about how he approaches brands, the impact of social media on content creators in the music industry, monetisation (and the lack of it) with regards to virtual gigs, dream brand associations, and more…
Edited excerpts:
With the likes of Instagram Reels and TikTok growing globally, do you see artists producing music for these kinds of apps and then hoping they go viral? Or do you believe that a good song comes first and then gets viral on these mediums?
We refer to these short video platforms as discovery tools. These tools are a short-term discovery platform. 
When you’re discovering music personally, it would be through YouTube and other apps. TikTok used to be a great discovery platform (before the ban in India).
People are editing their music to make it shorter and get to the point quicker, but I don’t think it’s a great idea. According to me, that won’t last forever, because of the simple fact that no trend lasts forever. Music is a timeless art and it wouldn’t make sense to change it for a platform. I’m not tempted to do so at this moment.
What’s your approach to social media? A glance at your Twitter and Instagram pages suggests that you're using them differently. Can you explain the difference in approach and why?
Every social media platform has a different audience. People gravitate to different platforms based on their interests and outlooks on life.
Twitter is more of a text medium, while Instagram has videos and pictures, thus, the audiences are different. The likes of politics, current events and cryptocurrencies are popular on Twitter. On Instagram, a user typically follows his/her favourite celebrity, sees what their friends are up to, something like a new-age Facebook. (I haven’t used Facebook personally, but I do know plenty of people who use it)
And then Snapchat comes in, which is a lot of fun and is a different ball-game completely. I think it’s more of a messaging app.
When it comes to brand involvement do you do a lot more on Instagram than on Twitter?
Yes, I do. In today’s day and age, brands function mostly on Instagram and Facebook. I don’t think there are too many Twitter-specific campaigns I have done with brands. Yes, we do end up sharing the campaign on Twitter too, but the brand’s main focus is usually on Instagram and Facebook. People are more receptive to looking at ads on Instagram as opposed to Twitter.
I saw a recent post on Instagram for Mastercard. Do a lot of brands reach out to you for posts on social media? Have you turned any down? If yes, why?
I end up doing around 15 brand campaigns a month on Instagram. It’s everything from car companies, to the likes of Manyavar, Paco Rabanne, and Gucci.
On categories that I would turn down, I’m against anything that has anything to do with tobacco. I feel that’s truly harmful and I won’t want to promote it. It’s a personal call I have taken as my father passed away due to cancer and he was a smoker. Having said that, I don’t judge people who do promote it.
The last year and a half have seen on-ground events reduce to almost zero. You had gigs in the online space during the time - how different are the two and how differently do you approach the two?
It’s completely different because it’s not at all spontaneous. When you do events on-ground you are exchanging feedback with the audience in real-time. Online has its positives where you eliminate travel and can help us accomplish more work.
I read an article recently which suggested that you were wanting better monetisation for virtual gigs. Is that the biggest challenge when it comes to online gigs?
On average digital gigs pay a third of what on-ground gigs would pay. When you have an on-ground event, the organiser has branding, ticket sales, food and beverages, and all of them give the promoter a reason to do the gig. Whereas in an online event, you only have the entry fee. It cuts the revenue streams for the organiser and is very difficult to monetise.
People need better platforms that give them better ways to do online gigs and perhaps monetise them in a better way. We need to create some sort of an interactive experience for the audience because online gigs are one dimensional. The audience isn’t giving you any feedback other than the comments, which you can’t read because of the speed. I feel there’s plenty of space for innovation in this space.
A few artists have resumed on-ground events. Have you done so? 
I did one gig in Mumbai, it was a small, private gig. Honestly, I have been a little paranoid during the Covid-19 pandemic. My fiancé got very sick last year and it was scary for us for a little while, so I was taking it easy. Now that we are vaccinated, by the end of November I could be looking to resume on-ground gigs.
In the entertainment space, along with your music career you’ve also acted in Radhe. These two would be extremely different? How do you approach the two and are there any more films lined up?
It’s very different. Acting alongside Salman Khan is quite intimidating, to be honest. I learnt a lot from him and he helped me grow. I had studied in an acting school in New York which also helped me a lot. The movie itself and being in front of the camera, delivering dialogues was a great experience.
There are a couple of other films coming up.
OTT is a hot space in India currently. Are you looking to enter this space?
Yes, I’m doing a couple of things there, but you’ll hear a lot more about it in the future.
You've been in the sports space with a career in shooting and basketball. How did you end up picking music over it?
I wouldn’t call it a career, but yes, I was interested in sports. My mother is a sixteen-time national champion in shooting and has been doing this for the last 25 to 30 years, due to which I was exposed to it.
For me, it was never music versus sports. Honestly, I didn’t have the constitution for sports. I was getting injured a lot and it wasn’t good for my health long term. 
Are there any dream brands that you’d want to work with?
Nike for sure. I did something with them a couple of years ago but would want to do something on a bigger scale. I love the stuff they create and I’m obsessed with it.
I love Off White (an Italian luxury fashion label) and Louis Vuitton, as well. It would be a dream to collaborate with them.
Campaign India